The Preachers played a gig a couple of weeks ago at a well known, but struggling nightclub in Seattle's downtown Pioneer Square neighborhood. Pioneer Square used to be a smokin' hot location for live music clubs, as noted elsewhere on this blog. The club's long time owner passed away last year, and the joint is now owned by one of the former owner's relatives and a new manager is responsible for booking the bands.
This club featured live music six nights a week for over 20 years. Local mainstream and trad jazz bands played Monday through Thursday, and blues or blues rock bands played on Friday and Saturday. Back in the day, the same band would usually play both Friday and Saturday, but for quite a while now the blues has only been featured on Saturday nights. This is pretty typical of the Seattle area these days - it is very unusual for a band to play anywhere for more than one night.
The club would also occasionally feature national touring acts. I recall seeing Charles Brown, Jimmy Rogers, Larry Davis, and Mark Hummel there. Those were the days!
One nice thing about playing at this place was that the pay was always decent, usually $100 a player, plus tips from the crowd. However, when the economy crashed in 2008, it hit this place (and all other clubs in the neighborhood) hard. Our five-piece band was getting paid $400 an night (plus tips) at the time the owner passed. When the new owner sorted out the remaining bookings, we were told that the new pay for all bands would now be $200 a night.
Say WHAT?! As much as we want to keep playing at this place, we can't do it at that price. So we came up with what we thought was a great idea - we would accept the club's $200 dollar guarantee if they would let us charge a cover and add that money to the kitty. The manager agreed. One of my siblings agreed to collect the low $5.00 cover charge (note: never let the club collect cover charges for you, for obvious reasons), and lo and behold! At the end of the night, we all made over $100 a player, just like the old days!
We thought it was all good. The club paid $200 for a rockin' band, the place was full, for a change, of happy customers buying booze and food, and having fun on purpose, and the band got paid decently. I did notice though, that it seemed to be breaking the owner's heart when he handed that $200 over to me at the end of the night.
The Boneyard Preachers, left to right: Tim Sherman guitar), Patty Mey (bass), Steve Yonck (guitar), Conrad Ormsby (drums), and Mike Lynch (harp and vocals). Photo by Marta Smith.
Sure enough, we couldn't get the manager to respond to e-mails or calls regarding another booking. So I dropped in there tonight and cornered her before she took off for the evening. She told me that she would be happy to book the Preachers into the joint practically any Saturday we wanted as long as we didn't charge a cover and accepted the $200 in pay. Well, that was a no-brainer, so I declined, of course.
We are just the most recent band to bail on this club. Most of the other regular performers have moved on also. I wish the new owner luck with this business that he as inherited. Hopefully, he will figure out how to make a go of it or sell the place before he loses his shirt!
Check out the Boneyard Preachers here: http://www.reverbnation.com/boneyardpreachers