Rediscovering the joys of playing outdoor shows by Guest Writer Robert Davis

Rediscovering the joys of playing outdoor shows by Guest Writer Robert Davis

Many musicians would likely agree with me that playing a gig outdoors is a royal pain. Large stadiums with millions of dollars put into them aren’t so bad, but smaller, local venues, even ones that are operated and managed very well, have given me many problems through no fault of the owners. Bad weather, poor acoustics, interfering noises, (the time I had to play a show at an outdoor restaurant whose neighbor was being demolished still haunts my nightmares,) there’s a whole heap of issues that come with outdoor venues. Playing indoors has stationary and well-maintained outlets, no chance of being rained on, and sweet, sweet air conditioning. 

Like many people, the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 hit me hard. I’d had a good number of gigs lined up for April of that year. Working as a touring musician, I was going to be traveling across the country with an artist whom I’ve idolized for a better part of my life, with many of my friends and colleagues being on the road with me as well. It was a dream come true and I felt like I was on top of the world. But then as we all know, lockdown restrictions hit our nation hard, schools shut down, offices switched their employees over to remote work, many small businesses were forced to close their doors for good, and my dream tour, the thing I’d been counting down the days for, had been canceled. I am not here to say “woe is me” and try to beg for sympathy, I am far from the only one who had problems, and despite my earnings being affected, my wife and I were able to scrape by on her income alone, which made us far luckier than many.

After some time, venues were reopening and I started to get more calls and opportunities to get back in the game. Problem: Every gig I was able to find… was outdoors… at local venues. I knew I was being picky and somewhat ungrateful for the opportunities, so I decided to grin and bear it, and play some outdoor shows. I will admit, despite maintaining a professional exterior, on the inside I was being such a grouch Ebenezer Scrooge would have told me to lighten up. I played my shows and earned my pay, going through the motions but over time, something funny began to happen. I started to lighten up, and appreciate what I was doing, I started to see the bright side of things. The weather wasn’t that bad that summer, nice and temperate, venue managers and staff were incredibly friendly and were helpful at every opportunity, and there was a moment when I was playing The Beatles’ Blackbird, and the sun was setting on the horizon in front of me, a golden sky that made me feel blessed to see it, and happy I was there in that moment. I walked away from that show rethinking my view on these small outdoor venues, I realized that even if there were frustrations, the weather was bad, and the acoustics weren’t the best, at the end of the day, it’s about the music and the audience’s enjoyment. Not me.

So that’s the story of how I got over my own personal biases towards outdoor shows and reminded myself that even though personal comforts are nice, it’s about the music, not me.

Written by Robert Davis; guest writer for WholeNoteRepair.com

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