When you’re in a band like ours getting gigs is usually a bit of a slog. We really started to play in public in earnest* around the time Stephen joined the band, and we’d do literally anything we could find – battles-of-the-bands, afternoon shows to disinterested students during rag week, those multi-band nights where everyone has to sell X tickets in advance and then turn the money over to the promoter.
John’s tolerance for humiliation is lower than mine or Stephen’s, so when he put the foot down and refused to do the really crappy gigs I’d slyly spend hours on my work phone calling up proper venues saying “It’s Cormac from Stoat again, could I speak to Dermot? Not there? Could you just tell him I called wondering if he’d listened to our tape yet? Thanks, bye”. One smart-ass had a message on his answering machine that went something like “Hello, this is about the gig yeah? … yeah … ok … grand … right well I’ll talk to you soon bye”. Took me longer than it should have to figure that one out :/ I’d make lists of acts that were playing in Whelan’s, then trawl the Hot Press yearbook looking for their numbers (this was before bands were easily contactable via the internet), and then call them, get their address, send a tape, call back, call back again, call back AGAIN, etc. That’s actually how we got our first gig as a 3-piece – with The Mary Janes, Mic Christopher’s old band.
Things got a little easier as time went on. We started to get to know the bands from the underground scene (through thumped.com) and would play with other bands like ourselves or touring punk acts in upstairs rooms in pubs on a Wednesday or Thursday night. We even played with Explosions in the Sky once, in a room in a pub in Limerick with no seats, so everyone had to sit on the dirtiest and stickiest pub carpet I have ever seen in my life. Invariably 80% of the audience were other people in bands. The aforementioned Dermot was tickled by my persistence and we ended up playing our own shows in his place (Eamonn Doran’s, right in the centre of Temple Bar) a dozen times. Started getting a few of our own shows in Whelan’s too, maybe on a Wednesday, or a Sunday afternoon.
And so it went, playing someplace every few weeks, always hoping that someone we didn’t know would be in the audience (usually in vain (and we’d always talk to strangers after the gigs anyway, so the next time they wouldn’t count as “someone we don’t know” anymore)). Mostly on weeknights, unless we were doing a supporting slot or a multi-band scene night like The Ballroom of Romance. Weekend headline slots were reserved for bands with a lower musician/normal-person ratio in the audience.
After disappearing off the live circuit for a few years, things were kinda back to square one when we started preparing to gig the new album. Most of our old scene buddies had aged out, and we were back to calling into venues with CDs or mailing people soundcloud links.
For the album launch we managed to book our first ever Saturday night headliner at The Underground, a sufficiently tiny venue that we could hope wouldn’t look too empty, and much to our surprise we filled it right up and they had to turn people away.
And then something magical happened. The Underground wanted us back on another Saturday night. Gugai from The Róisín Dubh in Galway got in touch and wanted us to play a Friday night headliner. The lads in Salty Dog in Drogheda did the same. All one weekend after another. All of a sudden we seemed to be in demand … in a very minor way, you understand, but in the 20 years the 3 of us have been playing together (or even the 30 me and John have been playing together) we had NEVER had 3 weekend headliners in a row. We were all feeling pretty good about it …
… but …
(yes, there’s a ‘but’ – we are that kind of band, alas)
John fell over and cracked his head on the ground when playing with his kids, sustained a concussion, and we had to cancel all the gigs. And then the Salty Dog closed down before the last one was due to happen anyway 🙁
Update had to cancel all our summer festival slots too 🙁
* Gigs for older versions of the band were intermittent, except for a run of Tuesday nights in the early 90s where me and John and our drum machine would play covers in a pub in Ringsend in exchange for pints**
** Funny enough these days I play bass in a fairly informal covers band in my local pub (Boyle’s in Slane) on a Wednesday and get free pints too … the difference being that the Boyle’s gigs are a load of fun, where playing ‘Tell Laura I Love Her’ and ‘Stand By Your Man’ to 2 alcoholics and a barman in Ringsend was mostly pretty depressing