This story is only a sneak preview of 1 chapter in my upcoming Ebook and hard copy called YEARS OF GIGS: THE GOOD & THE BAD. Of all of the many gigs I’ve ever played over the years, one really stands out. Most clubs and club owners, except for a special few who I consider friends, have always been nothing but problems. This fiasco I’m about to describe happened at Biscuits & Blues in San Francisco. The owner, a Chinese American named Steven Suen, really showed his true colors that night. Upon arriving at the club to set up for a week night show, the sound man/ stage manager kept on driving home the point to me that, per the owner, we had to finish by 11:30PM. The reason was that the club was scaling back the weeknight hours, which sounded like a reasonable decision, since weeknights are normally slower than weekends.
While I was eating dinner before the show, Steven told me that was going to have to leave to attend a computer technology class. He asked me if I would assist the opening solo artist who would be arriving soon and opening our show in getting settled in the club and onstage. At the time, it seemed odd, but yet respectful that he would trust me enough to ask me to do something his stage guy should be doing. Since I actually knew the guy that was coming in from a previous Florida gig, I told him I would be glad to help out.
Everything went fine while Steven was away, and I did what I was asked to do. After the opening artist’s set, we set up for our show. We had a good crowd for a weeknight in the San Fran theater district, and we played a well received ninety minute set. It was a great set, and the audience was very embracing and supportive in buying CD’s and merchandise on the break., Coincidentally, I was using a couple of excellent musicians for my show, one of who was the former talent buyer for the club. Unfortunately, I could also sense that there was some tension between the former club employee and the musician that was working with me that night and the owner, Steven Suen.
Just before getting onstage for the second set, the sound guy reiterated the fact that we had to end at 11:30PM, again per the club owner’s orders. It was now 10:45PM, which meant we only had 45 minutes to play. I really thought it odd, since there were still people in the seats, but I wasn’t about to defy management. I found this situation uncomfortable in the fact that I had to edit my set accordingly by having to consciously adjust the length of each tune on the fly. It was uncomfortable in the fact that I had to just concentrate on ending on time instead of playing a kickass show, which is what I’m used to doing. I hit the last note of my set at 11:30PM sharp, thanked the audience and said good night. Right after I put my guitar down and stepped off the stage, the owner, Steven Suen, frantically ran up to me yelling, “NO! NO! BAND PLAYS UNTIL 12:30AM! BAND PLAYS UNTIL 12:30AM!” I was basically in shock and couldn’t believe what I was hearing! This guy was clueless to what his employees were doing in operating his business. We were obviously done for the night, and I explained to Steven that I had orders from his sound and stage folks to end at precisely 11:30PM.
He wasn’t there for the great 90 minute first set, but had come back just in time for the edited and shortened second set. I was livid! We packed up, got paid, and left. Upon contacting him weeks later for a possible return visit, he actually had the nerve to tell me that the show and band wasn’t as tight as he would have liked to it to be. He mentioned to me that he didn’t like the fact that I was using some local players. That was pure B.S., because I had played Biscuits & Blues numerous times in the past with hired road players, local or otherwise. This was appalling, not to mention incomprehensible! He had asked me to play stage manager earlier in the evening while he left for a few hours! He missed the excellent and well-received first set, and is furious about our ending the second show early because his crew was railroading his business however they wanted to! What I believe happened is that he threw me under the bus as a scapegoat. It truly appears that the whole night was a set up as a result of the feud he was having with the former club employee and musician that was working with me that night.
The original Biscuits & Blues had been the vision of a wonderful lady who took her love of good food and music seriously, but later eventually decided to unload the venture. She was the one that gave me my first opportunity to perform at the club in 2004. During the subsequent years I would perform at Biscuits & Blues, I would see the quality of the venue gradually decline, from the food, to the crowds, as well as the overall atmosphere. Other musicians I knew told me the same thing. Amazingly enough, this club owner has gotten involved with the Memphis based Blues Foundation and is actually elected to the Blues Foundation Board. How Biscuits & Blues and Steven Suen could even hope to continue in business is totally beyond belief. This guy is blowing smoke and has created a great façade. Someday, someone has to see through it. Hopefully, someone will.