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.
Boy-o, can I ever relate to these stories. I've got a few. One time I did a wedding with my guitarist, and we see this lady coming up the aisle in white, and begin to play her requested tune only to be shushed by the pastor because, it WASN'T THE BRIDE!! It was the Matron of Honor, I guess, looking better than the bride, in white lace. (We were hired over the phone.) OH, and this wedding we had to really drive to get there. They gave us erroneous directions in the wake of the 1989 quake, when whole chunks of freeway were no longer usable. SO we ended up having to stop in some neighborhood and request to use the phone to call in and say where ARE you, only to have the church phone busy repetitively. Finally I requested an emergency interruption and told the operator, "Tell them we're the musicians and we need directions." We arrived, thankfully, about 10 minutes ahead, with guests that were gracious at least......
I've done Xmas party gigs. My fave is the check is in the mail. My contract clearly states, payment immediate upon completion of services. One stands out where the head honchos of the biz blathered on, and the Admin who hired me tried to ding me claiming I didn't play for the full duration. I stated I wasn't leaving without the full payment because I WAS here on time, and ready to play, and it's not my problem how they use my time.
Another time I played for a birthday party, and they said the check will come in the mail in about a week. I could sniff something was remiss in the situation, and it was about a $400 gig, so I didn't want to lose all my money. So I insisted on payment right then and there. Hubs had to go to the ATM on his birthday to get cashola. Sometimes ya gotta stand your ground and go with your instincts.
My fave is being asked, "how much do you charge per song?" I don't charge per song. I charge per hour, cuz it's my time that you're paying for. I can play a lot of songs in an hour. I guess opera singers sometimes charge per song, or so I've heard some do. Most pros I know, though, don't.
Our harmonica player liked to play jokes on the band members, so one night for payback we took his harps and put (tooth numbing gel) on them. He couldn't feel his lips, and could barely talk by the end of the night!
Lead, South Dakota used to be a gold mining town. Anyone who has played in a mining town knows that the crowd can be a little rough edged. We were hired to play a wedding dance at a bar that we had played many times. We always had a great time playing at this place and didn't figure tonight would be any different. The gig was going great until about the second set when the bride and groom (both underground miners) got into a fist fight on the dance floor.
The groom left, the bride sat at the edge of the dance floor crying and the gig went on pretty much as usual. Everybody but the bride and her mother had a good time and partied pretty much like they always did at this bar, just kind of ignoring the pity puddle on the edge of the dance floor.
One weekend we were hired to perform at some wedding reception out in the sticks.. some shit kicker town whose name will not be mentioned to help protect the innocent. Anyhow, the bride went to great pains to make sure that we had a violin player that would perform a very specific song while she was escorted down the aisle by her father. Evidently this was THE big focal point of her entire wedding and was very very important to her. We dont normally have a violin player in our band but we went ahead and hired a utility guy who played fiddle and a couple other instruments as well. He agreed to take care of the violin song during the ceremony as requested originally. We gave him the song to learn and made sure he understood the importance of what he was doing.
A few weeks later, it's show time. The band (minus the violin player) is at the reception hall setting up and sound checking. I say to my bass player "hey, you ever hear from so and so?". He replies with "nahh, I assume he is over at the church doing his violin thing for the ceremony". About 10 seconds later his cell phone rings and its the groom. He is not happy. Turns out the violin player showed up to the church 5 minutes after the ceremony was to begin. He was completely under dressed (t-shirt and jeans). They quickly grabbed him and tell him to get his ass going so they could start. He grabbed his fiddle case form the back of his car and guess what? The case was empty. He had left the thing at home! Home was about an hour away, so a quick rescue of the situation was impossible at this point.
The bride was crying, screaming, pissed off...basically Bridezilla on steroids. They finished the ceremony and headed over to the reception hall eventually and I can tell you I have never ever gotten more dirty looks from someone in my life. This chick hated us vehemently and I would imagine to this day has a dart board with our band picture on it in her living room. We had a very difficult time getting paid that night. Not sure how we pulled that off. Needless to say we received zero gratuity and of course we will never again offer to supply a violin player for any future weddings. Bogus!
In the mid 90s, my cover band was hired to play at a late afternoon party. We set up outside, up a slight hill inside a gazebo. It was a 4 piece band: 2 guitars, drums, and bass. We barely fit but managed. We we hired for about 3 hours. After the first hour or so, the guests at the party started slowly going indoors, until eventually they were all inside. Once they were all in, they shut the sliding door they had entered through, leaving us playing up the hill in the gazebo, to no one. We thought about stopping but we decided it was a paid practice, and we played the remainder of the gig. It's so nice to be appreciated!
We were a top band in San Diego in the 70's and 80's. We played all the military bases as they were paying real well and with us being a top 40 cover band we were booked consistently.
We needed to replace our female singer, (unfortunately one of our bandmates created the cardinal sin of bands and started sleeping with her), so we put an ad in one of the top weekly papers for a new girl.
We had a really large 20x60 foot room for practice adjacent to a business which we rehearsed in. A girl answered the ad and showed up a little late, but that's acceptable to a point. To keep the girls auditioning from being too nervous, we kept the main lights off and used our stagelight setup just to make them feel at ease.
The first girl that showed up sang a few songs and we told her we would let her know after we watched the video recording later. Well, my bass player had to walk her out as we were behind locked fences so when she left I was behind my drums and happened to say, "man did you hear that? She was so flat, I can sing those songs better than her!" Well, to my surprise, I looked up and she had forgotten her purse. With the stagelights shining on us we could not see the door when she came back to retrieve it. She heard what I said and started crying and said she was really nervous and drank a quart of Jack D before showing up to take the edge off. I asked her, "what part of the no alcohol and and no drugs in the ad did you not understand?"
This girl was also 18 years old and sang so flat the only way we could have used her was to buy a pitch controller and at that time they did not even make those things.
Well, needless to say we did not hire her, and in this present time this flat singing drunk girl has gone on in the music business and made millions. I won't name names but she's on tv all the time and has even won a Grammy. Where's my crystal ball, and why didn't the talent shine through at that moment?
Back in the day when I was in a "hair band" we went out of our way to create a special mood onstage wherever we played. I played guitar and keyboards, and rather than using a plug-in light or flashlight to see our set list I would light a couple of candles and set them on my keyboard rack. Because the writing on the set list that night was a little smaller than usual I guess I got a little too close and caught the front of my hair on fire.
I turned from the keys to play a riff on my guitar and the bass player stepped over and smacked me on the front of the head to try and put it out. When I realized my hair was burning I frantically started smacking myself in the head and managed to extinguish myself. We ended up coming up with a cool instrumental out of it, appropriately titled "Oh My God, Frank's Hair's On Fire!"
About 30 years ago, we were playing in a small bar out in the country between two towns. An older couple were in the audience and were getting kind of frisky. The man was average in height and build, and the lady was quite slender. During a song our bassist was singing, the lady approached him and pulled her top up to her chin. "What do you think about that," she said. He leaned off the mic between phrases and said "Sure, I like fried eggs," leaned back to the mic, and finished the song.
We were asked to back up an Elvis impersonator at the officers club years ago. We drove there, setup and then proceeded to meet the impersonator in the dressing room to discuss the nights details. He was wearing the whole leather jump suit thing, had the side burns going on...
He asked if we would go out there, start playing a punchy soul review type song and announce his presence and then he would break into a song. So we do, and when he comes out of the back he jumps into the air, lands on his feet, strap breaks on his guitar, guitar hits the floor and he picks it up and starts singing/playing....he turns around to tell us the next song and we noticed that he only had 2 strings left on his guitar, the rest were flopping looseley/broken. He smelled of cheap bourbon and at one point he bent over to pick up a guitar pick he had dropped and a pint of whiskey hit the stage floor...needless to say, this guy didn't get any better as the night went on....4th set, he was asleep in the dressing room and we proceeded to just play some variety for the drunken crowd. It was memorable to say the least.
I used to work in a music store and would get calls all the time about filling in for people. Versatility was my trademark. I played everything including Rock, Country, Blues, Jazz, even played in a Big Band.
So the phone rings, the store manager answers it and tells me, "Hey it's for you and I forgot to tell you this guy was trying to get a hold of you". "Well thanks for letting me know..." So I talk to the guy and he wants a country picker for a couple hours at the Logger Bar in Onalaska, Washington. I thought, sure, I've been playing country gigs...this is just another one....man was I wrong!
So there is no rehearsal...which didn't bother me but had there been, the whole experience could have been avoided.
I get to the gig and set my gear up, 70's Fender Twin and a '83 Strat, and wait. I realize the PA looks like something out of a 50's auto show room. An old tuck and roll Kustom PA head and speakers in sparkle black! I notice there is no bass amp but there is this old Yamaha drum machine...not a great setup, but I figured it would do the job.
So this old guy walks in, looking really old, with his old man country shirt with two packs of generic 100's in both front pockets. He introduces himself and says he needs help tuning.... How odd, but OK, no problem.
So he retrieves his SG shaped POS bass and he explains that he plays his bass through the PA...great, just what I need. So we tune up and the bass sounds awful. He calls the tune, s Country standard which title escapes me now. It's at this point the the earth opens up and I wind up in Hell! He starts the drum machine and it reminds me of the cheesy drums on toy keyboards... as we begin to play I realize we are still way out of tune and it stresses me greatly which is compounded by the fact that this old guy has a tin ear! He couldn't carry a tune in a bucket! Tone deaf vocals all night!
When the song ends, mercifully, I tell him we are still way out of tune. A full step actually...which made no sense at the time, but would reveal itself in time.
The first set, possibly the worst of my life to that point, just about made me sick but was over. Rather than spending the break relaxing, I figure out the problem and was it a doozy! It turns out that the old guy ran over his bass with his truck and broke the headstock off! He repaired it by using two huge brass wood screws to re-attach it. Once screwed back on, it would tune but once notes were fretted the note sounded half a step high! It was maddening.
So to correct the problem, sort of, I tuned my guitar half a step up and did without all open chords. (yeah, I could have used a capo if I had bothered to bring one...but I didn't.)
After the second set, I considered taking a loss and asking the owner to fire us so the pain could end, but I finished the gig, got paid swore to myself that I would never take another site unseen, non-rehearsed gig again, ever!
I have fudged on this declaration many times, but that's another story...