Gigs With Really Famous People

21 Mar

79569142_c6dd159404_oTonight, as most folks head out for their second weekend of St. Patty’s day partying (right?  Is that what people are doing this weekend?  I have no life), I’ll be hitting the stage with none other than the lovely Petula Clark.

She’s doing a show one night only at the Castro Theatre, and it’s gonna be a doozy.  I’ve played in her band before – we did a show at the Herbst Theatre a couple of years ago, and it was really cool. Going into the gig, I didn’t know anything about her music (0ther than “Downtown,” of course), and I was really impressed with her, both in terms of her material and her vocal chops. In addition to all of her own stuff, she did a solo piano version of The Beatles’ “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” that was absolutely beautiful.

What’s more, it was a challenging gig! I remember feeling under-prepared, particularly in the flute department.  I was playing in a horn section with trumpet maestro Dave Scott, who is the picture of perfect professionalism, and it was a great kick in the ass, musically.  Needless to say, I’ve been shedding flute all week, and am feeling much more prepared.

I’ve also been reflecting a bit on these sorts of gigs. Playing with Petula, or at the Castro with Connie Francis, or sitting onstage behind Joan Rivers… it’s always an interesting deal. Performing with a superstar from another era is such a weird, cool treat – there’s nothing quite like stumbling onstage with someone who is literally the most successful female pop musician in British history, (Really!  She’s in Guiness!), playing a couple of sets, then going home to relative obscurity. I think that the conflict arises from playing professionally with someone who you know academically is a really big deal, but who has never been a really big deal in your life.

castroWhat’s more, everyone’s there with a job to do, and you’re all doing it, so the band’s professionalism overshadows the fact that one of the people in the room is a universally adored music icon. A bunch of my friends are on this gig – Ross Grant is playing guitar, Darren Johnston is playing trumpet (along with Dave), and last week’s person I wanted to be, Daniel Fabricant, is usually on bass (he put together the band, but subbed out the actual gig this time). The familiar faces add to the contrasting feelings of relaxed professionalism (I’m onstage with Ross, I’m reading sax charts) and nervous nervousness (That’s Petula Clark! She’s a big deal! Woah, the theater is totally sold out! The audience is going nuts!).

I don’t do too much casual gigging anymore, but when I do, I prefer these sorts of gigs, I think.  I’m looking forward to tonight, and hope that I’m more comfortable with the music this time around.  Also, that I don’t piss off Petula’s hardass of a musical director. (eek!) But more than anything, I’ll try to relax for a bit and enjoy getting to sit onstage behind a music legend, playing my part in a show that will make a lot of San Franciscans very happy.

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