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On his website GigSanDiego.com, local drummer Bill Ray explains “Gig San Diego was created by professional musicians, for professional musicians. It is (currently) an open-registration format that caters to the musician who actively plays gigs in and around SD. The site is independently administered and is not to be held responsible for any bad information gleaned from the annals of our forums. We recommend you keep a firm grip on the realities of any situation; unlike McDonalds, who pay millions for a spilled cup of coffee in the lap, all we have is some pocket lint for your lawyers.”

The site includes a venue directory, local music MP3s, gig announcements, and classified ads, as well as useful information like directions, gas prices, and bulletins on stolen equipment to keep an eye out for. Message board topics include music stores and instrument repair, local recording studios, road recommendations and rideshares, lessons, jam sessions, and more.

In one of the site’s most informative AND entertaining sections, Ray posts load-in tips for various venues around town. Below are some excerpts:

gig2 Patrick’s II downtown: “Parking sucks…use the alley on the left side of the building, unload your stuff, then go park. I like to park at 7th and E in the Parkade, $5 weeknights, $10 weekends…backline not provided.”

gig3 Pala Casino: “You don't need to bring amps because it's a canned scene, as in everything is headphone mixed [and] run through the board live…I recommend bringing your own headphones, because the house ones might just be covered in sweat.”

gig4 Hotel Del Coronado, back patio: “Architects back then must have drank a lot, because the place just sprawls…find the delivery area, unload, park. Drag your stuff through the corridors [and] you will eventually come out in the guest area. Trek it through that hallway and out the doors.”

gig5 Humphrey’s Backstage Lounge: “Pull up in the handicap slot at the west end of the building…large cases will have to be stowed in the car or in their shed.”

gig6 Viejas V Lounge: “You end up cutting through the casino. Backline not provided…beware, do not open your laptop out there. They always blow a gasket!”


Dick’s Last Resort, downtown: “Watch out for projectiles.”

gig9 Victoria Rose posts of the Lucky Star Restaurant, on 54th Street, “They frequently forget to unlock the gate and have to be called…watch out for the first door that is heavy and ready to slam shut at a moment's notice. Use the supplied rock near the door to prop it open. I am not kidding!”

So how’s the money at various locales around town? What do they provide, and what do bands get paid??

“The bottom line is that the ultimate determination of whether a show is a success or a failure at the Beauty Bar is what the bar total is,” blogs Scott Pactor, who manages Fifty on their Heels. “Low bar total equals failure; high bar total equals success.” He offers advice on how bands can increase bar totals and land repeat gigs. “The success of the bar ultimately rests on the size of the guest list. This hurts the promoters, but benefits the bar, and the Beauty Bar will cut you if your bar total is low…so the comp list [for a July show] was close to 100. So, that's like $500 that the bands lose [in cover charges], but an additional $1500 or whatever for the bar [in drink sales], so what are you going to do? Cultivate the guest list. Expand the guest list…do you think I care whether I collect the cover? Get in there and drink.”

As of last summer, Patrick's II in the Gaslamp Quarter was reportedly paying bands $350 on weekday evenings – when there’s usually no cover - and $450 on weekends, when admission averages $5. While this is better than playing for a bar tab, as bands report happening at the Zombie Lounge, the Ken Club, and Scolari’s, Pactor warns that some expenses may not be written into the booking contract. “At the Rhythm Lounge, you have to pay the door guy $50.”

The Epicentre requires bands to do an initial pre-sale of 32 tickets minimum. Opening bands are expected to draw 32 to 50 people, for which they’re paid $1 a head. Supporting acts in the middle of the bill need to bring in 50 to 95 people, which earns them $1.75 per head. Local headliners are expected to draw 96 or more people, to be paid $2.50 per head. Multiband local showcases are structured to pay $1 per head for the first 50 tickets sold, and $2 per head for 51 or more.

“At some venues, bands actually have to pay to play or are paid with a bar tab,” says singer/songwriter Molly Wilmot. “I love to sing, I love to perform, but how am I supposed to feed myself and my family?"

Last month, M One Studios placed ads in the San Diego section of craigslist.com, stating “The cruise ship industry can be very lucrative for musicians…play with several big-name acts and musicians from around the world on a nightly basis.” The company offers four to six month contracts, promising “All lodging, food, and transportation is provided…work one to three hours daily, with some days off completely.”

The compensation quoted is $1,800 to $2,200 (Per set? Per day? Per contract?), with the caveat “Elvis impersonators, please do not reply to this posting.”

One of Bill Ray’s current projects is billysbeats.com, wherein he posts solo drum tracks and invites others to download and create their own songs around his beats, free of charge. “Neil MacPherson has been creating melodies and lines to some tracks,” says Ray. “Smooth jazz guy Bill Cornish turned in a tune, and Dog Plays Bass from Craigslist sent one along. A guy in Austria sent back a death-metal version to one of my tracks. I’m waiting for the gangsta rappers to start sending me squished, remixed, and tripped-out versions!”

The MacPherson collaborations have grown into a full-scale project - www.myspace.com/thejourneymenca

"We are doing an album called The Journeymen," says Ray. "It's an internet collaboration! There's gonna be so much of this stuff, because I'm constantly going down to Spotless (Ocean Beach) and laying tracks. That's a great room for what I do - close to my house, great vibe, and really reasonable [prices]."

He gives away the drum tracks free, though he notes “If someone were to start making money off something with my tracks, I’d hope that karma would allow them to remember that I have a kid and he’s growing constantly.”

“There’s no way anyone can keep a lid on digital media anymore. You might as well go in prepared to give it away, and hope that somehow good things come around.”

As to the motivation and inspiration behind giving away the tracks, Ray says "I'm an artist, and these are my paintings. Use them as you see fit. I draw lines around musical shapes, and expect others to color in the parts. Ultimately, they are there for collaborating, songwriting tools, looping, remixing, etc. Overall, the main goal is to get people hooked on my feel during songwriting sessions. Then, they may be compelled to call me for their studiowork."

Anyone can also download Bill Ray's drum tracks from http://ccmixter.org/people/BillRayDrums, as part of the Creative Commons "ccMixter" project.

Regarding his former boss and bandleader, the late Ike Turner, Ray says that he feels that Turner’s musical legacy is finally being acknowledged. “I believe that the passing of his physical form has stripped away some of the hostilities people held towards him, and his accomplishments are becoming more known.”

As for Turner’s social legacy, “People don’t realize that Ike was the scapegoat for domestic violence. Public awareness of the issue skyrocketed because of that movie [What’s Love Got to Do With It, portraying Turner as a wife-beater], and it took such a person as Ike to bear that cross. That took fortitude.”

I FOUND NIRVANA (NEXT TO THE FOO FIGHTERS) After exhausting myself with hours and hours of filing records in a massive album collection, I was inspired to pen this little ode to OCD:


I found Nirvana - next to the Foo Fighters

I saw Asia with ELP

I caught Badfinger pointing at the Beatles

and Velvet Underground burying Lou Reed

I filed Buster Poindexter with the NY Dolls

And placed Ted Nugent with the Amboy Dukes

I mixed Meatloaf with Rocky Horror

and Southside Johnny with the Asbury Jukes

I have Box Car Racer right next to Blink

I placed Yes with Wakeman and Howe

I have Roy Harper mixed in with Pink Floyd

And the Doors with “Apocalypse Now”

I split Fripp with King Crimson and Gabriel

With Bowie, there’s Eno and Pop

Roxy Music includes Manzanera and Ferry

and Texas Jam's there with ZZ Top

Denny Laine's filed with Wings, not the Moodies

Ronnie Wood's with the Stones, not Small Faces

And Cream just goes perfect with Clapton

Like A Night At The Opera goes with A Day At The Races

ELP has Greg Lake, 3 and Carl Palmer

But Emerson’s under the Nice

Bauhaus has Pete, Love & Rockets

(and an audio book read by Anne Rice)

Tommy Bolin’s with Deep Purple and Zephyr

Frampton’s solo, not with Humble Pie

Alan Parsons has Ambrosia AND Pilot

(most of whom played on Eye In The Sky)

I found so many folks with the Dead

they needed their own separate box

a mystery worthy of Behind The Music

given I think that all Dead music sucks

I'm so sick and tired of filing

and remembering where things are filed

but it's better than trying to find things

in a mountainous, long-playing pile.

Like this blog? Here are some related links:

OVERHEARD IN SAN DIEGO - Several years' worth of this comic strip, which debuted in the Reader in 1996: http://www.sandiegoreader.com/photos/galleries/overheard-san-diego/

FAMOUS FORMER NEIGHBORS - Over 100 comic strips online, with mini-bios of famous San Diegans: http://www.sandiegoreader.com/photos/galleries/famous-former-neighbors/

SAN DIEGO READER MUSIC MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/sandiegoreadermusic

JAY ALLEN SANFORD MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/jayallensanford

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