How do you cope with the drunk session player?

How do you cope with the drunk session player?

I play whistle, when I can, at a regular session. One particular person (not there every week) plays guitar in his own inimatable style very loud and in a completely different rhythm to, well, just about everything, There is one particular hornpipe that I played once that he took an instant liking to and now insists I play whenever he is there but I am sure it sounds terrible. I am not the leader of this session, far from it, but noone says anything to this guy. Is he really a wonderful guitarist in disguise? Has he been a great player gone gaga? I get the impression that this guy drinks a lot but has serious muso friends. My god this is sounding like the mafia! Should I say something or keep stum.Am I being a PrimeDonut? I know I’m not the best cookie in the box
but should somebody be saying something ? Is there any nice/kind way of telling someone to shut the f*"** up ?

Re: How do you cope with the drunk session player?

Oh, yuck, I was thinking about asking a similar question. I play the guitar (a really sweet old Martin that I picked up fairly cheap because it’s a little beat up), and it seems like there’s often someone (usually drunk) asking to borrow it, and getting offended if I turn them down. I’m thinking of getting a $150.00 Mitchell to take to sessions.

I feel your pain.

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Re: How do you cope with the drunk session player?

Never give up your instrument to someone you don’t know. It’ll always disappoint you, the listeners…. just everybody. Just tell them you had a bad experience once and you don’t lend it out - before you really do have one. This goes for bodhran players especially. Why do punters all think they can play this instrument?

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Re: How do you cope with the drunk session player?

We had a similar situation at our session. An mandolin player, an Irishman who used to be very good, but drink had taken it’s toll. He no longer had his own instrument, but managed to borrow one from an unsuspecting player. As the session went on he drank more and more until he became very disruptive. Arguing with a drunk gets you nowhere. Finally the only solution was to talk to the manager. The manager was very effective in telling the drunken player never to come back. I think he was only there for the free drinks. It was a sad situation, but that was the only way to deal with it.

Now whenever we get a drunk in the session, we go directly to the manager. The manager with several large employees will form a circle around the drunk and march him out of the bar very effectively. It works great. Fortunately we don’t have to resort to this very often.

But don’t try to argue with a drunk, it doesn’t work.

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Try getting drunk with them and then it won’t seem to matter so much anymore and you’ll have a better time.

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Unless the manager comes after you.

Talk to the session leader, see what they say. They have more authority to kick that person out, it is likley to work better. The leader may think they are the only one noticing, just like you think now.

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Re: How do you cope with the drunk session player?

Dow: That’s unhelpful. But thanks anyway.

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Re: How do you cope with the drunk session player?

Farr out man!
I am a bodhran player.
I get drunk
the drunker I get, the worse everyone plays.
I think drinking makes one more sensitive.
Witness crying drunks!

Re: How do you cope with the drunk session player?

Unfortunately, in a lot of circles - drinking a lot and having some “serious muso friends” are pretty much the same thing!

On a more positive note, I know two guys who met and gigged together for many years because one picked up the other’s expensive guitar and re-tuned it without asking. Once the fight was over and A heard B play they became great mates.

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It wasn’t a session, but I had an interesting encounter a couple of weeks ago. We were getting ready to play for a set dance from the stage when a drunk fellow, (who was Irish) and claimed to be an expert bodhran player, came up to me and asked if he could play my bodhran with us. I asked him if he played very much and he insisted that he plays all the time. I wanted to hear him before I let him up on stage and decided to get the drum out while we were setting up. I handed it to him and suggested he play along with the tunes that were coming from the jukebox. (The jukebox at this pub has great trad CDs on it.) His playing was woeful and he couldn’t keep a steady beat. I surely didn’t sound like he played all the time. I told him that his rhythm was different than ours and since we would be playing for set dancers we needed to have our rhythm tight. I invited him to bring his drum in on Sunday when there was a session on and we’d have a few tunes then.

When we started playing (before the dancers arrived) he stood about 2 feet away from me begging to let him on stage to play. I politely told him we needed to warm up for the dancers who were due any minute. He then proceeded to crawl onto the stage and reach for the drum. I put it behind me and put the tipper in my pocket. He then stood there staring me down. I was trying my best to be reasonable and polite, and keep my sense of humor -- but it seemed futile. I invited him again to bring his bodhran in on Sunday to the session and we’d have some tunes with him then. (He had told me earlier that he lived just down the road from the pub.)

When we played some tunes where I play the bodhran, he stood there saying in a loud voice how he could play better then me and my playing was sh*te. When we finished I told him he was beginning to annoy me and I might have to ask him to go away unless he sat down. At one point his mate showed up and drug him off… but he returned shortly after and continued in the same manner.

Now here’s the thing -- I’m a very friendly and easy-going guy, and no one has ever seen me lose my temper or raise my voice, but I realized that there was only one thing he would understand. So I winked slyly to my band mates and then turned to him and did a bit of acting.

I glared at him as though I was a Saturday morning slam-down wrestler and said in a raised and highly agitated voice, “GET THE BLANK AWAY FROM ME YOU BLANKING BLANK ARSED BLANK HEAD… AND DON’T EVER COME ANYWHERE THE BLANK NEAR ME AGAIN!”

He went away… and I haven’t seen him since. What I realized was that drunks don’t understand politeness – they only understand rage. Sad.

Re: How do you cope with the drunk session player?

eh phantom button, thats a bit of a scary experience. i wud’ve run outta the place crying!!!
theres a guitarist who comes to ours, and while he’s quite good at the beginning of the night, he gets progressively worse as more drink goes inside him. So by the end of the night he’s kinda lost all rhythm and tends to start playing johnny cash…nothing against johnny cash but there’s a time and a place don’t ya think?!!

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The nicest drunk I encoutered at a session came over at a break in the tunes and said (add slurring a appropriate): “Could you play a request?” I cringed and he immediately said “play whatever you like the most as I’m sure I’ll enjoy that best of all”

Re: How do you cope with the drunk session player?

In Aberdeen the problem is what to do if you encounter a sober session player.

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Re: How do you cope with the drunk session player?

Barnsleys a bit like that Bren . . .

Re: How do you cope with the drunk session player?

Well, from the these posts, I guess that drunks are always going to be around and perhaps its better the one you know than the one you dont ! He is a friendly enough chap. As for getting drunk with him, I’ve tried it, but it justs makes me sound worse not him sound better. Then I go home and winge cos I’ve played crap! Oh well guess I will just have to chill and be grateful I don’t live in Aberdeen or Barnsley.

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Non-playing drunk shouting the odds one night in our session. There were three of us sitting on one bench and it was at us that his ramblings were directed, descending through abuse to actual threats of bodily harm. Suddenly Bill said “How much do you weigh?”

“What the ****’s that to do with anything?” demanded the drunk.

“Well” says Bill “I reckon you’re about 10 stone, and we’re about 52 stone - so think you’d best stop now before we jump you.”

He went.

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Think Barnsley is bad? Try Beverley on a Sunday evening when they have all been to the Sunday afternoon session - the bodhranissimus had difficulty keeping upright.

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We have been fortunate in this regard. Ironically, one of the few times I saw this problem, it was a session leader who had been drinking excessively!

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My admiration and respect for pub staff grew considerably after one experience at a local session, when a guy who had come in obviously blue-blind paralytic plunked himself down next to us, then picked up my bodhran (I was playing bouzouki at the time) and tipper with the obvious intent of making some kind of sound issue from it.
I firmly told him to please put down the drum, which he did, although he spent a few seconds tapping the tipper (great name for a tune!) on the table top and glasses before he got bored and moved to elsewhere in the pub. A short while after that, he began loudly voicing his opinion on several subjects, some of which had to do with the music we were playing, and he was subsequently shown the door by one of the staff.

Re the comments about lending one’s instrument, especially to someone you don’t know. I generally follow that rule, but on one or two occasions I haven’t, and it’s worked out well. I was at a session when a couple of fellows sat down in the circle; one of them, who I’d encountered before, had an instrument but his companion didn’t.
When my acquaintance saw that I had a guitar with me, which I wasn’t playing at the moment, he asked if his friend could borrow it, and I dunno -- must’ve had a “follow your instincts, Luke” moment. I just got the impression that this guy was enough of a musician that he wouldn’t cause any harm. More to the point, he wasn’t drunk.
Anyway, at some point later in the evening, my acquaintance made a point of thanking me. Nothing for which I’d expect a merit badge, but it did give a rather warm feeling.

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It sounds like your problem session mate is crap even without the drunkness. There is no cure for that. I know many people who can get very drunk and still sound amazing. Ive often wondered how the hell they do it!

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Here’s something I posted on a similar thread a while back about an encounter I had with ‘Timber Tony’ (Tony O’Leary) from Ennistimon.

“Last November at the Ennis Trad Fest I was at a sesh hosted by Josephine Marsh and a few others and this madman was playing the whistle and behaving erratically. He was a large fellow and appeared to live outdoors. He picked up my Grinter flute and looked at me as if asking to play it. I said ”sure“ and he proceeded to struggle to get a tune out. I noticed that Jo and the others appeared concerned, but I played it cool. As I sat listening to him getting mostly the sound of gale force wind out of my flute, I suddenly remembered where I’d seen him before. It was in Galway at the Crane Bar a few years earlier and he had been on the stool next to me acting outrageous. At one point he got out a knife and opened it menacingly. He then stabbed himself in the leg (that turned out to be wooden) and laughed as the knife stuck in place. Before he left that night the table was turned on it’s side as he fell over a few times. This sudden memory of the fellow wasn’t very comforting as I watched him huffing and puffing away on my beloved flute. Thankfully he handed it back unharmed and declared that it wasn’t that great of a flute. I was relieved because I hoped that meant he had lost all interest in playing it again.”

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My SO, who is very sensitive to the nuances of social behaviour ( ie, I am not ), was quite p*ssed off with the session when a drunk appeared, borrowed a guitar, ( not mine, thankfully ) and proceeded to try and dominate the proceedings for about three songs. We let him do the first one, but when it became obvious he was going to continue indefinitely trying to lead the session, but was pretty incompetent by reason of intoxication, he was frozen out. Eventually got the message and gave the guitar back without harm and left. It was the breach of etiquette that annoyed, personally. He wanted to take charge, when we’re pretty democratic, or is it equal opportunity ?, and no-one was prepared to let that happen.
It could have been a lot worse, I do realise.

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I remember a drunk singer picking up a guitar one time & he sing a whole song, strumming all the right chords in all the right places, despite him being so drunk - there was one problem though - all his chords were for standard tuning & this one was in DADGAD!

We just watched in total amazement & amuzement as he made a total pratt of himself!

It was even funnier when he finished, cause he stood up, feeling all proud of himself and strode off, totally oblivious to the fact that we were all absolutely pi&&ing ourselves!

Ahhh Happy days!

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Another ploy to get around lending an instrument to someone you don’t know is to say the “insurance company” doesn’t allow it, or at any rate only to named players on their approved list - just in case you’re later on seen lending the instrument to your best mate who happened to win the All Ireland a few years ago …
I believe I’m right in saying that it’s illegal in the UK for a publican to permit a drunk to remain in the pub, which explains why landlords are usually pretty efficient at getting rid of said drunks. I suppose it depends on the definition of “drunk” at the time, like if the guy’s making a general nuisance of himself and the customers start complaining.

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This isn’t a drunk-session-player anecdote, per se, but I never get tired of telling it: After a gig in Providence some years ago, my band and a few other musical acquaintances went to a pub session. We were playing along just fine, when we noticed this wizened little old lady, at least in her 70s, enter our “circle.” She went around to each one of us, staring intently for a minute or so, sometimes even leaning on a leg or shoulder (depending on availability). Then she moved into the center of the circle, and with a huge grin on her face, raised her fist and shrieked:
“I’D LIKE TO SMASH YEZ ALL!”

The bartender, fortunately, must’ve witnessed this scene rather often, because he quickly responded. “Now, Mary, Mary, ye don’t want to do that,” he said, with a gentle reproach. “I’ll call ye a cab.”
And Mary, shortly, was out the door -- but remained in our collective memory for years to come.

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Alcoholics’ rights must be respected at all times!!

The converse of much of what has been said here, is what do a bunch of well-oiled happily drunk players do with one or two miserable sober straight faced nancies?

I’ve been in many sessions where the drunks are happily getting on and playing hundreds upon hundreds of good tunes and where the long faced pioneers have been sat there clenching their @rses, waiting for a chance to pipe up with The Kesh or some such.

Don’t give me all that b0ll0x about respect for others being lost through drink, drinkers are often more relaxed thus more courteous than some of yer tight lipped teetototallers.

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Good point about the opposite extreme to the disruptive drunk--the Puritan “fun is the work of the devil” approach can kill a good time as quick as anything, despite being more courteous on the surface. It is not just about not drinking--I know a lot of happy people who don’t drink--it is the ‘way too serious’ approach that I dislike seeing. This can be the same group that gets too hung up on session rules--treats them like Moses carried them off the mountain rather than loose guidelines to help keep things at least one step from total chaos.
It is all about having fun and sharing a good time.

Re: How do you cope with the drunk session player?

drinkers are spending money and keeping the publican happy.
Wowsers and puritans can kill a session in more ways than one.

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“ like Moses carried them off the mountain”

LOL

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Yeah totally, puritans can kill sessions too.

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Perhaps we all need to be willing to end the session, or simpy remove ourselves, if something that feels wrong and is out of our control starts up. Explaining to the punters why it’s over may induce severe peer pressure, which works wonders. Also, explain to the drunk that it’s going to sound particularly bad when a black eye has to be explained by saying, “ I got my ass beat by a penny whistle player.”

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Well I don’t know what a ‘wowser ’ is but I’m certainly no ‘puritan’ and believe me if this guy was turning up to your local session you would be praying for Moses just to carry him off ! I’m looking for constructive advice here folks the brilliant regular guitarist who is very friendly and easy going actually left early saying he had a cold which I don’t believe. I was thinking of a kind of martyrdom ie if I keep him engaged in conversation at the bar at least I would get to hear some decent music!

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It comes down to being the publican and bar staff to take care of such issues. There was one case where the bar staff refused to intervene and we all just packed it in. The publican became concerned about why we left early when he found out about it the following day. The ensuing discussion between him and his staff resulted in new policy.

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Like I said before - it has nothing to do with drink - obviously he is crap generally. Why dont you give him a list of names of really good guitar players and say ‘if you practise really hard, one day you might sound sort of like them’.

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I was trying to be constructive flossie, and the point I was making, albeit obliquely, is that pub sessions are first and foremost a social occasion and drink is integral, even if you’re not drinking (often the case for me)

Guitarists who play along with every tune even though they haven’t a clue are also an integral part of many pub sessions. It’s a shame that they can wreck the music but if you appreciate that you are there for social reasons fmainly then you won’t be too upset.

So the question is: how much of a nuisance - socially, not just musically, is the drunk? - there has to be some give and take, given that you are in a pub.
If he is a nuisance from a social as well as musical perpective, then you have every right to be blunt and tell him to bugger off.

Otherwise, go to the bar and chill.

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This is the time when it’s great to be 6’-6" tall and a 280 pound biker who loves to play trad. Very few drunks bother us for very long after I tell them to p*** off or give them the evil eye. There are always exceptions to the rule of course but it just makes for a bit of light recreation in between sets to gladly help the management to remove unsightly drunk nuisances from their establishment.
Bottom line is that most drunks really do only understand naked violence or the threat thereof. It’s really to bad because I try so hard to be a nice guy and get along with people.
Ah well, c‘est la vie, n’est pas?

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I think maybe he used to play great, once upon a time, way back when, before whatever got to him, got to him. Yes, I think to a point Bren you are right, the problem is this session isn’t a great social occasion for me its more of a tune fest. I don’t get there every week but a few of the others gig together and I suppose feeling a bit of an outsider doesn’t help. But there are very obvious undercurrents the guy in question comes with other musicians who are really decent and know loads of tunes so perhaps its more of a tradeoff situation. But the regular guitarist, who is great, leaving early the other night is not a good sign I think.

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Newfie percussionist I definitley have a use for you ! If you ever get over to the UK let me know.

Re: How do you cope with the drunk session player?

how do you cope with a drunken player
how do you cope with a drunken player
how do you cope with a drunken player
ur-lye in the moor - neen.

Re: How do you cope with the drunk session player?

hooray up she rises
hooray up she rises
hooray up she rises
lie in in the moor-neen

Re: How do you cope with the drunk session player?

flossie,
Please don’t think that in our general discussion, I had any thoughts at all of you being a puritan for raising this topic--I was just speaking in general terms.
This person needs to be confronted, and soon, as it appears that the bad is already driving out the good. Try to confront him positively, by pointing out what he needs to do to improve his performance (even if those things he needs to do are hard, like not drink). Present a united front--make sure everyone present will back up whoever confronts him. But don’t shy away from confrontation, as it can often be the ounce of prevention that saves pounds of woe.
Once, when our church congregation was coming apart at the seams because of a minister with severe emotional problems, and instead of continuing to talk about him behind his back (as most were doing at that point), I decided someone had to confront him directly, as positively but firmly as possible, and took the initiative to do it myself. That was really the turning point that brought our church back from the brink of not only chaos, but bankruptcy. It was hard, but it paid off.
Good luck!