Music and drinking go together.
And it’s not just the pumped up vibe club punters get from a PA blaring bass-heavy tunes, or the sophisticated feeling one might engender by choosing a classical playlist to accompany a fine bottle of wine ‘nursed’ in the comfort of one’s own home, this association between music and alcohol is often even more fundamental: good time=music+alcohol.
What would a wedding, a 21st birthday party or even a Christmas family dinner be without some music AND some booze?
For most people it is unthinkable to go without either when celebrating or unwinding. But for others the mix of music and booze is in fact all part of the job. As it was for me. When I was gigging in bands and playing solo singer-songwriter gigs music and alcohol went together like ramma lamma lamma, ka dinga da dinga dong.
Is It Really ‘Free’ Alcohol?
Musicians get paid, at least in part, with alcohol. I can’t quite remember the first time I had a ‘free’ beer before taking the stage but I reckon it would have been around the time one of my first bands played an engagement party at a golf course.
The photo at the top of this post is of me and the gang of ‘The Spokesmen and The 401 Raiders’ playing said party. Unfortunately it doesn’t show any sign of a side-stage ‘esky’ (Australian brand of cooler)—though I’m pretty sure there would have been one somewhere (maybe out back in the kitchen area you can just see to the right of the band), full of ice and VBs (Victoria Bitter) and maybe a few Jim Beam and Coke cans too.
And since then the ‘free’ alcohol has kept coming.
What Would You Like In Your Rider?
Now while the collection of free alcohol provided to the band or musical act (what we in the biz call ‘The Rider’) may not always feature top shelf scotch or other expensive spirits but, in my experience of playing pubs and clubs for many years, there is generally at least a few beers thrown the ‘artists’ way as part of the package.
Though, as I discovered while gigging and promoting music in London (and from chatting to a few musos in Nashville), there might not be any country in the world which rewards it’s gigging musicians with booze to the same degree as Australia does.
In Oz twenty-four cans of beer is not an uncommon base for a rider. This might be augmented with a couple bottles of wine—and perhaps a few bottles of still water (of a cheap brand you’ve never heard of before).
In some of the more up-market venues you might even get a drink-card to ply yourself with ‘drunken-punter-song-request’ protection. Occasionally, especially at weddings, all you’ll need to do during your break is march up to the bar and say “I’m with the band” and you’ll be able to notch up as many drinks as you like (or can handle before forgetting the middle chord change to Lola).
Since my days of playing in cover bands as a keen (and naive) teenager, I’ve grown accustomed to receiving part of my remuneration in alcohol. But, since my Year of Living Sober break from booze just happened to coincide with a break from live gigging I haven’t been downing any ‘free’ drinks.
The Rider ran dry.
And during this period of no-gigs and no-booze I’ve had time to reflect on how easy it was for me to have grown to believe in booze as my reward—as my payment! I mean, beer was almost like CASH to me. Wine was basically gold bullion and being granted access to a bottomless bottle of bourbon was better than getting stock options in Google.
So now, as my YOLS nears the end, and I’m lookin’ to head out and do some more gigs I’m wondering how, or if, my attitude to the ‘free’ drinks bonus scheme will have changed. Maybe I’ll do what I did in London and refrain from drinking any booze when I’m working. Not only is it the more professional thing to do, it might help me remember the words to my latest song, ‘What Are You Drinking?’.
Last week, inspired by my Year of Living Sober, I wrote this little ditty, a recording of which has miraculously been downloaded from my ‘dream’ gig playing as ‘Casa de Seunos’ (which means ‘House of Dreams’ in Spanish) on a bill featuring Calexico, K.D. Lang, Norah Jones and Willie Nelson.
I hope you love it!
Today is Day 347 of my year of living sober.
Little Booze Joke
The musical notes C, E-flat, and G walk into a bar. The bartender says, “Sorry, we don’t serve minors.”