Well, here we go again, another date mix-up. How could this possibly have happened? I don't know. As far as we knew, Friday, April 20th at Applebee's had been confirmed months ago when we sat down with Applebee's manager Paul and booked the next few gigs. But obviously something went wrong somewhere.
For us, there's really no practical way to get to Applebee's other than straight down IH-35, right through downtown Austin. Which, as we all know, can get pretty backed up at certain times of the day. So in order to minimize the time spent sitting motionless on the highway*, we try to leave as early as possible. Plus, it really helps to get there early enough to miss the dinner crowd -- otherwise we're dragging speakers and drums and things through a restaurant full of people, and that's no good. What usually happens is Bill comes by my house and we caravan down there together (can you call two vehicles a CONVOY? I say YES!), and we have found that the latest we can leave and still avoid the worst of the traffic is about 3:30. I know, 3:30 seems ridiculously early, but leaving at that time makes it about a one-hour drive (a while back we tried leaving at 4:30 and it took us TWO HOURS to get there).
Sean usually isn't able to leave quite as early, so he arrives a bit later, usually right about the time Bill and I have finished moving the majority of the gear inside (thereby earning him the nickname "Frank").
On Friday the 20th, everything was going according to plan. Bill and I left my house about 3:30. Traffic wasn't all that bad (maybe everybody took the day off to witness the unveiling of the new Willie Nelson statue). Everything slowed to a crawl going through downtown, as usual, but the sun was out and I was listening to the Johnny Winter-produced Sonny Terry album Whoopin' (from 1984), so I had no complaints. In fact, we made it to Applebee's in record time: 52 minutes, 30 seconds (yes, I timed it).
When Bill and I walked in, Paul the manager was talking with one of the the other employees, and when he saw us he came over and greeted us with a smile. Paul is a really cool guy and always goes out of his way to be sure we're taken care of. "Hey guys," he said, "what's going on?"
"Workin'," said Bill.
Paul looked a bit puzzled, so I said, "Playing here tonight."
"No, not tonight -- y'all are playing NEXT week," he said.
All I could say was, "You gotta be kidding."
I called Sean as I ran out to retrieve my band calendar.
"Have you left yet?" I asked.
"Well, don't. They've got us down for playing on the 27th and some other band is playing tonight."
"You gotta be kidding," he said.
When I got back inside I still had Sean on the phone, so Bill, Paul and I gathered around a table with our calendars. There was ours, with Applebee's clearly marked on April 20th, and there was his, with SUIT clearly marked on April 27th. A different band was listed for the 20th. "Can we get in touch with those guys? Maybe they would be willing to trade," I suggested. Paul explained that trading wasn't really an option, since the other band already had several birthday party reservations and was expecting a very large crowd, so much that he had already lined up extra security for the night.
Playing on the 27th wasn't an option for us, though, since Sean would be out of town that weekend. This is further proof that the mix-up was NOT on our side, since Sean had had those dates blacked out for quite a while. The one clue we have, however, is it turns out that Paul did not book the other band himself (which is rare, he said). Hmm.
To his credit, Paul was VERY apologetic about he whole thing. He said it wouldn't be a problem to find another band to fill the slot, so we shouldn't worry about it. We went ahead and booked Friday, August 17th, but said we would have to get back to him about any other dates.
Bill and I sat at a table on the patio where he finished off a beer while I got out my phone and posted "No Applebee's tonight!" messages on the SUIT and my Facebook pages. Paul had offered us "anything we wanted from the menu on the house," but as we sat there we realized the longer we stayed the more traffic we would have to deal with on the way back, so we set off for home.
What did we learn? That we've got to be more diligent about verifying bookings as the gig date draws closer. This kind of thing has never been a problem in the past, and I suppose we got complacent about doing the follow-up call or email. No more. From now on we promise to double- triple- quadruple-check all the gig dates in the future, to hopefully prevent this from happening again. The thing that really bugs me is the thought that someone would show up somewhere expecting to see us and we're not there. Regardless of whose fault it was for the date confusion, in the end it's us -- the band -- that comes out looking irresponsible.
So please accept our apology for these last couple of gig-date-mix-up situations. We feel truly blessed to not only to have the opportunity to play music we love, but to have folks actually listen, appreciate it and sometimes even pay us to do it. :) Thank you all.
But you wanna know the real bummer? I was all psyched up to play and didn't get to do it!
Until next time,
*A note about traffic: Anytime I catch myself complaining about Austin traffic, I try to remember to keep in perspective and remind myself that it's really not that bad compared to some places I've lived (Houston, Los Angeles) or visited (Boston, New York City).