Veteran local musician suffers "bad gig nightmares’
FRISCO – So many weird things have happened to Frisco musician Bob Alster that he has started to write notes for a “bad gig nightmares” book.
One story sounds like a page from the Wild West, which, according to Alster, Summit County wasn’t far from when he moved here in 1978.
One night in the late 1970s a drunk man stumbled up to a musician Alster had booked at the Holiday Inn in Frisco. He said, “Play “Tie A Yellow Ribbon.'” The musician told him he didn’t know the song, and the drunk man left the lounge.
Minutes later, the drunk returned, pulled a gun on the musician and said, “Play “Tie A Yellow Ribbon.'” He began strumming and singing immediately. Then the general manager restrained the man until Frisco police came, Alster recalled.
Alster’s run-ins with drunk patrons began at an early age. After saving money for six months for a guitar in college, he took it to a gig.
Suddenly, a man hit another over the head with a Budweiser longneck. The victim fell onto Alster, splintering his guitar into pieces.
“There’s plenty of horror stories,” Alster said. “I could go on for days.”
But some good balances them.
Like the time people paid him $100 a song to play past his deadline at the Vail Holiday Inn. He walked out with $500-$600 extra that night.
Alster moved to Summit County on a whim Nov. 5, 1978. He performed songwriter cover tunes, working double shifts (apres ski and night shows) nearly every day throughout winters.
In 1982, he started a booking agency, filling corporate events, nightclubs and wedding dates.
A decade later, after working full-time both as an agent and a musician, he felt burnt out.
In 1992, he had to choose between singing or booking other musicians, because a vocal cord operation to remove polyps left him unable to do both.
“It was almost a blessing,” he said.
He tried to perform full-time as a classical guitarist, but he experienced back problems.
He stopped performing for nine years and focused on his agency, building a database of about 950 acts.
Now, his batteries are recharged, and, at age 55, he calls himself the oldest regularly performing musician in Summit County. He currently plays at the Breckenridge dinner sleigh rides and hopes to do more classical guitar shows.
“At 42, I turned the corner,” he said. “I didn’t like late nights. I used to go to bed at 4 a.m. and get up at noon. Now, if it goes past 10 p.m., I don’t want anything to do with it. Now I get up at 5 a.m. and go to bed at 7 p.m.
“Burnout comes from being so busy that you don’t have time to learn new stuff. The agency and music took so much time. If you play the same stuff every night, you’ll burn out. You’ve got to keep yourself interested. If you play the same things twice a day for a whole winter, you’ll be hating life by April.”
Alster now enjoys playing for older crowds.
“For apres ski, you’ve got to be high-energy and an entertainer, and I’m neither,” he said. “I have no desire to get people dancing on tables.”
Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 245, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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