1. One of my first bands had a show where all our family was coming to it. Our singer proceeds to get totally trashed before the show, and is singing not even approaching on key, while swearing like a sailor in between each song.
After the show, he decides he’s going to climb a tall chain link fence for some reason, falls and cuts his hand wide open and has to go to the emergency room. Memorable night for all the wrong reasons.
2. This one was more just funny. Different band: We played a show out of state, and the main act for the festival tells us they want to swap spots so they can get on the road for the next gig, weather or something, I don’t remember. So we’re like, sweet, we’re the closers!
The crowd is packed for their set. Everyone in the crowd immediately leaves after they finish. We’re playing for just the sound man...and then the sound man steps out for a cig, so we played to zero people. We just laughed it off and goofed off through our set.
We were asked to play outside and had to rent a big generator. The party for an 18 year olds high school graduation. Back in 1983 you could drink in WI if were 18. The party address was in te middle of nowhere so we assumed a bonfire and kegs of beer. WE got to the farm and the mom said "My husand can guide to the boat landing" Boat landing?
The party was on an island on a nearby lake. It was about 6:30 PM and the party people were skiing and at that time the guys were all hammered. Kind of a rough bunch. All of gear was lifted in boat and the boat guys made trips to the island and the helped. By the time when it got dark, people were throwing up into the lake, people were fooling around in the trees.
Here's the kicker. We brought 6 PAR 64 cans so that we'd have a humble light show.When the band was lit up, every mosquito on the hot lake came directly at us and you can't really swat the bugs when your hands are playing guitar. We got eaten alive. Drunks are passing out and barfing and we're getting chewed to pieces.
There was anouther gig; we played the Thirsty Cowboy in Antigo WI. There was a big biker......he had to weigh 350. Hw was huge and he was so drunk. He kept yelling at us asking for Led Zepplin tunes. We didn't play Led Zepplin. The big guy was stumbling. When we ended set 2 and got off the stage, he grabbed me and he lifted me under the armpits and threw me into a wall next to the stage. I was so frightened. I got up off the floor and the guy just leared at me. He stunk like BO, whisky and stale cigarettes.
Back in 2000 I was playing in an 8-piece jam band at Mizzou. We scored a festival gig in Cape Girardeau, a few hours away. We set up on the flatbed stage and started our set, but the local tweakers decided we weren't Skynyrd enough, and pulled the plug at the generator. They proceeded to surround the generator so no one could plug it back in, so we grabbed all the acoustics we could find and went Unplugged until the locals got bored and wandered off.
Later, I discovered someone rifled through my tent while we were on stage and stole my car keys. I had to hitch a ride into Cape G on a sunday morning and find a locksmith with a 4x4 that could reach the location.
I have bad memories ( early 1990's) of a local DC-Area booking agent...
( who NEVER came out to hear us!-just listened to a demo Cassette)
... of booking our '60's-'70's Classic Rock/Blues band into pretty hardcore Country roadhouse type bars, where we had NO business being there! They wanted Country! (duh)
Sometimes for both Friday and Saturday nights...
The management did not like us, the patrons did not like us, and we really ( then) did not know any Country music!
No one threw anything at us, at best we were tolerated, or ignored,
But sometimes really bitter, rude folks would pass by stage area, repeatedly, give us a 'thumbs down', the finger, or yell " Play some Country!" Or " That ain't Country!" It was miserable- sometimes we did not come back tte 2nd night.
What's worse is my buddy ( fellow guitar player/lead singer) who booked us, would get calls from booking agent the following week:
" I heard you guys didn't do so good, they didn't like the music..."
And we'd be like, " You booked a Rock/blues band at a Country bar!!"
A real no-win situation.
Years later, I would actually play lead Tele in a Classic Country band ( 10 years), in Country bars.
Better, but at some joints, folks wanted to hear New Country, which we did not play.
All much better now with current R&R bands, acoustic duos
- frequent Winery/ brewpub gigs, and folks really like us, wherever
First gig ever backyard $1 beer kegger. In high school. In 1987 or 1988…
Noobs we were we had practiced in a sound proof room for about a year and thought we had our stuff together to step out.
Got there and I was tasked with convincing the parents it wouldn’t be too loud. I was sitting inside at their kitchen table convincing them to go on while the rest of the band set up.
So my thought of having a sound check never happened… also the PA another band was bringing had not arrived…
We hooked up a mic to an amp and started playing.
But wait where all the sound go?
I couldn’t hear myself, my buddy Dave on the other guitar couldn’t hear himself, only drums, no bass, no vocals… but we sounded so good in the tight little sound proof room.
We panicked, amp volumes were increased, drive knobs on pedals raised, soon enough all that could be heard were snare, cymbals and wooo-weee feedback…
Cops showed up before we could finish our second song.
Lesson learned about different playing environments and need to try something resembling a sound check…
We jumped the fence with guitar cases, amps and drums in tow, frogger like avoiding yards with big dogs, until we reached a corner one block over and called our drummers dad from a pay phone to come get us…
Mine was a frat gig from hell. The frat in question had just been told it was getting kicked off campus for a long list of infractions, and this was back in the 80s when it really took something for a frat to get blacklisted. Our drummer was a member of the frat and thought it would be fun if we played at the frat's farewell party.
In theory it sounded pretty cool, we'd be playing at the frat party to end all frat parties. In reality, the party ended up with a large contingent of highly drunk and aggro frat bros deciding to destroy the frat house by any means necessary. Imagine playing a set from the inside of a demolition project and you get the general vibe. We soldiered on through dozens of broken windows, bottles, furniture, walls but had to pull the plug about halfway through our planned set when a burning couch thrown from a second story window landed about 5 feet from our makeshift stage.
On the positive side, our drummer engaged in some light embezzlement from the frat's remaining bank account to pad our agreed fee with some 'hazard pay' - so not a total loss!
Three stories that have echoes of previous stories.
Very first gig, ever, many moons ago with my first band. We had a young woman singer and the day of our very first gig, a dance or something like that, she had a big fight with her boyfriend and salved her hurt feelings with the better part of a bottle of vodka. She passed out under a table before we even started. Now, she sang, oh, 95 percent of our songs so we kind of winged it and played a few instrumentals. Turned out that band's very first gig was also its very last.
Another time, I was playing a duo with a friend at a bar that we had gigged at before. It was under new ownership and the new owner was, to put it kindly, a jackass and had run off many of the bar's regulars. It was a Sunday gig and when we set up, it was just us and the owner in the bar. We sat around for a while and the owner said, well, go ahead and play. And we said no one's here and he said oh, they'll show up. So we start playing, mostly just goofing around, playing for the owner. Then, the owner disappeared and we were the only ones in the bar. We stopped playing and went to look for the owner. He was nowhere to be found. He apparently just took off. We helped ourselves to a few drinks and then packed up and left, leaving the bar open and empty. Never heard from the guy again.
Yet, another one, I was playing in a band with a singer-songwriter at an Americana festival in Dewey Beach, Del. We did a set on Saturday night and the organizers asked us if we'd like to play the next morning for the marathon that was associated with the festival. So, next morning, at about 8, we set up in the parking lot of a liquor store on the main drag. We start playing and within a couple of minutes, a motorcycle cop pulls up right in front of me and asks, "What the hell are you people doing?" I said, um, playing music. We took a break and the cop said, "People are trying to sleep. Keep it down." So we turned down and played as runners streamed by, most of the them wearing earbuds. Even if they could have heard us, they would have caught maybe five seconds of a song as they ran by. It was weird. And the whole time we played some guy across the street videotaped our performance, I guess, to provide evidence to police that we were creating a public nuisance. I still play with the drummer of that band and we call that gig our Spinal Tap moment.
Any kind of field party/unsanctioned off-campus college gig/campout being organized by a friend of a friend.
We played a couple of those long ago and it was always a disaster. Waiting around to play as band after band who were not on the bill, but were friends of the guy who brought the kegs, get to go first, then the cops show up and shut down the concert, so we go to our tent to try to get some sleep only to find the local rednecks have pulled out their rifles and four wheelers and are tearing through the camping area for all hours of the night, mere feet away from the tents. Absolutely terrifying.
I told my band bandmates if they agreed to play any more of these type of shows I would quit. They did, and so I quit.
A friend of mine and I put together an acoustic duo. We weren’t actually all that bad we were just young and incredibly inexperienced.
We talked a local bar and giving us our first gig.
And by that I mean the first gig either of us had ever had.
On a Wednesday night.
It was raining cats and dogs and the only person that showed up was my cousin Larry. We played anyway and it was good practice and a good time.
The stage banter went something like “anything you want to hear in particular Larry?
We had to use my PA and as we were loading all our equipment to leave, I accidentally locked the keys in the truck.
With it running.
In the rain.
I think we got $20 each.
A few come to mind:
1) Place had us playing during the Super Bowl (which actually may have been a blessing in disguise, since it meant people were ignoring us). Very first song, I break a string and it knocks the whole guitar out of tune. I stopped playing asap (we had two guitar players), but already too late. The whole thing was just a train wreck. That was when I learned to always have a backup guitar tuned and ready.
2) This drunken fool keeps hollering for some Pearl Jam. So fine, we play a Pearl Jam tune. He sits down and starts singing into the mic we had set up right in front of the stage for recording the gig. Bass player calmly tells him that the mic is set up for recording, and he won't be able to hear himself. Dude loses his mind and tries to attack the bass player. We found out after the gig that it was not the first time that guy had to be ejected from the club.
3) We're on the bill as one of 2 opening acts for a KISS tribute band. Show starts - no sign of 'KISS'. Opening band is 30 minutes in when the club owner comes to us in a panic. 'KISS' has just called - their van broke down and they won't make it. Can we fill time? We tell the openers they can play a bit longer if they want - they have no more material than their 45 minutes allowed for. Meanwhile, this kid from the KISS Army starts calling all his pals that were coming to the show, telling them not to bother since the tribute band canceled. We ended up playing for somewhere around 3 hours to probably about 3 people. And then after the gig, the club owner tells us he can't pay us because he didn't take in anything at the door. And flips us $20 for the 4 of us. Yeah, we never played his club again.
There was one in particular where I went into a venue to mix a band on the house system. I didn't know the band, nor the house, and certainly wasn't prepared for the condition of the PA. You would pan on this supposed stereo rig & it would instead travel the audio spectrum from high to low & back. I wish I had thoroughly checked the system before I jokingly introduced myself to the band as the guy who would be wrecking sound for them that night.
Then, I proceeded to deliver on my word by having one of the worst nights on a console of my entire career. I no longer make that joke.
11:00 am at a train platform in some Stokholm suburb which name I have thankfully repressed. It was "SJ-dagen", the train company's day, at a cold spring or autumn day; fingers freezing and instruments out of tune.
I can't remember how much we got paid for it, but however much it was, it wasn't enough.
Few years back, our acoustic 5 piece was playing at a nice music club outside of Boston....Wed night show....freezing cold...we're sharing with 2 other bands....prepared for a fun night.
We arrive to the place about 2/3rds full!! Great!..We are on first..I'm pleased...nice crowd..people having drinks....I'm psyched..rest of the band is happy. 10 minutes before 7, the place absolutely empties!?????
Cheap Trick was playing at the theater across the street starting at 7pm...we 3 bands basically played for each other.