Recently, I had the opportunity to see James Cotton at Biscuits & Blues in San Francisco. What happened to me that night has made me hesitant to ever return to a place which was once a favorite of mine.
I went to see James Cotton at the late show. Tickets were $35 each. I took my wife. We each had a couple of drinks. Our bill at Biscuits was over $100. That didn't include: $15 for parking, $5 for bridge toll, plus about $15 for gas.
The guy that sold us the tickets was kind of rude after he took our money. After we bought our tickets, we were told that we had to wait outside. We went outside, stood in the light drizzle and were hassled my a more than a dozen of bums attempting to extract money from us and the other saps waiting outside. Additionally, the person selling the tickets told the tourist types that he would be their host and seating them as he placed a tip jar on the counter. It was a not-so-subtle way to extract a couple of extra bucks from the out of town clientele.
When we were let in and took our seats everything was cool. The waitresses were pleasant and friendly.
When the band took the stage, the volume was very nice. Unfortunately, several of the patrons were in the midst of conversations. Conversations that ran the entire length of the set. Ninety minutes of uninterrupted conversation. I could hear conversations at tables two rows away.
After a couple of nice mellow numbers, James Cotton came to the stage. He was barely audible and quite frustrated with the sound. He sent an audience member to talk to the sound man. It didn't matter much. The sound improved for a brief moment.
James called Kenny Neal up to do a couple of songs. He used the same microphone as Cotton. The problem was simple to fix. There was a short in the cable for the harp microphone. It's a standard XLR cable. I'm sure they had several of them lying around. The sound guy did nothing to fix it.
Cotton came back up and blew a few more tunes. They were really nice, but it was hard to hear him with the cable shorting out. He was playing almost acoustically, which sounded great.
Luckily, the volume was low enough for the other patrons to continue their conversations without interruption. I know I didn't want to miss a second learning about little Timmy struggling with his spelling. It didn't really matter much that James Cotton was in town and played two sold out shows. The volume was low enough that people could talk. Damn it! Isn't that the most important thing of all?
I know when I go out and drop $100 to see a legendary performer perform, I don't want to hear the performer. I want to hear about little Timmy's spelling woes. Timmy's parent's very should be thankful that my wife was there to restrain me. I was not pleased. Not pleased one bit.
The staff at Biscuits is more than willing to oblige those customers in the midst of an important conversation by ensuring that the performer can't really be heard with a poor sound mix and a defective microphone cable.
Dancers should also note that you can be as intoxicated and as careless as you wish while spending time at Biscuits. There was one couple that was dancing in front of the stage knocking drinks over. The staff said nothing to them.
For people that go out to hear live music as background noise while they converse, Biscuits is a great place to go. For people that wish to dance like drunken fools, Biscuits is a friendly place. If you want to be hassled by the homeless, Biscuits is a great place to go!
If you wish to go see live music by legendary performers, Biscuits is not a friendly place to visit. Fortunately, there are other venues. At this point, I would probably drive a couple hundred miles to another venue to avoid that place after my experience on Friday evening.
If you consider this whining or complaining, Biscuits pulled in a lot of money on Friday night. They pulled in more than $11K based on an average spend of $50 per person for the two shows. That's
conservative after a $35 cover charge. For that kind of money, I expect to be able to hear the band, without rude service, poor and defective sound and unruly patrons.
When I go out to hear music, I expect to hear music and not individual conversations.
I hope that this wasn't my last opportunity to see the legendary James Cotton.