I was playing drums in a 2 piece for a while, and after writing and recording two albums, we decided we'd do a local gig for friends and family. He paid for the venue and soundman all by himself, he was willing to take the hit for the good of the gig, plus we could make a bit back on CD sales. To cut a long story short, the day didn't start too well (we were let into the place two hours late) and then we proceeded to have a SIX HOUR soundcheck. The soundman didn't have a clue how to set up the PA (it had been taken apart the night before, don't ask me why) and it took forever just to get going. I straight away realized we'd be done up like pups when he slapped 58s on the snare, toms and hat, but we appeared to be non-priority as the rehearsal facility hiring out the venue had most of their gear out on the road for the summer festivals.
As the soundcheck progressed, I obviously didn't trust the soundman, so I plugged a Minidisc into the desk and listened back periodically. It didn't sound too bad. You may ask why the singer/guitarist didn't step out into the room to have a listen - well he would have, but his lead didn't reach far enough to be able to stand out in the room and play and listen at the same time. We were more or less happy though, as we wanted to take away a fair recording.
We did the gig and everything was going well up until about ten songs in, when there was a massive powercut. There was a rainstorm outside and some water had dripped onto the electricals. Half the people left and it was pretty much game over. Eventually power was restored and we continued on. We were thinking "at least we'll have the recording to take away".
So we finished the gig, packed up, went home and all that, but I was horrified by what I heard on the recording the next day. Everything sounded fairly good at the start of the first song (as in, the mix we were happy with at the end of the soundcheck), but then the full extent of the soundman's madness became apparent. He was panning the guitar around, turning the backing track up and down, taking the entire kit out of the mix mid-song, then putting it back in, plus he kept turning the vocals on and off. We were horrified and very surprised nobody in the crowd noticed. Needless to say, we never went back to that place.
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!
We headlined a famous local club in 1989, and I was 21 years old. Hometown crowd, packed house.. An assured night of pop metal glory. I sang a nice ballad, and hit the high A in chest voice. I felt like a peacock so I held it out a little longer. My voice cracked hideously just as the sound guy hit the delay hold button. It sounded akin to a goose getting killed with a pen knife and fighting for it's life. Utterly humiliating.. Even my industrial strength aqua net hair spray couldn't hold my head high after that.
At one particular show, one of my friends decided to mess with some techs.. He was asking people if they were his father, by chance. Most of the knew it was all in fun, but this one audio guy took it so badly. Upon the posing of the inquiry, "Are you my daddy?" in a whiny, near tears voice, the guy spiked an arm-load of cable and exclaimed loudly that he quit. He was VERY serious, and had disappeared by load out.
This is really a two-night anecdote - a study in wackiness out there in gigland. One night I played with a jazz quartet at a posh downtown hotel. We were human ambiance for a group of about 200 corporate types in a small ballroom. We were playing some nice quiet standards, minding our own business as usual. At several points during the first set some cheese from the "end client" came rushing up to the bandstand to tell us that we were too loud. This was utterly ridiculous. First, we don't play loud; we have been doing this kind of work for decades and the prime directive of this kind of gig is to play sotto voce enough for the guests to be able to converse normally. This usually results in there being a dull roar of voices accompanied by a barely distinguishable music track. 'Music for an ant farm,' one of my friends calls it. Also, I was observing people right in front and to the side of the bandstand. None of them were leaning into one another to be heard or shouting or showing any signs of aural distress. It got to the point where we were practically miming.
Then the very next night I played an event at a large, well-known store in downtown Chicago. We were on a small stage in a sizable open area. This was a piano, bass and drums jazz trio - not a very powerful group, volume-wise.
As the festivities were about to commence, we noticed that the recorded music was still "on" in the room (in fact, it was the second movement of Beethoven's 6th Symphony). We asked our contact to see if it could be turned off and she got right on the horn to call the A/V dude. We sat there on stage waiting for a healthy ten minutes. Finally, we were asked to start playing and assured that the recorded music would be terminated momentarily.
So we played a tune. As we were finishing up, the final chord was swallowed up by the sound of some song by Prince. Apparently, the classical music had been replaced by dance music and was, of course, much louder and more obnoxious. So we sat there again for ten or fifteen minutes, waiting for the aforementioned engineer to, you guessed it, turn off the music. Again, and this time less pleasantly, we were asked to start playing regardless of the utter absurdity of trying to make music over this din. But - we're pros, so we soldiered on.
Eventually, someone high enough on the managerial food chain managed to find the "off" switch and we were left to our own sonic devices for a few minutes. Suddenly we were interrupted yet again, this time by the sound of the DJ literally blasting from the center of the store. It was teeth-rattlingly loud. We were well over a hundred feet away but we could barely hear ourselves think, let alone play anything coherent.
I flashed back to the previous night and pondered the philosophical implications of just what, exactly, too loud might mean. Clearly, anyone even close to the DJ's speakers couldn't possibly hold a conversation above that decibel level, but we were told that this is what the store wanted. They wanted to create the impression that the people over there were in a dance club. Meanwhile, we were supposed to be playing in an intimate jazz bar or some such silliness.
Luckily it was only a five hour gig.
The band was hired to play at an open-air flea market very early (8 or 9 AM) one Sunday morning. Our directionally challenged keyboard player had problems finding the venue and we had to start on time or risk being docked pay. Since we had his gear in the trailer, we set it up anticipating he would be there sooner or later.
We ended up setting up in the street. No stage, not even a make-shift riser. We had specifically agreed with the promoter to play as a 5-piece, and since #5 wasn't there, I (roadie) jumped behind his set-up to fill out the line-up. I received many compliments from some nice octogenarian ladies who asked me how long I had practiced the piano and I kindly made up a bogus number of years. They tipped us $20, which was really nice, since neither the keyboards or the microphone were even plugged in.
I am the Videoman, the Producer, Director, Financer and promoter for a known act. I set up my close up camera to get the guitar player rolling down the neck of the Strat. Seven months of pre-production for a three minute song about a lovestruck rocker trying to woo his sweetheart. I have a blockbuster vid and bring it back to the studio only to find that the sound man pulled my plug. OUCH!!!