Gig Anecdotes is updated regularly, and is dedicated to preserving and sharing the experiences of today's working musician. Lots of music stories: wedding gigs, agents, life on the road, recording sessions, gig horror stories.. and all of these funny gig stories are submitted by our readers! Click ADD YOUR ANECDOTE! to add your story.
I was working with a jazz band in the Midwest, and we got a gig playing for the local high school's convocation. We were booked to open with the opening theme from the Batman TV show. It was a big production with lights, smoke, characters swinging down from the catwalk on ropes.
At curtain the band was in its place and the tune was a groovin'. Batman made a smooth entrance, sliding down from the catwalk. The guy in the Robin costume, however, must have lost his grip and fell 12 feet to the stage floor with a loud thump. Everyone froze.
He then caught his breath, stood up, and finished the tune on his feet.
A few years back I was holding auditions for an oldies group I was trying to put together. One guy called and said he played keyboards and sang. I had him over on a Saturday afternoon. He brought his 12 year old son along with him. He explained that his son was autistic and that he didn't have a babysitter. I said no problem and set his son up in front of the TV.
This guy liked the Beach Boys as I did, and was making a big deal out of this live medley he had recorded while at a Beach Boys concert in Atlantic City. He said he wanted me to learn the medley exactly so he could sing the lead. I played the CD and it was a garbled mess with an occasional hint of Mike Love wailing into the mic. I eventually worked out the parts and prepared to play the song. I then noticed that his son had taken off his shoes and was walking around the house opening and closing cabinets and drawers. I ignored it and we started to play.
It was obvious from the start that he couldn't really play that well. He certainly didn't know the medley that I had just learned. Then he started to sing. Putting it kindly, he could not sing. By now his son had found and opened three bags of potato chips and pretzels. He proceeded to crush them and sprinkle them throughout the living room and on the couches and chairs. I stopped playing to address the situation, and the guy actually asked me why I stopped playing.
I figured the damage was done, and tried to introduce a different song since I felt the Beach Boys medley wasn't working to say the least. This guy insisted on picking up where we left off.
So we launch into Little Deuce Coupe, at least I think that's what it was. His chords were nothing like the song, and he was wailing so off key that I couldn't believe he could continue, but he did. Then I hear my washer start, then stop, then start, then stop, then start again. The guy doesn't notice the sound. I stopped playing and went to see what was going on. The guy then says that his son likes to do wash. I said okay, but it's an old machine and I don't want it to break. I go in just in time to see the kid pour a cup of bleach all over a load of jeans and dress shirts. Keep in mind the guy is still moaning into the mic while I'm assessing the damage, which was considerable.
Eventually the kid got completely out of control and was running all over the house, going up into bedrooms and closets, tearing things out, it was crazy. And the guy just wanted to sit and play. Maybe he was used to it. We ended the session with him asking when we could do it again. Needless to say we didn't.
The next week I get a call from a singer from South Philadelphia. The guy said he had played with all sorts of famous 50's and 60's vocal groups and sounded like he really knew his stuff. The only problem was that he had diabetes, and he couldn't see well at night and needed a ride. It was a considerable distance, especially in Philly rush hour traffic, but I figured it might be worth the trouble. It took me an hour to get there, on some godforsaken little street in the heart of South Philly. The guy jumped in the car with his duffel bag and a paper bag containing what had to be a 3 day old hoagie stinking of onions and provolone cheese. He explained that he had to have food available in case his blood sugar got low.
An hour later we got back to my town. He asked to stop at a store for lozenges for his throat. We stopped and he tried to strike up a conversation with a 15 year old cashier. As we leave he bragged that he could have had her if he really wanted her. Okay, man, I'm sure you could have.
Finally we get back to my house. He then opens his duffel bag and takes out two loaded syringes and puts them on the counter. "Come here", he says. "If I pass out from diabetic shock stick this in my left arm and inject me with my insulin." Okay, no problem. He then unwraps the stinking hoagie and eats it, spilling lettuce and oil all over and making a general mess. I begin testing the mics. He tells me that he has to have a very specific type of delay on his vocals. We then spend the next 20 minutes adjusting the delay settings in every conceivable way, none of which was to his satisfaction.
The rest of the band showed up and got ready to play. The singer told us that we must first hear him do his own special mixes of his songs and gave me a karaoke CD. We then spent the next 25 minutes listening to him do 6 karaoke versions of various Frankie Valli songs. Eventually we got to actually play. Despite the set list we provided him, this guy insisted on doing songs none of us had ever played, in keys that were not the original keys. In all fairness, he did have a good voice. We managed to get through a practice and I had the pleasure of driving him an hour back to South Philly.
Against my better judgment I had the guy back over again. Of course I had to drive him back and forth again. Come to find out, the only reason he wanted to play was so that he could steal my band members for another project he was involved with. The drummer actually left and joined his group. Funny thing is, our group did go on to become somewhat successful as an oldies cover band, playing a good four year run of shows. The singer's band never got out of the basement. The drummer came crawling back six months later, but by then the spot had been filled.
We were playing a packed show at an all ages venue in downtown Terre Haute, IN, that for whatever reason was being broadcast. The show so far was amazing. We had an amazing crowd, our sound was tight, etc. I noticed about half way through our set that the stage was only about a foot off of the floor and that the audience was beginning to mosh. Add a wireless and me, a cocky bassist, to the mix and you have a recipe for a bad time.
I hopped off the stage to join in the crowd's rocking out but after only a few seconds some of them began to mess with my bass. Before disaster could ensue I began to make my way back to the stage. I should have mentioned that I choose not to wear not my glasses while playing, and I'm blind as a bat. This prevented me from noticing the monitor in my path as I was making my leap back on to the stage.
My foot clipped a corner of the monitor causing me to fall flat on my face in front of 300 people and several cameras. A loud "THWANG" shot out of my amp as my bass slammed on the floor. I left the show that night with a busted knee, a bass that hasn't played right ever since. and video that my bandmates like to pull out when they want a laugh. I know now to never leave the stage during a performance ever again.
In the early 80's in my early 20's, I had been playing with a couple southern rock bands that played every chicken wire bar in the area and we partied harder than the audience. One night a full-time "serious" band came to a bar we were playing at looking for a guitar player. Long story short, I quit my buddies to step up a notch.
Three weeks later I played my first night of a fives night a week, four month long gig with them. These guys were salty, seasoned pros while I was a young wide eyed party boy that thought he knew all. These guys had forgot more about gigging that I knew at the time.
About halfway through the first set, I saw a guy on the other end of the dance floor punch his girl right in the face. Mid song, without thinking I untethered my guitar, walked straight across the dance floor, grabbed the guy by both ears and ran him out of the bar throwing him into a decorative pond thing outside the entrance. I was so proud of myself when I opened the door and walked back in. Just as I did, the girlfriend attacked me. It took the bouncer and and several customers to get her off of me.
After things settled down, I walked back to the stage and the other guys were give me that "rookie" look. My face was scratched and shirt ripped. I strapped up and looked at the drummer and he said "I tried to stop you but you wouldn't. I even poked you with my stick!" They laughed at me like a kid that peed on an electric fence. They made my promise to never be the hero again.
Here's the weird part. I later married that girl that kicked my ass that night and we're still together. I quit gigging a few years ago and have many stories, but this is my closer.
Me and my drummer had been offered an easy gig providing a makeshift rhythm section to a lone vocalist/guitarist; I've never been a fan of doing covers, but it was a Sunday lunchtime residency at a pub in Hackney, London, easy money, free food and drink.
The first two or three weeks were fine, then on this one particular Sunday there was a bit of a bad vibe in the pub; the atmosphere was very heavy. We were just rattling through our set when I feel a sharp jab in my back. Then another. In quick order, I turn round to discover my drummer is throwing sticks at me, trying to get my attention. He's gesticulating towards the bar, where I see the owner has bought out plates of hot potatoes and chicken wings. More to the point there are a pair of very fat guys shouldering each other aside to get to the food. As I watch, the pushing becomes shoving and I see one of the guys lean back - his belly pulling free of his t-shirt - and swinging a fist towards the other guy's face. There is a sickening crack as fist makes contact with nose and within seconds the whole place is fighting each other.
Two guys are brawling at my feet and about thirty guys are beating the shit out of each other. To my right, two old boys lift their beers as someone picks up their small table and throws in into the melee. The owner literally leaps over the bar swinging a pool-cue and shouting on the top of his lungs, 'NOT IN MY PUB! NOT IN MY BAAAAAR!' He joins in, breaking the cue over someone and within about thirty seconds the mob leaves the confines of the bar and the fighting continues outside in the street. By now, we are just wetting ourselves and I swear we didn't drop a note.
We were booked to open for a famous national country act. When we were set up, I took my guitar into the green room to warm up. We went back out to a full house - we were very popular locally and had hundreds of fans, in addition to the thousands in the seats at the venue.
The first number was a song that the guitar has to start. Guess what? I forgot to plug the guitar in - no sound. The bass player is jumping up and down - "plug in the guitar!, plug in the guitar!!!"
I just laughed, along with the other 3,000 people in attendance. Whaddya gonna do?
I'm a pianist and I used to do a Saturday evening jazz duo gig with a saxophone player who enjoyed drinking a lot during a gig. After spending most of the three hour gig listening to him wailing late Coltrane and his complaints about my left hand, I decided to get my revenge. In the final tune, I turned on the pitch bend, which was controlled by a foot pedal. I shifted the pitch a quarter tone up and watched him drunkenly wrestle with the tuning on his tenor, cursing his instrument all the time.
As soon as he re-tuned his horn to match my newly-tuned piano, I shifted the pitch back down to the original, only for him to mutter some drunken incoherent ramblings about the horn as he attempted, badly, to re-tune it.
After about six whiskeys with Guinness chasers, he was none the wiser about what had happened.
It was the early '90s and my band was doing it's best to put on an exciting show with the lowest of budgets.
We were doing a gig at a small bar and even though the place was only legally allowed to hold 60 people, and even though the ceiling was 8 foot high, we decided to set off explosives.
At the beginning of our first song, I was to set off a flash pot by stepping on the on/off switch of a multi outlet power strip.
We hit that first big chord and I flicked the switch with my toe... nothing. "That's not a good sign" I thought.
As my singer starts to sing he knelt down to jiggle the cord then POOF!!
The pot went off, a shower of glittery sparks hit the ceiling, bounced down, and set a guys hair on fire.
The dude had an 8 inch flame coming off the top of his head. Luckily he was a friend of ours, so he didn't make a big deal about it.
Still... it looked pretty cool.
Back when I was about 15 years old, me and three other guys were set up on the guitarists front lawn practicing.
We were playing "Detroit Rock City" and a car came screaming down a hill, went up onto a lawn, and crashed into a tree.
If you're familiar with the tune, a car wrecks at the end of the song.
I had set up a tour for my original rock band at the time. It looked pretty good -- two of the members were based in Denver so the gig in Alamosa was supposed to be our "send off." I'd gotten the only written contract on the tour from this guy, a three hundred guarantee, and certain number of drinks and food etc.
Anyway, we arrived good and early, eager to get started, and the bar had been shut down. We wandered across the street to the Mexican place for a beer, and recognized a waitress who had been working that bar when we created the contract. I guess the owner had been serving minors, that's why it was shut down -- that's probably why he was so confident in offering a guarantee.
Long story short she ended up on the phone to get us another place to play and with much deliberation we played there. My wife worked the door and it paid for the rooms that night.