What's our most long-running gig? The Carlsbad Marathon. We have not missed the event, starting in 2008 "running" through just last week.
Our Biggest Audience
If you asked us what our biggest audience has been, it's realistically probably topped out at 500 at a couple of festivals, and 300 for paying members at a club.
Yet it's way more fun to say this half-truth: Every year we play to a crowd of 20,000+ people. It's misleading but it true. When 20,000 runners go by and you're part of the on-course entertainment, you have played to 20,000 people. Sure, they're half-delirious and only hear you for 45 seconds before getting out of range. But it is true.
In theory, we could get away with playing just one song for 3-4 hours. You know, like a jamband. I've actually done that before while playing with a goofy Irish band years ago. It was not a great band and no rehearsals. So, when the gig was to play on the back of a flatbed truck in the St. Patrick's Day parade, Dan's great idea was to just play "Drunken Sailor" for the entire three-hour parade. I still have flashbacks if I hear a jig.
Rock And Roll Marathon
Our first such performance was in 2006 when we got asked by the Rock And Roll Marathon to be one of the 25-30 bands playing on the course. When somebody might wonder why would 4 grown adults set up gear at 5:30am to play music for 4 hours for $100 each, it's important to remember something our drummer Shay Bell has said of The Biigfellas: "We'd play at the opening of a Coke can." It's true, you don't play 9-10 times a month at places like Desi's or The Last Call without just loving to play and loving weird situations. And in our defense, once you are set up it really is great fun.
With lots of runners and a microphone, the Rock And Roll Marathon was the start of many great timeless schticks for us: "90% of you are winners!", after somebody tosses their plastic cup from water station then yelling "Hey you in red, pick that up!" or when we've been on a break, Shay standing next to the water station holding out a lit cigarette for any runners who might want one. (Only once did a runner actually take it.)
Our last year with the Rock And Roll Marathon was 2011. They started having us try to split sets with other bands. We're not prima donnas but setting up everything for a band in the dark at 5:30am is fine if you actually get to play music, but waiting for another band to finish ain't that fun.
Running The Marathon
Believe it or not to look at me, I have run 4 marathons and (lots of halfs, plus small triathlons). I still can't believe it myself. And I can say this without a doubt: over the course of 26 miles the running gets boring. ANYTHING happening on the course is a huge lift. In these marathons with music, having a band every seven or eight minutes can power you through it. Even if it's a Kraftwerk tribute band doing a reggae song, it's still energizing.
Switch To Carlsbad Marathon
Our fist year at the Carlsbad Marathon was a particularly cold morning where we played on Carlsbad Airport Road outside the Costco parking lot. Show business!!! But we loved it. By the way, the race organizers and particularly Jen Adelman have always been first-rate. We get used to the music business being gruff and unprofessional, so it's a treat to deal with Jen who is the polar opposite.
Then the next year we moved to our permanent home on PCH by the beach next to the giant power plant in Carlsbad. Photos below show it in all of its glamour.
Changes Over The Years
Over the years, The Bigfellas have played it 14 times (even playing it as Tongue And Groove a couple times) - and to field lineups, we have used 2 drummers, 2 bassists and 4 guitarists. Look at these photos below and behold the aging process ï¿½"
My girlfriend ran the half-marathon a couple of months into our relationship when she cared enough what I thought to try to run faster past our spot. Bill's wife Jodi has run multiple times. Bill's son Sean sat in when he wanted to sing "Eye Of The Tiger" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGB-oEcK-qE
The NRG power plant people used to man the Gatorade table at our spot; Michael Pearson from NRG became the most ardent Bigfellas supporter of all time; it's a great ego stroke for a bar band to be treated like royalty. (Michael, we miss you!)
We had TWO runners pass out within 40 yards of us in 2019. We took breaks while they were receiving medical attention; we felt it might have been in poor taste to be playing "Pump It Up" with the ambulance lights blaring.
Setting up at sunrise with wind whipping in from the ocean at 38 degrees. Yes, that's the bad part. But once you're setting up, who wouldn't want to play to a crowd of 20,000 people!
As we just said to each other before leaving our little home on the median on Coast Highway, it was great fun but we can still only take on 6am gig per year. Here's a video from this year; a little thinned out since this was after the 9-to-10 minute mile crowd's rush ï¿½"