Mystery Lovers


As a native New Yorker and an American, I am still angered by the cowardly attacks of 9/11. Unless we restore New York City's skyline to its condition prior to September 11th, 2001, the miserable scum who attacked us will have won! Visit and rebuild America!


Harry "Bear" as drawn by Martin Seddon in 1989


Ensemble Techniques

Personal, Musical, Professional and Emotional Connections


Every player, regardless of style or experience level, will eventually find himself in a position where he will either want or need to play with other musicians in an ensemble setting. This can be in a blues band, with a string quartet, as part of a metal outfit or as an accompanist with another instrument or singer. People outside the business of making music have a number of misconceptions about playing with others. Unfortunately many musicians bring these same misconceptions along with them to the ensemble. Our goal as musicians shouldn't be to blindly throw ourselves into the business with the thought that we'll more than likely be ground up and spat back out. Our goal is to rise above the poseurs and achieve something grander, be it artistically or financially. I'd like to relate some hard-learned lessons and some common sense, then team them all up with some basic ensemble performance technique.




Part Five

Behaving at the Gig

You will have noticed the little caricature of me drawn by graphic artist Marty Seddon back in 1989. I include it here for good reason. You see, that picture was drawn as a representation of me at work. I mean at a day job. Observe the leather MC jacket. There's also a slingshot and a bottle of beer. Yeah, that was the visage I promoted as a professional look on the job. My boss at that time was a young guy, totally cool, thoroughly decent, and was probably only a few steps more moderate in dress and deportment than I. In other words, it didn't matter to him that I was a tad... uhm, shall we say 'not business-like'?

Playing gigs in clubs. Not much in common to a day job, is there? Well, you will be judged by how you 'do business' just the way I might have been by dressing like a rocker at a nine-to-five. Here's a hard-and-fast rule: 99% of all club owners are slime. They will try to screw you at every opportunity. If you're getting paid a percentage of the door, the club owner's employee who takes the entrance fee will probably count every fifth person through the door, so you'll get, oh, two hundred bucks for playing six hours for eight hundred people. Of course, the club owner says only sixty showed up -- even if they did drink fourteen kegs of beer! Oh, so you say you are going to get paid a flat rate? If the dollar amount doesn't mysteriously diminish as you're being handed the money, the club owner will swear he'll be sending your booking agent/manager a check. Yeah, and of course that's minus the deposit he's already sent... yeah right. Then he'll swear he's paid someone in your organization... Just KNOW there'll be some weaseling on the part of the owner. Let's say money isn't an issue (a miracle) -- well, you can be sure you've 'rented' a piece of equipment (maybe PA) from the owner. How about the free beer? That scene at Bob's Country Bunker from the first Blues Brothers movie has more truth in it than fiction.

There are a million other ways you can get screwed at a gig. A number of them will be discussed here, but volumes will be missed. One can't cover it all for as long as there is a club owner out there, his twisted little mind will be working out new and exciting ways to shaft the band. One way to help avoid the biggest screwing the club owner can possibly manage starts with a concept as simple as HOW PROFESSIONAL DO WE APPEAR TO BE?


"History teaches us that men behave wisely once they've exhausted all other alternatives."

--Hughie the Road dog Still Crazy 1998

Don't let it be said that you got smart only after you'd made all the mistakes. I've made a good number, between my friends and band mates and myself, we've made just about all of them our trademarks. From years of being the recipient and victim of every nefarious plot hatched in the back room of dingy rock club, some wisdom can be gathered, cataloged and imparted to those who wish to learn from the folly of others.

Let's make up a band, we'll call them The Newbees. The Newbees are comprised of a singer, a guitar player, keyboard player, a bassist and a drummer. Buddies since High School, they are now in their very early twenties and wish to make music their career. They play a blend of alternative and pop punk genres. Their sound is fairly representative of the stuff you hear on many Indie labels and is catchy and innovative. They are working to build up a slush fund to buy some PA gear and maybe even a few hours in a real recording studio. The clubs beckon.

The bass player is probably the most go-getter of the bunch and has put a small package together comprised of a few photos, a brief bio sheet and a CD the boys burned using a Tascam Portastudio that the drummer's older cousin lent them. The bass player took a small collection from the rest of the guys and made up fifty of these packages and sent them to every bar and club with live music within reasonable distance from their home town. Those bars and clubs that are close to home, well, the bass player and the singer drove out to and hand-delivered the packages. The rest were sent out USPS Priority Mail -- except one -- this one went out to the drummer's cousin.

One week later, the owner of a club two towns over called the bassist. The guy on the other end of the phone said he liked what he heard and asked what kind of draw they might be able to guaranty at his club. The bass player furiously thought for a nanosecond about how many friends they all had and blurted out "One hundred and fifty people!" "Well," the club owner said "you'll have to come in and do an audition gig -- two sets, we'll give you a cut of the door, no money promised unless you bring 'em in."

The bass player agreed and called all the other guys. In turn, they called every warm, breathing person they knew and told them to show up at Slinker's Lounge in Dinktown on the thirtieth. The boys rubbed their hands together figuring that even if they only get a quarter of the door, it wouldn't be had if two hundred people showed up and paid five dollars each -- they'd get $250 for just two sets!

The night of the gig came and the boys arrived in Dinktown two hours before they were scheduled to play. They set up their gear at Slinker's. There were a couple of older men drinking at the bar, but The Newbees knew that the place would fill up when show time approached. Leaving their gear, they drove over one strip mall to the local McDonald's and choked some food down. When they got back, one of the drummer's Zildjian ride cymbals was missing. When inquiries were made, no one had seen anyone near the stage area and it was implied that The Newbees never had brought the cymbal with them and were trying to pull a fast one. This wasn't appreciated by the club owner. A quick phone call to the drummer's cousin had another cymbal on its way with seconds to spare before the gig started.

The place packed up at show time. Even though very few of The Newbees friends made the drive over, about forty of them arrived, but it didn't matter -- there had to be at least four hundred people packing the place out. The first set went off flawlessly, people were dancing, clapping, jumping around and applauding like crazy. After the set, two cocktail waitresses brought four pitchers of beer to the band. Buoyed buy an enthusiastic crowd and a slight beer-buzz, the second set was a real barn-burner. Three encores later, the boys polished off two more pitchers the waitresses brought over and started packing up their gear. The drummer's cousin made sure he got his cymbal before leaving.

The club owner came over still wearing the scowl he'd donned when the cymbal disappeared. Approaching the bass player, the others looked to see the wad of cash that would soon be produced. "Let's see.... PA rental, well, that's $150 bucks for the night. $42 bucks for the six pitchers of beer yous guys drank. Fifty three people paid at the door, which comes to $265. Your cut of that is $26.50. You owe $192 dollars and you made $26.50." At this point the club owner's math got the best of him. He thought for a moment, trying to figure what $192 minus $26.50 is, then said " You boys owe me some money." He did want to book them back in next month. "You can work off what you owe me next month, if you want. Either that or cash tonight." After collecting their jaws from the floor where they'd dropped them, they decide to come back next month and work off their debt. Little do they know, but they've just signed on for permanent indentured servitude. They'll never make a dime with this bloodsucker.

Six months later, The Newbees have gone on to day jobs. They don't play any more and barely speak to each other when they meet in WalMarts.

WHAT WENT WRONG? Let's analyze.

1.) Presentation. Club owners know one thing right away when they are contacted by an actual musician from the band -- these guys are amateurs and are ripe to be screwed over. Let's fix The Newbees starting here. The bass player's dad is a corporate type, owns a successful systems management business. The drummer's cousin is a big guy, a professional drummer, he has also been a bouncer and is a police officer. These are The Newbees assets. Let's turn back the clock. The bass player has sent out the packages, but instead of his home phone number, he uses an inside line at his dad's office. His dad has been forewarned, naturally, and as his business name is rather ambiguous, he is able to be a 'front' for a music management firm. The club owner calls and the phone is picked up at Horizon Management Inc. The club owner is now dealing with what he thinks is a professional booking agent. Savvy to business dealings, the bass player's dad hammers out a deal for the two sets -- the boys will play for one quarter of the door, as it is an audition, the club owner will, naturally, waive any in-house equipment fees.

Now, the dad is not a manager or agent, but he isn't going to sidestep basic business practice like a young musician might. Presentation -- professional, business-like. No stars in the eyes, no dreams of white wine and chicken wings in the dressing room, Pop the Pro made a business deal with someone whom he let know he did not particularly trust.

2.) Road Savvy. The night of the gig, Frank, the drummer's cousin, goes to the club with The Newbees. While they are setting up their gear, he is talking to the owner and his door people. He will be standing at the door with a counter. It doesn't really matter how accurate his count is unless Bozo the Owner's guys are counting, but the aura of accountability will give the owner pause to ponder. Moreover, when the boys go for their dinner, he will be sitting right there with their gear. No cymbals will be growing legs with Frank on the job. Frank knows one or two of the bouncers -- they're moonlighting cops. With this kind of cred going for him, they are not going to screw Frank's boys. Everyone's count matches, no one gets in free. Frank knows how much (give or take) that the boys are supposed to be walking out with. Frank intercepts the waitresses on their first beer run. "These pitchers are on the house?" "No? We didn't order them!" At the end of the night, the boys have had a few rounds bought by their pals in the crowd.

3.) Business-like Follow-through. They've brought in a good crowd, about four hundred people who each paid seven dollars at the door. $700 should be coming their way. Pop the Pro has arrived and he and Frank approach Weasel the Owner, Frank with his counter and Pop with his business aura. Sure enough, Frank's tally and the door guy's tally match up fairly well. There is no question as to what the band is owed and the Weasel forks it over.

4.) Working Towards the Future. Pop the Pro swings back into action. "Listen, the band brought in a big crowd, they had a great time, they drank mightily. We are open to playing here again and would like to negotiate a contract to do so." The Weasel still wants to charge the boys for the use of his PA system. "Do you charge your patrons to use the bathroom?" Pop smiles. "Save that for the amateur bands. We made you money and we will continue to make you money. Don't insult my intelligence. We will make you money if you treat us right. Otherwise, find another band." If the boys really did pack the place out and the crowd drank vast kegs-worth, then they'll get booked back on their own terms and make money. If the Weasel is really a jerk, he'll figure he doesn't need The Newbees and their professional team, he'll find some kids he can screw. And if that's his bottom line, then The Newbees don't want his business anyway. There are other clubs -- clubs that will want The Newbees if they hear how well they did at Slinker's Lounge.


This scenario will have to be worked out at each new club the boys play at. After a while, the boys will be able to just show up at clubs they've been to before and play and get paid -- it takes time and a respect for their professionalism.


So, you're in a fledgling band... What do you do to limit your chances of being reamed by some disgusting twerp with a loud cigar and a smelly shirt?

Take inventory -- what do you have by way of support? Do you have a professional businessman in the family who can act as a frontperson? Are any of your friends, neighbors, associates, coworkers moonlighting professional musicians? Any hands-on advice or help you can get is key to success.

DO NOT LET A MUSICIAN IN THE BAND BE THE BUSINESSPERSON. This is especially true if you are younger. Club owners eat 21 year-old musicians for breakfast. They love to see them coming -- it's like the free buffet table opening. Also, having a kid in the band deal with the money issues can lead the other members to doubt his honesty even if their fears are unjustified. Better to leave money matters to a third party who all band members agree is honest.

NEVER LEAVE YOUR EQUIPMENT UNATTENDED. Even if the club staff is one hundred percent honest (never happens) the drunks at the bar will -- at best -- start messing around with your stuff and --at worst -- load up their cars before you can say "It was a 1962 Fender Stratocaster, officer."

ALWAYS KNOW UP FRONT WHAT CLUB EQUIPMENT NEEDS TO BE RENTED. We played a club where they wouldn't let a band bring in their own rig and even though our system blew theirs away, we had to rent their rig until we became so valuable to them (by crowd draw) that they waived the fee. They had to. We were making them too much money for them to risk chasing us off.

ALWAYS KNOW UP FRONT WHETHER THE BAND IS EXTENDED COURTESY DRINKS FROM THE BAR. Nothing trashes a night like finding out your bar tab is larger than your performance stipend. This leads to...

DON'T GET DRUNK AND SLOPPY. IT RUINS YOUR PERFORMANCE, SOFTENS YOUR BUSINESS RESOLVE AND LEADS TO DUI/DWI TROUBLES ON THE DRIVE HOME. Enough said. That goes for any other substances you might 'tune up' with in the parking lot.

HAVE SOMEONE YOU KNOW AND TRUST MONITOR THE GATE IF YOU ARE PLAYING FOR A PERCENTAGE OF ADMISSIONS. Club owners are only human(!) and will always keep a fat greasy thumb on their side of the scale.


That's it for now. Oh, I nearly forgot. A club owner once tried to pay the band I was in with cocaine in lieu of cash. This would have been a disaster had we accepted. What can you do with Coke? Unless you're a user, you'll have to sell it. Yeah, that's real smart. So the club owner gets away with something and you go to jail!


Later. Play well, be smart!





The Classic Guitar Method: Now in one volume, much of what the novice classical guitarist will need to know to lead him or her to the recital stage. From proper instrument care and maintenance to the necessary technical skills, musical mind-set, and the standard repertoire—all exposed and explored with enough detail and insight that the student will wish to keep this book handy years to come as a ready reference source.

With the aid of a good teacher, the student will rapidly progress through The Classic Guitar Method attaining technical proficiency and musical eloquence.

This method stems from the need to incorporate a number of schools into a single cohesive curriculum. Years of honing a logical approach to the guitar and the creation of music culminate in this volume. As a self-proclaimed Disciple of Valdés-Blain , much of that famed teacher's focus can be found in Mr. Pellegrin's method.

ISBN: 978-1-4116-9442-2

Published by PAB Entertainment Group, P.O. Box 2369 Scotia, New York 12302

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For scholarly transcriptions and free sheet music, click the following link:

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  LOW END  By Harry George Pellegrin.  The first in the Gary Morrissey series of mysteries.  Dealing with modern subject matter in the classic style of the 1940's Mystery Noire masters--think Raymond Chandler in New York in the 1980's...  LOW END is the story of a drug addict who is murdered after he believes he has found evidence of a major government conspiracy.  Is it only drug-induced paranoia?  Might be, except his paranoia could be considered justified: he was murdered, after all.  Friend Gary Morrissey takes it upon himself to find out just what happened and lands himself in the crosshairs.
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Classic Guitar Method  Composed, written, transcribed, edited and arranged by Harry G. Pellegrin: Now in one volume, much of what the novice classical guitarist will need to know to lead him or her to the recital stage. From proper instrument care and maintenance to the necessary technical skills, musical mind-set, and the standard repertoire—all exposed and explored with enough detail and insight that the student will wish to keep this book handy years to come as a ready reference source.
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