A partially homeless neighborhood friend of mine asked me a week ago — right after I came down with strep throat — if I was interested in playing a three-hour show at a local boutique store. He played tons of sax in his youth, but had lost the ability to hold down three hours by himself as he’d aged. I agreed, while still extremely ill, to accompany him on the gig, which would come with a $150 paycheck.
I wondered whether I could accept any of the money from person who didn’t have a home, but figured I’d approach the issue later.
I ended up playing the bulk of the show myself, with my friend picking up his instrument regularly and soloing between verses and during extended interludes. He sounded great, which was pleasant considering the fact that neither of us had ever played together before the actual show. It was the first time I had ever played alongside a saxophone, and I dug it.
Another guy sat in and played an awesome old Portuguese song in the middle of the set, which was killer. He came back at the end and played The Boxer, by Simon and Garfunkel.
I was still recovering from my strep, so when we gathered at a nearby cafe after the show, I just drank water while the other guys and girls swigged beer and wine. My friend approached me from behind and slipped me $50. He then whispered into my ear and told me that the guy who had played the Portuguese song and The Boxer was having some money problems. He stepped past me and gave him $50 as well. It was a homeless man handing half of his hundred dollars over to a guy who had played two songs. It was a nice thing to watch.
I kept my cut happily, and totally void of guilt. Sure, I could have insisted that they divy up my money as well, and I thought about doing that. But what would that have said about our musical collaboration? It would have turned the performance into a piece of charity, which is not what the night was about. It was about hustling up a gig and playing some songs, which is exactly what we did.