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Bar Life, Salt Lake City

Leap Year Blues

Four years ago I was screaming into a telephone like a madman.

I had been planning a leap year party at The Woodshed for over a month when at the last minute the promoter backed out. We were organizing a once-in-four-year event with a night of gospel and blues music that was going to feature a pit-king smoking ribs in the back patio. For whatever reason, he decided to take the three bands to another bar. Why? I have no idea. It could have been any number of reasons ranging from what to charge at the door to how many drink tickets to give to the bands.

He cowardly left a message on the bar’s answering machine instead of confronting me to my face. It was the day before leap year and I was left holding the bag. I frantically tried to get ahold of this local promoter to find out what happened. No response. It wasn’t for weeks later did I find out he took the show to Zanzibar for $100 more than I had offered to pay.

I’d like to write 2,300 words on what I want to do to him if I ever see him again. He is one of my two get bailed out of jail with not too much attitude from my girlfriend. Fortunately for all parties involved, if I ever saw him again I would probably just walk away. I’ve murdered him in my daydreams enough for a lifetime.

Reason #213 I don’t run a bar that features live music in Utah anymore: musicians are flakes. Basing all of my energies around people who didn’t respect my time or my club was slowly killing both my bank account and my will to live. That is not to say that musicians are bad people but I think they live in that rarified air of believing they contribute more than they do. Add to the equation that The Woodshed is not Carnegie Hall and you can see how I lost whatever remaining hair that I had.

To compensate for potential poor acts that I had booked for the club, I had to plan my nights around events and what better event than leap year? I figured we could throw down with an evening of soul and gospel music with BBQ. In planning for the evening, I paid for advertising and City Weekly ads. Prepping the club for a potentially busy night means spending a lot of money which I had very little of. Worst of all, on nights you believe are going to be busy you start spending some of that money you were planning on making.

Alas, this wasn’t in the cards. I swung for the fences and came up very short with my leap year party.

It was the lack of control in running a music bar that drove me to drink. Corraling musicians is harder than herding cats. They move in a thousand directions and are impossible to control. I have often wondered whether symphonic musicians are just as flacky as rock-n-rollers. Probably not. Second-chair bassoon players are rarely accussed of trashing hotel rooms after partying all night long.

I’m glad my Woodshed days are behind me. It’s funny to remember something four-years ago to the date and have a flood of memories. I guess I wish the calander always had 365-days.

Ben Raskin bartends at Keys On Main Wednesday through Saturday. Follow him on Twitter @BennyRaskin. Check out his podcast, Salt Lake City PubCast.

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About Ben Raskin

Born in El Cajon, raised in Las Vegas, educated in Reno and living in Salt Lake City. I bartend, write, box and live in Sugarhouse UT.

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