One night during the third set of my house gig at a posh Hong Kong hotel bar, the unmistakable sound of someone strangling chickens rose above the regular din of drunk businessmen and their guests. The energy of the room had focused and the time for guys to make their final pitches for after hours companionship had arrived. My first thought was that I didn’t recall there ever being chickens in the bar.
Alcohol can bring out the inner demons, or clowns, in the gelatinous petri dish of bar hormones and is a never ending source of unscripted amusement.
“If I give you a small bottle, I expect a big bottle in return. That’s the law of giving.”
This tidbit of wisdom was carried to me on the wings of a chance conversation that penetrated my bubble of chill during a set break like a long beaked bird digging into a cache of turtle eggs.
In another time and place, it could be now, there’s always a person the band avoids like a plague ridden sewer rat, someone who’s sole reason for existing is to force their personal chaos and hidden whims on the musicians. I get the feeling they believe that acting like a depraved court jester somehow endears them to the band, that we will accept them as one of our own if they dance like desert lizards preying on cactus bugs. That jerking their own puppet strings in an outrageously creepy way will somehow open the door to the band’s inner circle.
It doesn’t work this way.
It never has, it never will.
The band accepts no one as their own unless of course drinks are bought. Alcohol is the most common way of cracking open the door that musicians keep closed to the general populace.
DRINKS FOR THE BAND
If during the time of inebriation the band gels with the customer, if the conversation and thought processes are similar enough that the band doesn’t feel assaulted by an agenda being masked by a friendly gesture of champagne, that’s when the magic happens.
While playing a house gig six nights a week in a rather opulent bar in Asia, the band became acquainted with someone that we quickly learned to avoid. We called him Mr. Big Chin for obvious reasons: his chin could eclipse the sun and the moon at the same time. If he was on the beach, the gravity of his monstrous mentum would cause the tide to come in.
Most musicians don’t avoid audience members as a rule, usually it’s the complete opposite. We generally enjoy making friends and connecting with customers. It’s good for business to have repeat customers, it’s fun for the band to chat with familiar faces, and when the audience is full of people we know it starts to feel like we’re all at a party in our living room.
There are quite a few people like that, people who make our night fun and memorable. Mr. Big Chin was not one of those people.
Mr. Big Chin wore out his welcome early on. It wasn’t necessarily his inappropriate manner towards the vocalist, men who have been drinking all night are often a bit inappropriate when attempting to garner interest from the vocalist. He crossed the line with his overt and conspicuous body language at times, but even so, we might have forgiven him for that because liquor is the antithesis to common sense.
He had, at this point, entered our club of “least favorite people” but it wasn’t until later that he entered the “avoid at all costs including throwing yourself under a moving bus” club.
Mr. Big Chin entered the “I’d rather die” club when he visited the bar a week later and uncomfortably cornered the bass player during a break and began, for lack of better words, sexually harassing him.
The bass player is a little guy and Mr. Big Chin is not, and he had the bass player cornered in a corner, literally. The arms and the big chin created wall of hairy flesh that kept the bassist at bay while Mr. Big Chin attempted to sell the idea of a set break tryst behind the locked doors of a random hotel room far above.
This is where the person being cornered should forget about politeness and say something nasty about their molester’s mother so they can escape in the moment of confused and angry puzzlement that usually follows a comment about someone’s mother.
However, there is no way this bassist would be able to create that moment of puzzled confusion because there’s no way this bassist would insult anyone’s mother.
At this point I stepped in and said I needed the bassist for something, physically moved one of Mr. Big Chin’s arms, and dragged my musician away by the shoulder.
This is basically how we handle bad customer situations: I say I need the musician to talk about the next set, and that’s that.
In this case I said something like, “I need the bass player now so we can talk about music.”
Mr. Big Chin replied with, “I could use you both for something… hmmm, and how about your singer, too?”
That’s when Mr. Big Chin entered the black hole normally reserved for the most unsavory of customers, the dregs of the nasty barrel, the 86 list from hell hidden behind a door of festering vomit sores and screaming eyeballs. That’s when the bass player, and the vocalist, found out how the world works and that not all baby oil is made from squished babies.