(Inside Voices) Mike Onufrak Wants You to Hear His Music.
Musician Mike Onufrak writes about performing in Philadelphia:
I was recently contacted by a local promoter/ booking agent about playing a Sunday night show at one of his clubs as a means to increase business on a night that normally lacked foot traffic. As a songwriter who is tired of working day jobs and wants people to hear his music for God’s sake, the last thing I want to hear is “Sunday night” and “low foot traffic.”
However, this was not the only gig this promoter had to offer and a few brownie points never hurt.
“Maybe I’ll get that all-ages Friday night show opening for that cheesy-but-popular out-of-town act I’ve been hoping for,” I thought. So I took the gig.
As I walked to the club on the night of the gig, I received a phone call from a good friend of mine letting me know that, somehow, my gig was being promoted in the Inquirer by a short blurb. I was flattered. Every time I’ve ever tried to get press on my own, I’ve failed. The one time I decide I don’t really care, they write something. Naturally, I was excited so I plopped myself down at the bar, ordered my buffalo wings and club-soda (the only payment for playing this gig), and searched for the blurb on my smart-phone. Once I saw it, my heart sank into my stomach. All that was written was a description of a band I had played in years ago with my name attached to the front of the blurb.
“Did they even listen to MY music?” I wondered.
Then the power went out.
Not just at the club but the surrounding neighborhood as well. The idea of playing by candlelight enticed me. I quickly forgot about the blurb and waited for my band to show up.
“I’m going to move the show downstairs to the bar area,” the promoter told me. “Is that cool with you?”
I was into it. The more people to hear my music, the better.
Just before the first band went on, my backup singers arrived and I tried to convince the promoter to let us rehearse one song in the upstairs area. I really didn’t think it was a big deal. I mean, is that a big deal? Apparently it was, and we got a whole two minutes to rehearse before being shooed down the stairs. It’s hard to get people to rehearse for gigs and it’s even harder when they aren’t the ones who write the music. So naturally, I try to fit in as much rehearsal time with people – who are essentially doing me a huge favor – whenever it’s most convenient for them – i.e. gig time.
The first band played and as they were getting ready for their last song, the power came back on. Televisions came to life around the bar and with that, many people had no reason to hang around the musicians anymore. Looking around the room, I noticed some of my fans but a lot of them were missing.
It didn’t matter to me. I was going to play my music for the people who were around and not be bothered by anything else. We started the set with about twenty-five people in the room – some were fans of the previous band, some were mine and some were random bar patrons who decided to be polite rather than flock back to the TVs. As we ran through the set, the number of people dwindled. During our last song, there were only six or seven people left.
After the set, I was a little disheartened but not completely defeated. “Where was everyone?” and “Who gives a shit?” were the most common thoughts running through my head.
After I packed up the gear and moved through the bar/ TV area, I was ignored by all but didn’t really care to be noticed anyway. I reached the outside of the club, turned my cellphone on and was dumbfounded at what I saw: numerous text messages and voice mails. “Dude, no lights on. Is the club closed?” “I guess your gig was cancelled, huh?” Just my luck. While I was trying to rehearse upstairs, I turned my phone off and missed all of these messages. And we barely even rehearsed!
I was finally ready to go home when I turned around and saw a guy jump on his bike. I recognized him and quickly realized he was one of the few who was left in the room when the set ended. He was also the only one who was not a personal friend of mine, or in the first band.
“Thanks for listening,” I said.
“No problem,” he answered, sounding genuine. “I really enjoyed your set.”
And suddenly, I didn’t care about all that had gone wrong throughout the evening.