Tonight I will be playing with the Whiskey Brothers at the Albatross Pub in Berkeley. I play there every first and third Wednesday (we call it Whiskey Wednesday). The Whiskey Brothers, as a band, have been doing this since around 2000, I think, and I joined the band around 2003, so this adds up to hundreds of gigs over the years.
We play from 9-11pm, which on a weeknight can be tough if you have to get up early the next morning. If the joint’s jumping, we might not get out of there until almost midnight, which means I won’t get to bed until 1 or maybe 1:30 in the morning. I have learned it is possible to get by on 4 and ½ to 5 hours’ sleep.
More than a few times, I’ve come home from work on a (Whiskey) Wednesday and had a nice dinner, plopped myself on the couch, and then grumbled about getting up from that warm comfortable place and venturing out into the night.
But once I get there, I’m glad I came, even on cold, wet stormy nights. We have to schlep the PA gear in and set it up – now a very comfortable routine. We are handed a beer and a shot by the bartender (I think we’re on our 3rd or 4th bartender, after playing there for so many years), and we do a sound check.
The scene there can vary wildly. Sometimes, no one is there and we can hear ourselves really well. Sometimes it’s full and loud and raucous, and we can’t hear ourselves all that well, but it’s fun to watch people having a great time. Sometimes, it’s dead from 9 to 10, and then gets super crowded by 10, and those nights, we’re often goaded to play well past the official 11 o’clock stop time.
Because of its location, lots of interesting and/or famous people drop by. Bela Fleck came in one night, walked right by us and sat with his back to us and didn’t give a glance all evening. Ouch!
Nearly half the time, one or more of the Whiskey Brothers is unavailable, for various reasons and we’ve had a parade of stellar guests fill in. So that keeps things lively. Overall, this gig has become a welcome routine – a little island of musical enjoyment that I get to be marooned on twice a month. I love it.