The Drunken Bar Patron Song Request
Last night I did a gig at a bar called Tols’ Timeout Lounge in Mount Pearl, Newfoundland, Canada. It’s pretty much like every other bar in North America. People start pouring in around 10pm. The lights dim, the drinks flow, and thanks to booze, people transform from their mousy, submissive workweek selves into dancing queens and Marlboro men. It’s amazing what a dark room and jagerbombs can do to change the behavior of our species. From the point of view of a musician on stage hired to entertain this tangly crew, it can be a pretty soul-destroying affair.
A bar is a sweatshop for musicians, with the corporate jobs being in the theatres and concert halls where people sit down facing you and clap after every song. In bars they hardly ever clap. In sit-down venues people are mainly sober; they’ve come especially to hear you, which usually ensures their undivided attention. In a bar, people are usually coming anyway (if the bar is popular). Your job is retaining the crowd so the bar owner can make as much money as possible on booze. There are tables and chairs, of course; but as you know, drunk people need to be up and around. And sometimes while they’re doing their zombie shuffle throughout the bar, they decide to zero in on the band for a request. This is usually how a drunk encounter between a musician and a bar patron goes:
(Patron does the “legless buzzwalk” toward the side of the stage, and with eyes half-closed and a stupid grin he/she addresses the closest musician.)
Patron: Hey buddy. Hey buddy. Hey buddy! Hey….come here (motions with finger).
Musician (already perturbed): What?
Patron: Hey buddy! Hey buddy! Play “Sweet Caroline!” Come on!!!! (drink in his/her hand dripping over monitor or pedalboard)
Musician (trying to get ready for next song): We don’t do it.
Patron: What do you mean you don’t do it?? (completely mind-blown and insulted)
Musician: We don’t do it.
Patron: Come on!! What’s wrong with you guys?? (Face becomes accusatory and hostile)
Musician: (Silently gives him/her a look of death)
Patron: What do you know then? How about “Brown-Eyed Girl?”
Musician: We don’t play it.
Patron: Man, you guys suck. You gotta learn some good tunes. The last band that played here was wicked. My cousin knows all these tunes on the acoustic guitar too. He plays them at parties out home. (He/she is slurring throughout this whole tirade.) There’s a band out there called “The Jiggers.” Ever heard of them? They knows all the hits. Can you send a happy birthday out to my sister-in-law? Come on!!
Musician: What’s her name?
Musician: Okay, no sweat.
(Musician promptly forgets name and birthday greeting on purpose and returns to patently-waiting band for the next song on list.)
The patron then stumbles away to yell at his/her spouse before vertigo eventually sets in and he/she gets a piece of pizza downwind before hurling it back up out the window of a cab flying up the highway toward a suburban home in the boonies.
Sometimes people just walk right up on stage and yell a request in your ear, soaking your cheek with smelly saliva, smack-dab in mid-song. Or they stand in front of the stage mid-song and motion for you to lean forward so they can make a request. The one that really makes me want to use the stage to my advantage and clear out a whole set of wine-stained teeth with a dropkick is when a person stands in front of the band and does the “thumbs-down” when you’re playing something they don’t like. Thumbs-down on your outfit, missus. You need to go to the bathroom and tuck that junk back in. And grab a breath mint while you’re at it. Having that Caesar salad for supper was a splendid idea before hitting the clubs.
So next time you’re drunk at a bar and a band is playing, try to think twice before deciding to approach the stage in the middle of a set to fuck everything up with a request. Ask the band in between sets if they know the song, or just simply be happy with whatever the band is playing. Don’t be a douchebag. Don’t put your purse on stage. Don’t put your drink on stage. Don’t even talk to the band while they’re on stage at all. They’re working. Reel it in and have some respect for yourself and the band. Or at least leave the address of where you work so I can come jump on your desk Monday morning and demand that you perform certain tasks at my whim. And I’ll make sure I have a few jagerbombs before showing up.