Just got back from the 3rd trip out East I've made with this band in the past 8 months - the band has had a great response while out that way, so we keep going back.
This particular trip was for a week, then we'd come back home to Toronto for a couple days of work, followed by a Thursday / Friday in Quebec and New Brunswick - 10 hour drive there, 13 back, but well worth the extra driving considering our payment at this point in our career.
Anywho, previously, we'd been playing a bar in Ottawa called Zaphod's on the Monday nights - it's a well known bar in Ottawa, not being established enough there, we couldn't get a Friday or Saturday and had been playing their "new music nights" on the Monday's. no pay, whatever we can sell in merch. We decided to try something different and booked ourselves at a place called The Rainbow - typically a blues bar, but they gave us the Monday, as we had played there months back with some friends and they dug our sound. This night was going to be a % of bar sales, we figured we'd do better than the strickly merch we'd experienced at Zaphod's. We really weren't expecting much, and that's pretty much what we got. A handful of walk-ins and another handful of our friends was pretty much it for the evening. Think max 20 people in the bar.
During our last set (our last song to be more specific), this lone dude wearing a red muscle shirt and black sunglasses (Think Tom Cruise in Risky Business), busts in to the joint just dancing his heart out, hands flailing, booty shaking... after the fact, the band discussed how as soon as he came in, we all started playing for him. After 30 seconds or so, he ducks out of the place, it was fun while it lasted. We are about to wrap up the last tune when red-shirt comes back, followed by a steady stream of followers... about 40 of them, who proceeded to flood the dance floor, obviously looking for a place to happen.
To skip a touch ahead in the story, we later found out that this group had been at a bar down the street enjoying some beverages where a singer/songwriter had been performing, he had wrapped up his show for the evening, this group begged him to continue, but he didn't. The red-shirt had been sent out as a scout, looking for somewhere everyone could go. The bar we were playing at had their windows open, we could be heard for blocks, red-shirt simply followed the music and found us, went back to whatever bar they were at and told them all to come.
As mentioned before, we were just about to finish our last song when he came in the first time, we were pretty much out of material at this point, but with a dance floor full of party people, we had to do something. I called out one of the more dance-able covers we do that we had already played earlier that evening, the place goes nuts. Followed by another, by this time, dancers had invaded the stage. Here we are with huge smiles on our faces as this was obviously a lot better of an outcome for the night then we could have possibly imagined.
Next thing I know, the barkeep is up on stage, handing out shots - me being the well-trained musician I am, put down my left stick and continued to play one-handed while I took the shot, a few moments later, one of the guys dancing on stage starts to motion like he wants me to take a drink of his beer, again, having encountered this scenario before, (albeit in a very different environment), I successfully took a good swill while keeping both hands on the wheel. Moments later, when we finished the song, a young female tip-toes her way behind my kit. "Can I play with you?" Ummm.... "Sure, hop on!" After a brief tutorial, (basically telling her I need to keep my feet in these spots, and I'm gonna put my arms around you to play), she sits on my lap. Not knowing what our next tunes was, I was happy to hear "Dancing in the Dark" called out, pretty straight ahead rock beat for the duration of the song. So there I was, holding down the beat while this lovely young lady sat in my lap, doing a pretty awesome job of hitting accents at the end of fills and generally staying out of my way - as much as one can while sitting on a person. The stage continued to dance, the dance floor continued to groove and the smiles on the faces of the band were priceless.
One thing we couldn't help but notice was how well some of the guys on stage were dancing. Well above average of what you'd even see in a proper dance club. It didn't take us too long to figure out that the club we were playing at "The Rainbow", was living up to it's name. One dude in particular, who was the first to loose his shirt in this sweaty mess of music and dance starts slapping our singer on the ass in time, as he was bending over to hide is tuner from the spill of booze that was unavoidable happening. A sight that will forever be ingrained in my mind. We continue to play until the bar keep gives us the nod that we've got to shut it down, we finish with our rendition of Simon and Garfunkel's "Cecilia":
My sister who was at the show (and had to work the next day) had stayed for the entire evening as we were staying with her had my camera and couldn't pass up the opportunity to get some video and some photos. I'm so glad I had given her my camera before our last set.
By the end of the night, we had found out that one of the guys on stage was a bit of a celebrity, even more funny was that his picture was on the cover of the Ottawa Citizen the next morning, teaching a bunch of kids to dance - a far cry from the drunken slosh fest that happened the night before. Turns out he's a judge on Canada's version of So Ya Think Ya Can Dance, who was in Ottawa doing promo for the show during the day, and looking for a party that night.
Sure, we were crazy for letting people get on stage with drinks. Sure, I was crazy to let someone sit in my lap and bash away at my drums. I had a great time turning a blah Monday gig into something I'll remember for the rest of my life. Aside from some beer on my cymbals and some sticky patch cables, no harm done.
Not sure if there is a lesson to be learned or not, but I will say that you never know if a dance party is going to show up at your next gig, have some tunes ready! I'm not sure who was who's highlight of the evening, our or theirs, either way it took both of us to make it happen. Good times.