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.
After a previous adventure with a new venue for us, we decided to give the place another try. Going in with a different attitude as to what to expect from the bar owner, we show up at our usual time to start setup. Turns out that with the particular Hillbilly events being held that night, the restaurant business was booming. The owner (who was of much better character this night) asked us if we could wait to set up because he couldn't start taking tables away for our stage space yet. Money was to be made and he was gonna make damn sure that happened. I don't blame him, he's a businessman. But so are we!! We discussed (as we waited another hour outside in the freezing cold)about how a contract is a contract and he's gonna pay us the whole check. We were there on time to do our job, he is the one to make us wait.
Half hour by half hour goes by. We are WAY beyond time for signal and sound check if we EVER get to unload the vans. Very frustrated, we thought about giving him the chance to buy us out of the contract so he can continue to make money. Before we know it, the owner comes booking it out of the bar, cellphone clenched to his ear, crying his eyes out yelling "Don't do it, I'll be right there". He jumped in his truck and hauled a$$ down the street. WOW, what just happened? What do we do now? Just a few minutes later, an ambulance tears through the town. Uh oh! Not Good.
Knowing the town is littered with drunken rednecks, ANYTHING could have happened to require an ambulance.
The owner returns, we're still waiting outside (3.5hours after arrival), he is obviously distraught. I asked him if he's OK (obviously not but it's just polite, right?). "NO" he cried "My friend just blew her own head off".
Are you serious?? did this just happen?? Oh yes it did. As the owner struggled to walk back into his bar, we all looked at each other.....speechless!! Should we just get in the vans and leave? Probably. The owner comes back out after a few minutes and asked if we could just go in and do our thing. OMG!!! OK, we are a classic-modern rock PARTY band. How are we gonna go in there and "do our thing" and people are just learning about what happened to their local friend? Again, we're businessmen. We did our best, especially with song selection, to "lighten" the mood. Knockin' On Heaven's Door was not gonna cut it tonight. None of us felt it was right to be there "doing our thing" so a few songs in, we took a break, found the owner and out of courtesy settled on a decent, fair wage, and called it a night.
This story is as true as it is sad. I couldn't make this up and anyone who knows this local historic event can back it up. Let me tell ya, gigging hasn't been the same since.
18 y/o band guys been jammin together only 1 month. We had about 12 originals we put together in that time. Judas Priest came out with Turbo Lover that year. It was a hot July and me and my band mate, Ben, were getting ready for the Judas Priest show . We were really wanting to see Dokken (they were the openers that night). A couple of hours before show time we get a call from some concert promoters (Herb Graham) asking us if we wanted to do a gig that night. "No thanks" we said, " We are going to see Judas Priest and Dokken tonight."That's where the gig is." they responded.
After dropping a few bricks out of our butts and a series of phone calls to get the other band mates to believes us that it was really happening (they kept hanging up on us thinking we were joking), We were soon driving up to the Ector County Collosium and there it was on the Marquee, "Judas Priest, w/ spcial guest *****". All of our friends were shocked.
Don Dokken got sick. He wasn't able to sing. Sorry Don.. we almost got famous. Soon after we tore up the whole area with our tunes and bacame a well known local band in West Texas.
A few years ago, a guy I used to play in a band with called me to play at a wedding for a friend of his. He was throwing together a band, and I was up for it. It was to take place in a pole barn in a very rural area. For starters, it was raining all day- so when I got to the site- I found it to be a muddy mess. 4 wheel trucks were the only thing getting up the driveway. After contacting my buddy, he came and got me from the road(which was also a muddy mess).Needless to say, my good cowboy boots soon became caked with mud. Well, we set up and began playing.
I soon noticed most of the mud covered guests crowded around a fenced area at the other end of the building. Nobody was paying attention to us in the least. I found out later that a very large pig was giving birth to several piglets, and this apparently was way more interesting than we were. The frosting on cake was that the few people not watching the pig were out in the back having target practice at a shooting range. At a wedding! So every few seconds, gunfire erupted with much yeehawwing, while the pig did her thing, and we played our hearts out.
Our 4 piece rock group usually sticks around home for the most part nowadays.. Most gigs are within 50 miles because we juggle the band and home lives. But there are several that are a bit further away, and we usually grab a room for the night.
Well, we're playing up at our friends bar in Ely, MN. This town is like a combination of a cool, hip little burg, and the movie Fargo. Many of the people are laid back, natural, backwoods folk. Our bar owner friend says, "Hey, I can get you guys a cabin out on the lake at my friends resort for pretty cheap." So, of course we're all in agreement that this would be sweet! Uh huh.. After I introduce myself to the owner, who looks like a stoned garden gnome, he says "You guys are in cabin 2, the Wolf's Lair. Here's the key. My wife just went through and gave it a good cleaning and scrub down."
So, we walk in the door to this little crapbox shack. Noticing the 1943 GE fridge, the 1978 Zenith TV, the loosely plumbed gas lines running to the awesome 2 burner death machine stove precariously placed on a wooden "shelf", and rusted out water heater, we all just kind of stood there wondering if a raccoon was gonna jump out of a cabinet and attack us! I looked up and saw the wonderful skylight in the ceiling, and also noticed it was being taken up by a spider web the size of a hammock..and yup, it was still in use by the giant alien spider creature that weaved it! There were stains on the sheets and blankets, spiders and webs on the lights on the nightstands by the "beds", 3 shoes under 2 different beds, and none were pairs. Garbage behind the curtains, an uncontrollable gas furnace that was either on full blast spewing fumes into the air, or wouldn't kick on as your manhood was freezing to the stained satin sheets. I think you get the picture.. Just use your imagination and whatever nasty things you think of, they were in that cabin!
Kinda felt like a place a serial killer would hang out.. I'm glad we don't tour much anymore. I've been in some real dumps, but this place was the King Craphole! We stay at a local hotel now where you could eat off the floor, and she makes us fresh baked scones in the morning! And, it's 25 bucks less a night for us to stay! Ah, band life..
I decided my son was old enough to hear a live band as he was 10 years old. I took him to hear a well-known up-and-coming rock-rap male vocalist and his band. We sat close enough to see the band clearly, in the general-admission theatre of the famous university whose music program had set up the gig. The vocalist and his band came out and sounded great (just like their debut album that was on the radio every day). Everything was great until the sax player came out on stage, in a puff of fake stage smoke.
He was completely naked save a small sock covering his other horn. He blew on his sax, ignoring his impact on the scene, and every time he really strained and blew hard his package would lift itself up a little bit. I realized my kid was getting more than I had anticipated at his first rock show. I had to explain to him later that what he saw was not typical.
One night during a six night stand in the lounge at one of the casinos in Las Vegas, my band was playing its usual rendition of "Play That Funky Music." Just as the part of the song that goes "play that funky music 'til you die." came up, one of the dancers collapsed on the dance floor. Naturally, the party ground to a halt. Minutes later, the paramedics showed up and were unsuccessful in their attempts to revive him. You can imagine the dark humor that ensued for the rest of the week.
Back in the "Heavy Metal" days, my sister bought some red crushed velvet material and had a pair of pants custom made for my birthday. I think the material would have been better suited for curtains than pants, but they looked good on stage.
We set up and started playing, and everything was going swimmingly. I was getting excited, and performing some stage antics typical of our band and genre. When I did a kick to a crash cymbal, however, the whole crotch of my pants ripped out! I covered what I could with my bass guitar for the rest of our set, but it was still quite embarrassing.
I was playing in a rock show band at a club that had been sold to a new owner just before we played there. The previous management had run the club as a country-western bar for a long time and sold it to a man who had never owned a bar before and was a rock enthusiast. The guy had great plans for the place and closed for a week to paint and mildly renovate, and hired us to do the grand re-opening. But because he spent most of his budget on paint and us, he had nothing left for advertisement.
Opening night during the set-up, the sound man who also set up our flash pots and smoke machine was so worried about the large group of obviously country customers showing up that he got confused while loading the flash pots and put a small amount of sparkle powder and a large portion of black powder, instead of the other way around.
I ran the lights from stage with foot switches and we started the show with "Any way you want it" by Journey. All the lights were off and as we began the tune with 5-part harmony I hit the switch for pin spots on our faces. After the a cappella intro I kicked the two buttons that turned on the rest of the stage lights and lit up the flash pots, just as the music started. The boom from the black powder was deafening and the multiple blasts blew about 20 ceiling tiles down and smoke filled the room and emptied ALL of the customers and staff.
Fortunately nothing caught fire, but the other guitarist had most of the hair removed from one arm. In spite of us being an excellent band, everybody hated us except the club owner, who booked us back later ...after he advertised and got a rock crowd. We went over much better the second time!
Years ago while I was attending a well-known music school in Boston, I got a gig with a bar band fronted by an Elvis impersonator. This guy was only modestly talented but thought he was a musical genius. Rehearsals were a nightmare of conflicting instructions from Elvis, interspersed with hysterical rants about out-of-tune this, or off-time that, and if we can't get it together, there are plenty of musicians who he could hire. Actually the band was smokin'--it was Elvis' ears that were the problem.
"Elvis" told me that I was replacing a guitar player he fired because the poor guy wanted to be with his wife while she gave birth to their first child! He said "women have been having babies for two hundred years without their husbands being there..." Really? 200? But I digress.
After a few miserable rehearsals we have a gig booked in a crappy dive somewhere near Revere Beach, MA. On stage, I was positioned to Elvis' right. The gig begins uneventfully and Elvis is in fine form, dancing around robotically, singing badly, and periodically turning around to berate the drummer/bassist/sax player. This went on for a set or two and I was getting really bummed out. The gig was so horrible I felt like smashing Elvis over the head with my guitar.
I swear it was an accident. It really was. At some point during this musical mayhem the stars aligned perfectly for one glorious second. I forget the song he was butchering, but unbeknownst to me, Elvis decided to do a little spin move. This was unfortunate. For him.
At the exact moment Elvis was spinning his torso quickly down and to his right, something (maybe the ghost of the real Elvis?) compelled me to turn quickly and decisively up and to my left. I saw what was about to happen but it was too late. BOOM! Elvis slams into the hard rock maple headstock of my Strat, which catches him right in the forehead. I felt the wood dig in a little. He pulled back and staggered for a couple of steps and almost fell, and then, bent over, he looks up at me a little cross-eyed, and angrily mumbles something.
I actually felt bad for the poor guy, but at the same time it was all I could do to keep from bursting out laughing. I turned to look at my bandmates who were just staring blankly back at me. Rarely in life does karma come that instantly.
I called the music director the next day and quit.
Back in the mid `80s I was working with a local country band in Memphis, TN. I got a call from the band's vocalist one afternoon informing me that we had a gig that Saturday at the Memphis Air Show, a large outdoor event. Being dependent on playing music for a major portion of my income, my first question was: What does it pay? The answer: Nothing, but we'd get the band's name on the radio, there would be a big crowd and it would be great publicity for the band. I reluctantly agreed to do the gig.
When I met the band the next day to load up, I noticed they were packing many more speaker cabinets than we normally used. They just had the usual 100 watt 6 channel powered board that we used for small gigs, no extra power amps. I tried to explain that adding stacks of speakers to a 100 watt head would not give us a "BIG" sound, but my advice fell on deaf ears. (ha!)
We then headed to the gig with truckloads of unnecessary speakers and the singer's uncle's generator (there was no power in the field where we were playing, so a generator was required). When we arrived at the gig I was informed that we would be running a snake, so that the aforementioned uncle could run sound out front, on the 6 channel "vocals only" P.A. with giant stacks of speakers! We fired up the generator, plugged our gear in, and blew every single fuse in every piece of equipment on stage! It turned out the uncle's "welding" generator was set to generate DC, as opposed to the AC current that our equipment required.
We replaced all the fuses in the nick of time and finally began playing. Unfortunately, the snake we were using had no return cable to send a signal back to the monitors, so the singer had daisy-chained several short guitar cables back from the board to the monitors alongside the snake. Halfway through the first song someone tripped over the makeshift monitor cable system, killing the monitors! This happened about half a dozen times before someone finally found some duct tape and taped the cords together.
When the gig ended I breathed a sigh of relief. This horrible gig was finally over! It was just at that time that I heard the local radio station announce (previously unknown to me) that the band would be back tomorrow, same time, same place.
Needless to say I refused the next days gig, and my run with that particular band ended shortly thereafter.