Sing Us A Song, Piano Man

Piano-ManAs a DJ, you get in some pretty funny situations. Weird requests, drunk customers, bar fights, and clueless people that want you to be their personal iPod all come to mind at he moment. It’s all in a day’s work, sort of. Recently I was reminiscing with some friends about a situation that happened in my past. I found it so funny, that I wanted to share. The names of the venue and people have been changed, but you’ll get the idea.

“My least favorite is the ever so over used phrase: ‘I’m good friends with the owner’.- said every person who walked into a neighborhood bar”

A lot of venues we get to play double as something else. Oh, we are a restaurant during the day and evening, then turn into a bar/club after dinner. Change of scenery! I’ve played venues that were flower shop/ bars, cafes, and a variety of weird combinations, including some strip mall Mexican restaurant (where I was confined to a balcony spot with volleyball nets), a beer hall where the audience sat on long tables right against the stage, some Vermont joint where a puppet show was going on before me, and a venue in Texas where the stage was about 20 feet above the audience. Thankfully that manager/ booking agent combination is no longer around. To be honest, the agent was a long time industry head who had booked people like Iggy Pop and Ted Nugent, but was in the “maturity” of his career. Just my luck! How about a convenience store opening? As well as agents, we also put up with club owners and their quirky nuances, last minute cancellations, weird requests, and all around childish behavior. You have the joint where the owner’s friends are always hanging out, sometimes drinking for free, and generally causing some sort of mayhem, usually at your expense. “Hey man, you have any Sinatra?”or “Play something with a beat” (as you’re working doubles of James Brown) are some examples I’ve had to painfully sit through . My least favorite is the ever so over used phrase: “I’m good friends with the owner”. Here’s where this story begins.

A place I played in the past had a variety of instruments in house, as well as a piano that musicians and groups came through to play. In my opinion, if you’re going to have DJs, all instruments should be put away, because it deters people from becoming Billy Joel while the place has other stuff going on. It’s bad enough dudes want to beatbox or rhyme over your records if they see a mic, having instruments available is just asking for trouble. Such is life though, and like I said earlier, you deal with a bunch of challenging factors a lot of times at your gigs. On this particular busy night, I had gone about an hour into my set, when the manager informed me that some “friend” of the owners was in the house, and that he wanted to do twenty minutes of a piano sing along. Think of it as a break the manager said. He also told me that I could tell the person to eff off, but I thought I’d play nice and since I liked the gig, go with the flow. Big mistake. Neil Sedaka and his band of merry pranksters proceeded to cut the music, and sing some of the worst renditions of popular songs from the 60’s until present day. No song was safe! Included were a hype man with a cane, and a few other blokes who were trying to get women up and singing at the top of their lungs. It was a frat boy party without the frat house. Not really conducive to a DJ playing funky stuff. After the Elton John, Supertramp, and Journey sing-a-longs, glass after glass of wine, and people just plain leaving the venue, it had gone on for over two and a half hours. I packed up and left as the drunk piano man, minus his posse, played Radiohead’s “Everything In It’s Right Place” and the rest of the clientele was making a dash for the door. Luckily, I still got paid for the gig. That made it much sweeter. So sing us a song piano man, just do it when I’m not playing records. Thanks.

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