The relationship between sessioners and the barman and bar owner has always had a huge effect on how successful or unsuccessful a session can be. Musicians appreciate having a regular session to play in while most pub owners a grateful for the atmosphere the music creates and the business it draws in. An unwritten rule that goes along with this is that in a show of appreciation to the musicians the publican might give them a few round here and there while some pubs even choose to have it mandatory that if you’re playing music, you drink for free! If neither of these are the case, we have a few tips on how to get a few free rounds.
Simply play and hope the drinks come…
The simplest thing you can try is to take a chance and just play away, hoping the barman will have some sense and throw a round your way. This is very hit and miss as it depends very much on where you play, how much the patrons are enjoying the music, how much the barman is enjoying and if there is enough business to justify the round. This we wouldn’t recommend…
Look back and forth between your drink and the barman hoping to catch his gaze
This only happens in some instances where the rounds happen every so often but you want them to be a bit more regular. You can play away and hope to catch the barman’s gaze. This is difficult as he can often look away and pretend not to make eye contact. Nodding to your drink when you do signals another free round but you’re pretty much screwed if the drinks are brought over with a bill in tow.
Stare intensely at the barman until one of you breaks
A trick some people try is to stare down the barman until he gives in and sends over a round or you get tired and play anyway. To be successful at this you must hold your instrument up within sight of the bartender and stare intently at them, without blinking if possible, as they work. This can be done by just one person or by the entire session, preferably while not playing. Eventually the barman will get freaked out and send over the drink.
Make a big scene when buying another drink
Drawing attention to the sessioners and their drink is another way of making the barman think about free drink. Sit right in the middle of your session so that any time you have to leave to get another drink, everybody has to shift around to make space. Make sure to announce, “I’M OFF TO GET ANOTHER DRINK NOW. DOES ANYONE WANT ANYTHING?” This draws the barman’s attention. As you approach the bar, make you have lots of coins in your hand, rattling them about so they make lots of noise. This makes him take pity on you and your buddies.
Loudly make exaggerated sounds and statements
Make sure the barman can hear any time you talk about drink. Loudly say things like, “Jesus I love Guinness, especially free Guinness”, “God do you remember the time we got all those free pints. That was great” or “I’d really love a free drink right now.” If anyone asks why you’re not playing simply reply, “Ah no, I’m too thirsty to play.” Make exaggerated sounds of refreshment after every drink too. Audible ‘Ahhhhh’ sounds will indicate your intense thirst, a thirst that can only be quenched by a free drink.
Reminisce loudly about past experiences
Talk loudly amongst your session about previous experiences in different pubs where you obtained free drink. Exaggeration is also encouraged here. “Ah Jaysus do you remember that time we played for 15 hours in Friels and they gave us all those free rounds? That was great day”, “God lads I was just thinking about that time we played in The White House and Barrack Obarner pulled us all those pints…”, “I was playing in Matt Molloy’s there the other day. We got a hundred free pints each, no joke. A hundred! I didn’t even have a hangover the next day either!”
Threaten to play the Irish National Anthem
It is a rather unknown phenomena that anytime the Irish National Anthem is played in a pub, Irish people are hardwired to stop what they’re doing, stand up and sing and then leave, assuming that the anthem is signalling the end of the night. If no free drink is forthcoming, threaten to play Amhrán na bhFiann which will clear the bar of any punters. The barman will be so scared of losing business that he’ll be forced to hand over the drink.