Sweet Home Alabama and the Polite Refusal
by J.P. Kallio
After nearly twenty years of playing in bars it still amazes me how many people see musicians as some kind of “jukebox”. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go on a rant about how people don’t “get” musicians. But what I try to do here is to explain why you might get a polite refusal from us.
If you are in a bar, that has a live band playing, I think most of us pretty fast figure out if it is a covers band, or a band that plays original music. Now I know you’ve had a few drinks, you’re in a mood to dance to your favorite tunes. You make our way to the Side of the stage and proceed to try to get the bass players attention in the middle of the song, asking them to play “Sweet Home Alabama”.
So did you figure out what you did wrong there? Maybe the giveaway would have been the fact that you had not recognized a single song during the night? Maybe, just maybe the band had been performing their own songs that they had spent endless hours working on? And by you just assuming they would know, or even be willing to play the “Sweet Home Alabama”, would feel to the band as a quite crude dismissal of their own music.
Or if they were a tribute band, would the past ten well-known Johnny Cash numbers be a bit of a give away that the band might not be too keen to play “Sweet Home Alabama”.
And another small thing. Trying to talk to musicians in a middle of a song? Now come on! It’s worse than trying to talk to someone who is on a phone. Very distracting! This actually is a sure way to make sure the band will not do your request.
So what can you do? If you know the band and know their songs (especially original songs), and you request these, you probably make the bands night! If it is a covers band and you listen to few songs and politely ask between songs something in the similar style, the chances are they might just do it. And if they politely refuse, accept it! No amount of “come on, surely you know it” will make them play your request. And if you proceed to pay them for playing your song? Well that’s a damn right insult.
You see, live musicians are not DJ’s, they perform the music live, it takes them years to learn the skills to play as well as they do. And it takes a considerable amount of time to learn a new song. If you do not like the music the band plays, it is not the bands job to do something about it. It is your job to find a bar that has a band that you like.
J.P. Kallio is a singer-songwriter