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Anatomy of a Gig

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We had our gig on Friday night at a lovely place called Club Clearview in the Deep Ellum section of Dallas. After numerous discussions, we finally got placed in the three slot, also known as main support. You see, the music scene in Dallas is insanely competitive. When you get booked to play a show in Deep Ellum (as well as other areas of town), you do so knowing that you'll likely be playing with 2, 3, maybe even 4 other bands on the same night. Your position is an indication of your status. I'll break it down for you. In a typical 4 band show, it goes like this:

  • 1st Slot (Opener): You're either a young band, a new band, or a not very good band who happens to know the right people. This is where all bands start out. You usually go on stage around 9pm, when the bar is damn-near empty. You also need thick skin, because the people there are usually not there to see you, and they are often ambivalent about you being there. Don't expect people to chant your name or say "hoooo" when you say "heeeey". It's not a desirable slot, but you have to start somewhere. This position can gain importance depending on the headliner. If Def Leppard is your headliner, the 1 Slot is awesome. If it's some band you've never heard of, well, just be glad you don't have to pay the bar to play there. Your set usually lasts about 30 minutes, give or take. The worst gig we ever had took place when we were in the 1 Slot at an out-of-town club. When we finished playing, even the crickets said "Fuck you - get off the stage." There was dead silence in the place. You could've heard a pin drop, if the pin actually cared enough to move after our performance. It was utterly mortifying and embarrassing.
  • 2nd Spot: You've been around for a few months, and you have modest fan support. Maybe you can consistently bring 15-25 people to the club when you play there. You're pretty good. This is also the slot given to bands from out of town, regardless of how good they are (unless they're signed, or national acts like Breaking Benjamin or Foo Fighters or whatever). This is the slot we had been given at Club Clearview for a while. 2nd Slot usually hits the stage around 10pm, and has a set that lasts about 35 minutes.
  • 3rd Slot (Main Support): This is the honey slot. You come on directly before the headlining band. You have very good fan support (25-50 people), you have a damn good sound, and you put on a nice stage show. Main Support is almost always great, because (a) you get to rock your balls off in front of a friendly crowd, and (b) after you're done, you can drink beers, soak up praise, and watch the headliners play. Depending on the venue, Main Support may also pay more than Slots 1 and 2. Main Support goes on stage sometime around 11pm, and has a longer set than Slots 1 and 2, often 40 or 45 minutes.
  • 4th Slot (Headliner): You're the star of the show. You're why people came out to the club in the first place. You are the shit. Your music is tight, your show is fantastic, and you probably bring more than 50 hard-drinkin' people to the club with you. If you're headlining, it means your name means something around town. It means people have heard of you, and you're making a real name for yourself on the scene. When you tell random people what band you're in, you have a 50/50 chance of them saying "Oh yeah, I've heard of you guys." Headliners play for an hour or more. Headliners almost always get paid the most money per show, and they're also more likely to possess a total rock star attitude, regardless of whether it's deserved. The band we were playing with Friday night has this problem. They're no one you've likely heard of unless you live here, but based on how they act, you'd think they were Nickelback or something. We're always very friendly, and we've tried several times to just talk to them, but they always give us the brush-off. Screw them.
There are tons of variations, of course, but this is typically what you see in Dallas on any given night. The last 2 times we played at that club, we were in the 2nd Slot, and we outdrew the headliners, meaning that we had more people in the club to see us than the headliners did. When patrons walk through the doors and pay the cover charge, the person at the door always asks "Who are you here to see?" Then they add to that band's count for the night. It's never a secret - at any point, we're free to walk up and ask "What's the count?" The door person will show you, and you'll see exactly where you stand compared to all the other bands. The count determines how much you get paid, so it's imperative to get as many people through the door as possible. It's a cutthroat business, man. You are directly competing with the bands you're playing with that night. We felt that we had proven that we should be moved up a slot, and the club finally agreed. In fact, they made us a deal: if we outdrew the headliners, we'd get a headlining gig at that club. If we REALLY outdrew the headliners (an exact number or percentage wasn't given), then we'd get a headlining gig at Curtain Club. Curtain Club is the premier venue for local bands in Dallas. We've played there a couple of times in the past, when another club was at the top of the food chain (Trees), but after Trees closed down, Curtain Club had no use for us anymore, and wouldn't book us. We didn't take offense, because we knew at the time that we weren't one of the top-tier bands in Dallas. Using a grade school analogy, Curtain Club became strictly for 11th graders and up, and we were in the 8th. But we worked hard, wrote more music, played more gigs, and secured a monthly recurring headlining gig at Tomcats, a venue that's on the rise in Deep Ellum. Score. Headlining ANYWHERE is awesome, but to get a monthly headlining gig is just an incredible opportunity that we jumped on like Tour De France winners jump on performance enhancers. Just playing headlining gigs puts us in the 11th grade (to use the same analogy), and Clearview had heard all about our nice live show over there. Therefore, the deal they were offering had some teeth to it, and we were all about it. And at the end of the night, we asked about the count. Nonetheless: 37 Headlining Band: 18 Holla. We doubled 'em up. I bet that twisted their nipples a bit. Oh yeah, we kicked ass at the show, even though it was approximately 159 degrees in the place. Even in winter, it's about 85 degrees on stage there, but my GOD, it was ridiculous. Their stage lights are literally about 5 feet above our heads, and they feel like someone's holding a bottle of lava right above us. I was wearing a Jimi Hendrix t-shirt, and I swear that muhfucka had dreds by the end of the show. I couldn't replace the water I was losing onstage, and damn if I didn't catch a charlie horse in my left leg in the beginning of the last song. I almost fell down on stage when that bitch clamped on, but I managed to stay upright. Problem was, our last song is over 7 minutes long. I have never been so glad to be done playing music in my life. Except for that one show with the rude-ass crickets. Bastards. But it was all so very worth it. We're doing our headlining show this Saturday night at Tomcats. Come check us out. We're 11th graders now, baby. Peace.


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