When I used to gig with my friend Doug Hawk (www.doughawk.net) he would often tell me, in all his ever-charming grumpiness, to “just do the gig.” It became a great running joke in his band that if something was going wrong (be it with your life, the music, whatever…) you should basically suck it up and “just do the gig.”
Believe it or not, this rather innocuous joke has become a sort of mantra for me as a working, free-lancing musician. I even mentioned it in a recent interview with WXPN’s The Key! (check it out!)
I’ve often been called (or in some cases, accused) of being a “thinker.” I guess this is true…I like to meditate and ruminate on ideas and thoughts until they are really put through their paces in my brain. As a composer and perfomer, I feel like this is reflected in the music I’ve written released under my own name (see for yourself). So, accuse me of “thinking too much” about this one but Doug’s “just do the gig” to me can mean a lot of things to me.
Just do the gig
Just play the song
…serve the song
…serve the music
…honor the space in which the music is being made
…honor the audience
“Just do the gig” has come to mean all of these things to me. I mention some of these ideas in the aforementioned interview with the Key but here I can elaborate a little bit.
The three ideas that stick out the most to me are the last three listed above. Serve the song, honor the space and honor the audience. As a free-lancing musician, I need to be versatile. My versatility is something that keeps me working in numerous situations. Any given month I can be playing my own music in a jazz setting, supporting other jazz musicians on their gigs be they standards or originals, playing 20-40s songs with my own early jazz group, playing in a NOLA style brass band, playing classical music or reading through the score of a Broadway musical in a pit orchestra. That’s a lot of stuff!
Logically, I don’t bring my guitar pedals out for most of these gigs like I might for gigs playing my own music. I also try to adhere the language and musical vocabulary I use to suit the gig. To some, this might mean I’m trying to sound like someone else on these gigs. To me, I enjoy the challenge of serving the music and doing right by the song…by being able to “just do the gig.”
Furthermore, to “honor the audience” and to “honor the space” is of great importance to me. If I’m playing at a bar where people are talking and enjoying themselves, I try my best to play with creative feeling and spirit while still giving the audience something they may anticipate or expect in the given space. The best example of this is when I play one of my many local gigs with Edison’s Hot Mess at the Bookstore Speakeasy in Bethlehem, PA. We play older songs that fit the vibe of the speakeasy era and I try to fit myself into the style as best I can…to strive for a greater understanding of the music of that time and what it means to me and my instrument. It’s a challenge that I welcome! It would be easier for me to just play as I would play on any other gig…to play “my sound” or whatever…but it would also be a diservice to the space, audience and the song. When the gig says “Mike Lorenz” on the calendar, perhaps its a different story. I feel the audience and the space may expect something different at that point. I enjoy this delineation.
Being careful and respectful of these ideas can really mean a lot to the performance and the experience of the listener. Other, more jaded, musicians might disagree with this idea but I feel even the most untrained or uninitiated audience members can see, feel, and hear when a musician is putting out energy to the listener or if they are simply playing for their own satisfaction.