Gig Journal

Private party, Boston Harbor Cruise, June 21, 2003

This gig was short but sweet.

Vinay, the CEO of my company, threw a party for his friends, a hundred or so, on a boat cruising around the Boston Harbor. He was planning to have a DJ, so I volunteered to play a few tunes while the DJ was setting up. The DJ was supposed to be playing Indian pop music, so I thought some soft jazz would make a nice contrast.

The day before the gig I called the DJ to work out the logistics. The guests were expected to board at 6:30pm, and we would set sail at 7pm. The DJ said he expected to arrive about 6pm.

The traffic was light for a Saturday night, so I got to the boat before 6pm. My wife Mal, my daughter Sheri, and her boyfriend Jason were invited guests, and they boarded with me. Light rain was starting to fall. The hostess, Jesse, showed me to the area where the DJ's table was set up. The DJ had not yet arrived. Jesse asked me if I needed a chair or anything; I said I'd just stand to play. Jesse asked if she could get anyone a drink, but we said we'd wait. The crew was still cleaning up from the last cruise. Jesse said they'd left the boat a mess, the worst mess the crew had ever seen. We envisioned a bunch of rowdy college kids, but Jesse later told us it had been 13-year-olds.

The crew was putting the white table cloths on the tables, washing the bar, and scrubbing some parts of the deck. My family settled in while at a table while I went in search of an electrical outlet. I located the only outlet in the area, behind the bulkhead that covered the stairway. I had taken my small Peavy Studio 112, which has a short power cord, and I had not brought an extension, sure that the DJ would have one.

Six-thirty came and went; no DJ. Jesse came over and said she was concerned. She had called Vinay and told him that the crew was running late with the cleanup, and they had postponed boarding for the passengers until 6:45, but it was nearly that and no DJ. I offered to set up quickly and start playing. Jesse was relieved. I started to set up and Jesse went back to directing the cleanup. The crew was very efficient and friendly. I felt that we were sort of in the way, but they treated us as guests and allowed us to relax.

Because of the location of the outlet, my setup position was less than optimal. We were on the top deck. Due to the rain, there was a canopy, and clear plastic "windows" around all of the deck -- except for the corner near the bulkhead where I put my amp. I was in a corner, behind the DJ's table, with the amp next to the bulkhead. After plugging in, I noticed the rain was settling on the top of the amp. Rather unsettling to think of playing electric guitar in the rain. I sent Mal to ask Jesse if they could lower the plastic "windows" in that area. While I tuned up, Jesse and some crew members hastily lowered the plastic. Even the captain pitched in!

I plugged my guitar in and started playing "Softly As in a Morning Sunrise" just as the first few guests came up the stairway. Before I'd played two choruses, a large and exuberant swarm of guests filled the deck. I was amazed at how loud the talking was. These people were wasting no time getting the party started. I segued into "Satin Doll," sustaining a chord long enough to reach down and crank up the volume. The Peavy was just not the right amp for this situation. I found myself digging in to the strings, using a lot of down-strokes, just trying to project some sound. I wished I had the Ampeg; but then again, I would not have enjoyed carrying it up those stairs.

As more guests arrived, the noise level grew, and I resigned myself to being a barely-audible presence. The guests had not expected live music, and some appeared a bit dismayed. I decided to stay with recognizable tunes: "Girl From Ipanema," "Don't Get Around Much." Single note lines were getting lost in the buzz, so my improvised choruses were mostly chords and bass lines.

During my second or third tune, the DJ came up the stairs, carrying equipment. He barely acknowledged me as he set the equipment down and went back for more. When he began setting up, I stepped back behind the amp to give him room. A couple of times I had to turn to avoid hitting him with the guitar neck. All this made it very difficult to concentrate.

I segued between tunes, feeling that a gap in the music would be uncomfortable. I tried "Dindi" but immediately realized that it was too gentle a tune for the situation, so I segued into the chords of "Once I Loved" and played a sort of Joao-Gilberto-but-more-aggressive comp. I thought of playing "Blue Illusion," which works well as a dig-in-to-the-strings blues, but by this time the DJ appeared to be ready, so I just stopped playing and starting packing up. The DJ turned to me and said, "Are you finished?" I said it looked like he was ready so I thought I'd just turn it over to him. He was puzzled. I think he was expecting me to do more of his work for him.

I put my guitar case and amp behind the bulkhead and went to join the party. I was curious to hear what Indian pop music sounded like, but to our surprise the DJ played the usual pump-up-the-volume dance music. Later Jesse told us that someone had decided to make that change. So all night it was the same tempo, the same pounding kick drum. Late in the night there were a few Indian pop selections. They sounded like the same music with different singing. Not something I'd add to my listening list.

My wife and I were the only ones at the party over 40. Somehow these young people manage to talk, or at least appear to talk, over the pounding dance music. Everyone had a good time. Sheri and Jason danced all night. Mal and I danced to a couple of 70's disco tunes, but after a while we escaped to the lower deck to rest our ears. She said she thought my music was much more appropriate to the cocktail hour than the DJ's. (Of course, the whole night was a cocktail hour, but I knew what she meant.) I wondered if any of the guests felt that way. Never know.

Shortly after my set, Vinay had come over to me and said, "Thanks for filling in." I replied thanks for inviting me and allowing me to play.

Last Modified 6/21/2003