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Apr 5, 2009 11:27 PM

The Bandwich!

I'd like to share something with you.A little known food that is unique to the working musician.Now, I'm not talking your Rolling Stones, Madonna, or P. Diddy, I'm talking the sideman. The sideman is a working musician of various levels of recognition that backs up name artists, records in the studio, plays on TV shows, travels in every imaginable touring situation, plays bars, and yes, weddings and corporate events.

I'm talking about the "bandwich".Simply put, the bandwich is a catered lunchbox meal with a generic sandwich,Lay's potato chips, and apple, potato salad and a cookie.All foods are wrapped in cellophane.This is the lowest form of catered meal for the working musician, several notches down from what the guests at the wedding are eating, exponentially so.The bandwich is specific to American functions, namely the elite.Mexicans, Armenians, Persians, Italians, etc. will give you the food that they are eating, unless they are very Americanized. The guy that books you at the Beverly Hills hotel will give you the bandwich, make sure you don't talk with any guests, and that you enter and exit through the loading dock.

The bandwich has such a negative connotation amongst the musician community.A lifetime of less than human treatment in a nice fancy box. Two hours rehearsal, four hours of music, one and a half hours drive, and the bandwich.

This last weekend I lucked out.I met a friend at Mariscos Chente on my way to play a wedding at the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach for a magnificent feast along with a bunch of wines she brought. When I arrived at the green room in Newport Beach and saw the bandwiches all in neat rows, I thought HA!! You didn't get me this time.I showed up happy, fed, and sated.My fellow musicians were not so fortunate.I had to watch their sour expressions and long faces as they had a sad and bitter dining experience.

So, shame on you Balboa Bay club, Beverly Hills Hotel, Four Seasons, and Hotel Coronado! And, may those of you who start your new life as a couple together by giving the musicians bandwiches, may karmic justice intervene during your honeymoons.

I've got a better idea. Have someone pick up some tortas, cemitas, banh mi, subs from a decent Italian deli,or let a taco truck pull up and give us $5 vouchers each.It'll cost even less and give us our dignity and put a smile on our faces so that we can play Brick House, Get Down Tonight, Sweet Home Alabama, You Shook Me All Night Long, Old Time Rock n Roll, and Proud Mary with gusto.

The loathed catering meal lunchbox
The bandwich strangely flavored by excessive exposure to its cellophane wrapper
The bland and loathsome bandwich

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  1. I just burst out laughing when I saw your post street.

    It reminds me of the naco thread - offbeat, never thought about sub cuisine - if it can be called that. I wonder what other kind of variables exist in the dreaded boxed catered hospitality lunch?

    3 Replies
    1. re: kare_raisu

      I found this article with the bandwich definition from an agency.

      What's even funnier?I found a catering company in Montana that actually has a bandwich on their catering menu under hot sandwiches.

      What gets me is that many of these resorts put the meal in these really beautiful boxes or bags, and you look inside and see the cellophane shapes! I'd rather just receive an Aramark box without frill, I mean, why tease?

      The only variables are the meats and the little potato salad/veggie salad.Oh, sometimes, a fancy bag of chips. Because most of the catering staff are Latinos I can pull some favors here and there.

      The next level up is a lame pasta tray, salad, and cookies with soft drink service.We only had bottled water at the Balboa Bay Club.

      I always find some restaurants nearby and look for ones open late to anticipate the bandwich.We recently missed a soundcheck because we were in Westminster grubbing on some buan cuon.

      1. re: streetgourmetla

        LOL!!! streetgourmetia, from your first link: "Crinkle: Money. Usage: ''What's the crinkle on this hit?"

        1. re: alkapal

          Haha.I think that's more of an east coast thing.Out here we say,"what's the cheese on this hit?"

    2. OMG that bandwich in the third's Grotesque! It's an insult to omnivores everywhere.

      It's a dirty little secret you're ripping the cover off of...and 'bout damned time! I'll be on the lookout for instances of this from now on.

      3 Replies
      1. re: mcsheridan

        Thanks for the support mcsheridan! Man, I don't care what they put in it, the bandwich seems to always taste the same.It tastes like spite with a potato salad!

        1. re: streetgourmetla

          Pity the plastic wrap isn't well flavored and edible. They certainly seem to give you plenty of that!

          1. re: Caroline1

            Isn't that out?Do they really have to put that much plastic wrap?

      2. I approve of this topic!

        1. I didn't know... I feel sorry for you and those like you that care about what you eat. I have a friend who does much what you do. A band member and studio musician, I knew life on the road was not easy, but never that bad.
          I feel I should bring food or share food when I go to the next event. That sandwich looked like it was about 50% mayonnaise. Yuck. Do they ever give you pizza (not that it's better)?

          6 Replies
          1. re: Scargod

            Instead of a tip jar we'll put out a food collection plate:) When I play Armenian weddings we get the same spread as the guests, cold mezze, hot mezze, kabobs with rice, and even booze. Mexican weddings, the parents throwing the party will walk you over to their catering area and ask you to stay for the party. On the road we get per diem, which depending on the gig will vary, anywhere from $25-$50 a day. When I play in Mexico the $25 per diem goes a long way these days.

            The real problem is the casual, which is a wedding or corporate event. The hotels and wealthy clients have little respect for musicians.They seemed to be in a time warp, like we're back in the 20's.I recently played a casual in Florida where we were not to be seen using cell phones and had to always walk through the back door when coming to and from the green room, even when there weren't guests.On the upside, there was no bandwich, but of course, it wasn't the same food the guests were served. When you're already droppin' six figures it seems odd to skimp on just this one thing.

            Pizza from Dominoes would be better than the bandwich, you're right, and it's cheap.

            1. re: Scargod

              Dear LORD was that mayo?!?!!? I had a tiny glimmer of hope it was fresh mozzarella. But now really, if they were going to bandwich someone they would not "waste" fresh mutz like that, would they??!!!

              I feel sad. And a little disgruntled at the silent suffering these musicians have endured.

              1. re: Boccone Dolce

                On behave of the working musicians I thank you for your sentiments.This weekend it's the Beverly Hills Hotel.Let's see what the happy couple has in store for us.

                1. re: streetgourmetla

                  Hmmm...I think we need an update report...and perhaps there's a whole new blog in this?

                  The Bandwich Papers.

                  It would need input from a number of different working musicians to keep it "fresh"; lord knows the sandwiches can't do it.

                  1. re: mcsheridan

                    Bet ya Billy Bob Thornton never had to eat a bandwich?Imagine,"Mr. Thornton, would you like chicken or turkey?"(pause)"I don't know what your talkin, about." " Would you give Tom Petty a bandwich?"

                    1. re: streetgourmetla

                      He just called a Canadian DJ "mashed potatoes but no gravy"; I can't begin to image what he'd call someone feeding him a lousy, mayo-drenched bandwich.

                      I'd want to be WELL out of earshot for that event.

            2. you know, i think a lot of it has to do with the ol' "forgetting the human nature of those who serve" attitude. i get a lot of last minute "omg there will be 3, 10, or 15 musicians, valets, attendants, fill-in-blanks, can you just slap some tuna salad sandwiches together for them and-how-much-will-that-be" conversations. i've learned to be comforting and vague, then i usually feed the musicians what i feed the catering staff & they are happy to get real food. you are right, it's uniquely "american"-- trying to squeak by on an exact head count. most ethnic family events make sure to have such an abundance of food that it's a total non-issue.

              8 Replies
              1. re: soupkitten

                These boxes are from the catering monopolies that have agreements with the hotels and resorts, and they are picked by the couple with their wedding coordinators or party planners.It' a condition of the rider with the contracting agency to provide "food", the minimum requirement being this boxed lunch.

                The Armenian events are just as upscale and organized, but they get a table for the band and photogs with the same fare.Same thing with the Persian events. These are also precise in their service and headcounts.Easy, how many musicians?How many photographers/videographers?Ok, add another table.

                I'm talking the American country club crowd.Their coordinators and planners are especially condescending, in general.Because of them, the agencies often send minders to watch the musicians.No-no-no-no-no, those are not for you guys?(reference to nearby chips and salsa bar that ends up in trash)

                1. re: streetgourmetla

                  ah. . . talking about corporate-- that's a sure way to lose me, every time :)

                  my apologies. for my mistake, and apologies also for those 'stards who feed y'all worse than dogs. thank goodness *something* is in the contract, as otherwise i'm sure they'd happily forget to feed you, point you toward the vending machines, etc :(

                  1. re: soupkitten

                    I'd gladly have one of your homemade sandwiches over the Aramark box of plastic wrapped insults.

                  2. re: streetgourmetla

                    Is there any justification for this treatment and rules, such as, "if we let the musicians have their way, or give them an inch, they would trash the place"?
                    Is there justification for the minders or the lack of respect (and crummy food), that you get?
                    I know a lot of blue collar/no collar workers that would think this those are great meals. Are you in a minority and do they see journeymen musicians, in general, about the same as longshoremen in their taste?
                    In my limited exposure to professional musicians (of the classic rock genre), I might guess that most like to party (regardless of age), and don't like too many rules. Is there a different class of musician that plays country clubs? I'm (seriously) curious about treatment and minders.

                    1. re: Scargod

                      There's no justification. We are the same musician's that you listen to on recordings, see at concerts, and some of us are quite distinguished.I recall an event not too long ago where the leader/singer was on a top ten hit and now worked alongside Stevie Wonder, the bass player was working with George Benson, etc. We all have resumes that include major artists. That's the sindeman. Sometimes you have your hacks, weekend warriors, and former high school choir and drama crowd that do these gigs, and they are not sidemen, and they only play these types of events for exra cash. The casual is something for us sidemen to do when we are in town, which is more often these days with the economy and dying live music scene.

                      In general you're talking about pros, that show up on time, have traveled extensively, are behaved, and highly experienced and trained. It's no easy task to play every hit song and style of music in the last 100 years from Dixieland to Rhianna with no rehearsals and no sheet music.

                      There is a plantation mentality with the elite and the resorts/hotels.They don't know how distinguished a cat might be at their event nor do they care. Is there a little bit of the musician's reputation involved sure?But, when you impose so many rules, it's easy to be a degenerate:don't talk with the guests, make sure youn don't walk through the ballroom,show up wearing slacks, get you beverages only from the green room, turn off your cell phones,come through the loading dock only, etc.There are times when it's not like this, but more often than not it is.

                      If a friend hires you to put a band together, there's no agency, no minder from the agency, it's cool.You can even enjoy a glass of wine, or two!

                      The bad behavior usually comes from the guests who are allowed to behave inappropriately.I did an event for a Walmart heiress, and her and her new husband couldn't even speak on the mic they were so drunk.Nacos!!

                      1. re: streetgourmetla

                        You're right there is no justification to be treated as 2nd class citizens. That sandwich you posted is a travesty. It's got maybe, *maybe* an ounce and a half of (mystery) meat and way too much mayo. There is probably less than $.75 worth of actual food cost in the entire sandwich! I'd be willing to be the client was charged somewhere between $10-15 (if not more) for the entire lunch box. I feel for ya, that's not fair.

                        1. re: DiningDiva

                          I think your right on the price, Aramark charges about 8 bucks for this lunchbox and the resort/hotel marks it up to the couple or coordinator, the price probably gives the illusion of being a decent meal.But, they know it's a sandwich.

                          It was funny on Saturday night at the BH Hotel.We had a culinary school hack dinner, three buffet servers with pre-packaged teriyaki chicken breasts, new potatoes, and grilled vegetables.The student chef probaly just learned knife technique and hasn't taken his seasoning class yet, but it was funny listening to all the happy musicians exclaiming that they were glad there were no bandwiches tonight.They were content, and despite the weak buffet, I too was glad it wasn't the bandwich.

                          The party was lively and young, and a bit more considerate towards the band. You know it's a different crowd when they request "jump around".

                    2. re: streetgourmetla

                      Grrrr... I'd walk out. Screw them, they don't get any music for mistreating people.