When All The Gigs Are Canceled

The best I can figure, I've probably played somewhere around 500 gigs in my life. Rock & roll bands, dance, R&B, acoustic solo, duos, sometimes as a lead singer, sometimes strictly as a lead guitarist for hire. Festivals, private parties, casino contracts, opening for national acts, municipal events, and endless bars and clubs.

Grand Beauty planing at the Old Rock House in STL

Playing music has always been a part-time job for me, and a consistent part of my life for about 20 years. The last couple of years even more so. According to our accounting documents, from 2018 to 2019 my gig income increased by 198%. This was due to being able to play with some high-caliber players, getting hooked up with some booking agents, and honestly just by me leaning into it a little more.

2020 was shaping up to be pretty big. I was scoring some big gigs for the band I'm in currently (Jemini), and the duo I play in was starting to really catch fire. That was when the Covid-19 pandemic happened. At first, we nervously wondered if gigs were going to get canceled, and then they did, one by one, further into the future. It was around St. Patrick's day, I remember hearing Tom Hanks got it, and the NBA suspended their season. I think that was the holy crap moment for a lot of folks. I love F1 racing, and the season opener in Australia was canceled when a bunch of mechanics came down with the virus.


For me, like I said, playing music is a part-time job. I committed a long time ago to never depend on money from playing music. I just always knew for me that was the way I had to go about it to still enjoy it. So many of my friends, people I play with and know from the music industry are full-time musicians that are dealing with this, each in their own way. 


It's just so freaking nuts. We're talking about just a matter of days, really. At the beginning of March, there was plenty of concern, but no one knew quite what to do, everything was still business as usual.  By the middle of March all gigs were shut down. As each week goes by, things progress in new, strange ways. So far the only gigs I have booked are for November. Things will open back up, but when? And how, exactly? Live entertainment is an insanely fickle and insecure industry in the best of times, for people performing at every level, let alone this twilight zone we're all living in now.

JT on stage opening for Berlin

I miss playing music. It's just so odd to not have that as part of my life, flicked off like a switch. One good thing, a silver lining, is I'm doing some stuff that I haven't had the chance to in years. I'm doing a Facebook live gig every Saturday for friends and family, which has been a blast. It also gives me the chance to learn some new songs that I've never had time to dig into before. Usually learning new songs is a bit of a chore, but it's been pretty fun lately. The Facebook live thing is something I would probably not consider in the past, and it's been fun seeing all the comments and banter from friends and family.

The other thing, which is kind of odd, is the relief of not having to hustle for gigs. I DO NOT like hustling for gigs. I do it because I have to, but I can't stand doing it. Right now, that's not even an option, for the first time in my life. It's amazing, realizing how much of my daily thoughts were taken up with getting gigs. Always kind of humming in the back of my mind. That being totally gone is very nice.

I'd just like to say hang in there and take time to work on your craft, and even when times are tough, have fun. Fun is something that we require as a species, for real. And don't be afraid to entertain others right now. People need to hear music, and if you can do it, I think it's your duty to share it.

Hats off to all our first responders, our healthcare workers, mail carriers, grocery workers...all who are keeping us going through this crisis. 



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