Paying the Pipers

These days it starts on Facebook: a direct message to your page and with a link to theirs. “Hi, hope you’re well. We’d love to do a gig at your pub. We’ve recently returned from a summer tour playing festivals…” This, roughly translated, means: “Hi, I’ve never met you but I’ve just spent ten minutes on the internet and I see you do live music. Me and my mate learned a few Mumford and Sons tunes and decided to play them for our parents who loved them and paid for us to travel to festivals so that we could perform to ageing hippies and people who breathe fire.
We’re now better than The Beatles, but unfortunately have to endure playing in your shithole for a hundred quid on the way up to The Albert Hall”

I love live music.
Correction. I love good live music.
Rare is it that a pub is better than when a band are smashing it to an appreciative crowd. It seems to solve all your problems: People drink faster and they’re happier – there’s seldom trouble when everyone is focussed on having a good time. Spilled drinks are met with apologies and refilled. A bash of shoulders between two strangers heading in opposite directions is laughed off when, in a different situation, it could easily be a flashpoint.
The till fills up quickly and your bar staff usually love it.

So why don’t we do it every night?

There are a couple of main reasons. Firstly, there aren’t that many good bands around. Oh there are plenty of musicians of all kinds, ranging from the X Factor wannabees – who turn up with a laptop, an amp, a speaker, a microphone and too much make-up, and expect to get paid a hundred and fifty quid to scream Celine Dion songs at you with their eyes closed – to the twelve piece soul bands that are still flogging the Commitments pony and will probably cancel the gig a month before they’re due to play because they got offered three times as much to play Gary and Matilda’s fucking wedding.

Secondly, it only really works, for most pubs, at weekends when people will spend big and get drunk. It’s not easy to make money out of a band and trying to get musicians to realise this is one of the problems. Let me explain:
If we pay a band £250 then we have to take around £500 more than we normally do on the night that they play before we hit the break-even mark. Considering that they will only be on for a couple of hours, at a time that you would normally be fairly busy anyway then this becomes a difficult equation to fathom. A landlord must also work out how much trade they cost you as they prop the front door open for 30 mins on a cold January night so that they can haul in their gear then play the same song part way through again and again whilst they tune-up, although I do enjoy it when women who have started their Saturday night drinking session early start dancing to this and moan every time it unravels and someone on the stage says something like “more echo” or “too tinny” or “my bass string’s a bit flappy”.

So the band plays and takes the plaudits and encores, and the sycophantic afterpraise as they go outside to cool off and smoke a roly, and if it’s been busy will mention to you how well they did and what a good crowd they brought in as you pay them their money, and all the time you’re thinking of how much you’ve pushed this gig, talked it up and, over the years, built up a good reputation and taken the hit when bands have failed. You think of how most of the punters in tonight were in last week for a different band and you resist the urge to tell this accountant – who puts on a leather jacket and a Joy Division T-shirt on Saturday nights so he can fulfil some boyhood dream of being a rock star – just how much you’ve contributed to the success of the night and how little praise you’ve received compared to the cheers and applause that this bloke has just milked for all that it’s worth from a crowd soaked with Jagermeister for murdering Mustang Sally.

But in the end you pay them, give them a drink, massage that rock ‘n’ roll ego and hope that they don’t ask for more money the next time they direct message you on Facebook.


That’s Entertainment

Pub entertainment: such a varied and curious phenomenon that sees no sign of abating in the current climate of competition and decline.

Gone are the days of a bloke on a piano leading a drunken, ale slopping sing-a-long of a Sunday evening. No more is the club crooner the king of Friday nights. Those days went even before the extractor fan became redundant and the smoke cleared. The entertainment fad emerged as the drinkers began to dwindle.

It started with Karaoke. At some point in the late eighties, someone, somewhere decided that the Japanese were the ones to consult when it came to English pubs and we all needed to endure full time mums singing about working nine to five in a fake deep south drawl and hear fat old men crucify Sinatra six times a night. “You didn’t do it your way mate, you did it the same fucking way as that other pissed bloke twenty minutes ago. Drink up, lads. We’re off!”

A few years later somebody invented Bar-fly Jumping. Remember that? If you don’t just take a minute and think about what could be the most appealing thing that you can do, pissed up, in a pub car park that doesn’t involve the exchange of bodily fluids and a watertight alibi.
If you come up with donning a Velcro-striped jump suit then running at and jumping on a small trampoline before somersaulting and sticking upside-down to an upturned bouncy-castle then give yourself a pat on the back. Or, alternatively, go and smash your head against a wall and never come up with an idea again, as the person who invented this bizarre and, quite frankly, fucking stupid craze should have done.
For about five months in the mid nineties you could barely take a sip of your summer snakebite without some drunken plumber flipping through your field of vision looking like some kind of catapulted Telly Tubby.
It didn’t last. How could it?

Wii nights. They were a riot weren’t they? I mean what more could you ask then to walk into your local and see a couple of bell ends shaking remote controls at a big screen pretending to be ten pin bowling. Just go ten pin bowling you absolute failures. This is not fun for anyone.
It didn’t last. How could it?

There’s always been the pub quiz. A quaint tradition consisting of a bloke with a pipe shouting out twenty questions and the team with the most correct answers winning. Simple. Effective. Surely this would last?

Yes and No.

Now you have to look at a big screen and answer picture rounds, music rounds, logo rounds, anagram rounds… the whole thing lasts approximately seven hours and the team who’s most adept at cheating on their mobiles wins. So now there’s quizzes that you play in the pub on your mobile. They call them ‘interactive’. You heard right; encouraging people to spend more time staring at their phones is called being interactive.
It won’t last. How can it.

So now, someone, somewhere is trying to invent the next pub fad. I shudder to think what it will be, but it will probably involve drones or virtual reality glasses or fucking hover boards. Whatever it is I want no part of it. Just get me a decent beer, a good band and rid me of the fucking idiots that need all this bollocks to have a good time.