I packed up my car and got ready to hit the road. I was about to drive two hours away to play in a small cafe. Or so I thought.
I was doing a solo concert in a town called Beaver (which should’ve been my first red flag). I brought my own setup — an amp, guitar, mic, mic stand, all in the back of my used car.
I wasn’t a touring musician, but at least I felt like one.
So I drove by myself two hours away and was expecting to have a nice turnout. This cafe had regular music and the music booker/cafe owner told me he’d make a poster to hang in the cafe’s big window.
I was excited. Until I showed up.
I pulled up in front of the venue, which was on a long 4-lane road with literally no cars on it (should’ve been my second red flag). Plus, nobody was on the sidewalks (third red flag).
Just as I started to unload my gear, a man stepped out of the cafe into the setting sun. He was holding his phone in front of him as if I had just interrupted his Facebook scrolling.
The expression on his face was blank.
He looked to his left, down the street. He turned back to me, still with his mouth partially open and eyes glazed over.
“Hi,” he said.
“Hey,” I replied with a smile.
“Can I help you?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I said as a sinking feeling started to come over me. “I’m the musician playing tonight.”
He looked back at his phone. Then he stepped out onto the sidewalk and stared at the cafe’s big window, which had several concert posters on it.
“Oh,” he said.
Oh. A word used when two people are on completely different pages.
“Here’s the thing,” he said.
I don’t remember what he said next. But I do remember he blamed his ex-business partner for not knowing that I was supposed to play a show that night. Apparently, the ex-partner had deleted all his emails — I guess it was a nasty split.
We went inside and tried to work out another date for me to play. But I wasn’t too keen in that idea.
I had already written off this venue as a never-gonna-play-here-again place.
Instead, I got back in my car and drove two hours home.
The lesson here is to ALWAYS CONFIRM WITH THE VENUE that you’re still playing and at what time. This is also called “advancing your show.”
I’d say email them a week in advance and also the day before the show, just to be sure.
Because you don’t want to end up in a town called Beaver two hours from home with an empty venue.
If you want more details on how to advance your shows, check out Ari Herstand’s guide on the topic. I wish his post existed before I booked my show at that frickin’ cafe.