Oct 182008

Today the Feel The Wag guys played at a little benefit fair of some sort, to raise money for a historic schoolhouse in Oakton, Virginia. We new ahead of time that we weren’t being paid and that there would be no sound system for us. But the good-hearted string band that we are, we went for it.

It’s funny, most of the books and blogs about building your musical marketing would say, “What the heck? Why are you guys playing for free?” We actually play more than our share of free gigs for some pretty darn good reasons. Some of our gigs are for good causes, like the local library, or for climate change events. Last month we agreed to a really nice unpaid gig to benefit a local breast cancer fund, but they couldn’t find another band willing to give their time. The organizer told us that we were “far more gracious” than all the other bands he had spoken to. We like playing, so we are glad to give a little for a good cause. And it can be a very good marketing opportunity as well.

And then there is ideaology. We have this principle that goes unspoken and undiscussed, but it still directs us. We simply like playing music for its own sake. We see the music as the goal. Marketing success? For an old-timey band? My goodness, that would be crazy. All we want to do is share the fun.

So, anyway, there was this gig today. Well, we pulled into the parking lot. It was a little sparse for a fundraiser fair, we thought. There was a little stage set up in the shade where a DJ had his top-40 hits of the sixties etc. playing. We got out our instruments, I warmed up my fiddle by echoing a few Carlos Santana licks from the DJ’s tunes, and we went at it. The CD player was turned off, and we played there on the stage, in the chilly shade, with no sound, with no pay, for almost an hour. A handful of people stopped by to listen, then another handful, then another. We introduced the band and the tunes along the way, and we chatted with a few folks afterward. It was fun in a weird way.

No one from the fair came by to welcome us beforehand. No one from the fair stopped by to listen, as far as we knew. No one from the fair thanked us afterward. No one offered us a free barbecue sandwich. We just played, packed up, and left. Weird. Oh, wait, one person working at the fair did come by after we finished. As we packed up our instruments, someone turned the DJ’s CD player back on. So this woman came by and complained vehemently that she just couldn’t stand to hear any Motown music at all. Couldn’t someone play some country music, like normal peopl? Hmm, welcome to Virginia, I guess.

All in all we had fun. The gig was set up by Bud, our dulcimer player. I’m not sure who contacted him, but we did what we had agreed to, and we enjoyed ourselves. If this fair tries to get us next year, I will definitely vote against it. At least stop by when we’re there and show a little appreciation, especially when you are getting Reston’s favorite old-time band for free. We didn’t even have a tip jar set up.

Onward and upward. We have a private gig for some folks from Russia in a few weeks. I’m looking forward to that. Private gigs are rare, but they usually have the most welcoming and attentive listeners. I’ll certainly write about that one when it has come and gone.

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