On any day of the year, if you ask a musician if they are working that night and the answer is no, they’ll most likely respond a little forlorn, like they were given a puppy to pet and then someone took it away. “No, I don’t have anything scheduled that night. Why, you got something?” Pathetic hope flashing in the eyes pleading, “We like to work. We really do. Please, give us work.”
Now ask that same musician if they are working New Year’s Eve and it’s like they can KEEP THE PUPPY. “No! I’m not working New Year’s!” A brilliant light flashing in the eyes, pleading, “Please, don’t ask us. We’d love the money, but we really don’t want to work that night.”
If you’ve been asked this question, you understand. But if you are fortunate enough to make a living with a steady income that keeps you occupied during regular hours of the day and gives you nights and weekends more or less free to spend time with your family or friends, you’re probably thinking, “Why? That’s like the best night of the year! You can stay out late and party and it’s totally ok.” Well, no. First of all, we’re not partying because we’re working. Second of all, being out until midnight isn’t really a special treat for us. We work late most nights. This makes NYE like being stuck in traffic on a normally smooth daily commute because there is a special event in town. Imagine yourself in that scenario. Admit it. You curse the cars.
I’ll concede that I might be a bit more of a curmudgeon concerning this matter than some of my peers, but New Year’s Eve is basically the most annoying night of the year. Rivaled, perhaps, only by Halloween. So what is one to do?
You basically have three gig options on NYE:
1. The high-profile gig.
You will be paid handsomely, possibly an absurd amount that will cover your expenses for the next few months. There will most likely be a physical barricade or some kind of respected barrier between you and your audience. The coveted high-profile gig is like a unicorn. They’re out there, but how often do you SEE one?
2. The early gig.
People are probably eating fancy food while you play. They are still acting like respectful adults because it isn’t past their bedtime. You can pack up and be home by 10. You will make a respectable amount of money. You will be happy.
3. EVERY. THING. ELSE.
Basically, unless it’s high-profile, if you are out past 10:30, it doesn’t matter where you are, people will turn into monsters. Even the seemingly calm and well-adjusted folks having dinner at the restaurant where you are scheduled to play until midnight. They will be given noisemakers, and not be able to contain themselves. Establishments slowly start to sound as if they’ve been taken over by baby goats. Like a cat dropping a dead bird by your door, strangers will come up to you offering gifts of hats or masks . They will try to put them on you while you are playing. They will spill their drink on your instrument. They will ask to play your instrument. They will ask you to play a song that you’ve already played, or is so not in the style of music you’ve been playing all night. No, sorry, this jazz quartet can’t play “Stanky Leg.” (True story. Well, ok, so that actually happened at a nightmare wedding, but you get the point.) You will get home at 2am, exhausted and smelling like a bar. You will sit on your couch for another hour listening to your ears ring because you are so wound up and overly-stimulated that you can’t fall asleep. “Never again” you will whimper as you finally drift off to a dreamless state.
So…what are you doing on New Year’s Eve?