The Woes of the FNG- BLOG #4
Ahoy! I’m grateful that the start of my week started so smoothly musically, in the sense that I could come out swinging and perform confidently on my part and solos. It’s exciting to play in front of a live audience every night with professional lighting, sound and stage production, with an average of six to seven hundred guests every time! Any amount of stage fright I have now should be gone by the end of the contract due to the sheer amount of performances I’ll be doing. Over my next couple of days however, the workload increased immensely, and my moment of confidence ended abruptly at about the third show.
Now for my Utah friends, I’ll put on the filter, FNG stands for the Freaking New Guy. A musician friend that has worked ships before took the liberty of calling me “Kenny FNG” back when I was in Farmington. The FNG is someone who does everything by the books and has zero experience in the field, in other words, the guy who’s always wandering around with that deer in the headlights look, in other words: me! Now, I’ve heard about some pretty bad FNG musician stories on other boats, some guys come on and are unable to read music, or don’t understand key signatures or something like that! Mine weren’t so bad that I had to leave the job after my first week, but I did have a few momentary scares being the airheaded, mistake-making new guy (which was only to be expected).
Wednesday the boat stopped in Amsterdam, which was my first time going there and was also my first time getting off the boat. Most of the guys on the ship have been before so everyone kind of broke off and did their own thing, since it’s a pretty safe place overall. I trekked out on my own, (found coffee and free Wi-Fi. of course) and wandered through the city for a few miles, trying to get a feel for the city and see what it could offer. Water comes through little canals, kind of similar to Venice which gives it a nice ambiance, overall a very a beautiful city.
I have a friend who has worked on ships before and said to me, “you’re going to see some strange things,” and already, it happened! For example, in Amsterdam, when I was eating lunch (burger, fries and a Heneiken), my waiter discovered I was a musician and wanted to take me to a coffee/marijuana cafe when he got off work, “the most famous one in Amsterdam” he dubbed it. I was a bit curious and thought it would be a cool thing to go see (just partake in a normal cup of joe 😉), but unfortunately, I had to get back on the boat by 4pm, for rehearsal. People were just smoking it in the streets, you could smell it everywhere, quite a culture shock when you’ve been in the states for so long! It’s such a bizarre sight to see weed and sex shops crammed in between restaurants and tourist buildings. Not only is prostitution legal there, but they advertise it by having them stand around in windows! A crew member on board simply referred to it as, “window shopping” which I thought was hilarious.
Definitely nice to get a break from the boat, but we had another show that night so I eventually had to head back for a rehearsal and show. The guest entertainer was a classically trained vocalist, and her charts weren’t too difficult, except my biggest fear had come true: there were flute parts! I have very little experience on flute which made me a bit worried for the show that night, especially seeing that I was still the new guy and wanted to prove my worth to the guys on board! Thankfully, there’s always been the same two hour slot between rehearsal and show time (dinner) which I’ve been utilizing as time to iron out the tricky parts of a show. There's a storage area backstage that's keeps sound contained cause of thick, fireproof doors. And hey! My flute played fine for my first time performance! Still have a lot of work to do though.
Following that nights performance, I wanted to check out some charts of a future production I heard might be difficult and hoo boy were they! At first I was just sitting in my bed looking at the charts and listening to the tracks, but a couple charts had some intense rhythmic bits and CRAZY clarinet parts- like blazing, exposed, solo jazz clarinet parts that I’ve never had experience playing. To top it off, my roommate told me people have been fired for trying to sight read these charts! Talk about getting scared shitless, the last thing I wanted to do on my first week of the contract with world class musicians is fall on my face trying to play these charts! Suddenly I was back in college mode, and went to the dressing rooms to practice my part, until 3 in the morning! I heard some great advice from another musician to try and get all my music together early, then I can enjoy the rest of the time spent on the contract doing whatever I’d like (a lot of shows get repeated). Work comes first! Once I get acclimated to the performing and work aspects of ship life I’ll be more comfortable and enjoy spending time off the boat and exploring. I had to grit out that practice session knowing I had another two hour lesson the next morning at 9 (about customer service this time.) It was definitely the hardest part of the week, but I survived, and did my job and played the music the best I could! I was happy with the performance overall and I know the spots to iron out for the next performance.
Here's all I’ll say about the food on board: free food is free food, I’ll take it! Some meals are pretty awesome and they bring out something like rare rib-eye steak, for the other times, it helps to have a big workout in the daytime and build up an appetite. Definitely made a sandwich in France more delicious than I thought it’d be, and all it was was ham and mozzarella on a baguette! And speaking of workouts, on Friday, I was trying to buy some shoes specifically for running but in Cherbourg (and maybe other European countries?) they only put the left shoe out! After looking around for an employee for help I ended up just taking one shoe up to the counter for purchase. I think the point got across that I was not around from these parts, and they found me the other shoe with a cheerful, “voila!” from the cashier. Found some nice ASICs on clearance!
I can already tell I’ll be spending most of my money on food in port and Wi-Fi on board (discounted for crew). I figure the money I once spent on rent, utilities or transportation justifies my decision to get some Wi-Fi (it’s good sometimes) I also finally resupplied on my toiletries in France, which was difficult seeing that everything was in a foreign language and currency, it was also a bit expensive (I thought) and small-portioned. How French!
That night ended with what I think will be a “normal” work day for me in the future, which was a rehearsal at 4:30/5pm (sight readable tunes again thankfully) and two performances in the evening, one at 8:30pm and another at 1030pm, it was another big band night with all the guest entertainers. Great way to end the first cruise of the contract! And what a week it was, I feel like I did more this week than I did in all of October! Five completely different performances in five nights! It’s been exhausting but I’ve loved every second so far, the musicians are outstanding professionals and have been very welcoming. I think once everything settles down I’ll be able to get into a solid routine and with the time I'll have, and try to improve my health and musicianship with a consistent regimen, I already feel like I’ve already improved musically through this weeks performances alone!
That’ll be all for this blog, it was an exhausting and a bit stressful of a week but an incredible one all the same! I’ll be talking a about my first week thoughts, crew quarters and what it’s like working on the boat on the next. I apologize for the lack of photos, things have been so crazy I haven't even gotten my camera out yet, I promise that'll change! Thanks to you who are reading! Please give it a thumbs up, or share with anyone you’d think would find it interesting! If you’d like to ask me anything feel free to do so in the “Contact Me” box that should be in the bottom right of the screen.