Crazy Gig Stories by and for Working Musicians

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Roast up a Pig for Johnny

Location: 
USA
Type of Gig: 
Biker Bash

I will do my best to accurately retell this story, but I must admit it has been over 20 years ago, so there will probably be some inaccuracies, but certainly not on purpose.

I had just finished high school and was playing in a "punk" band. A more accurate description would be a rock band that played songs inspired by punk, alternative, and new wave bands of the 70’s and 80’s. Our “power trio” was performing at a country club converted into a dive to our usual audience, the bartender. We were playing our usual collection of terrible songs (about the contents of Pepsi, seeing your grandmother naked, killer bees), which included a "punk" version of "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" when the wide double doors of the club flew open and a handful of Harley Davidsons came roaring onto the dance floor, scaring the shit out of us! As the club filled up with smoke, we stood very still...shocked. This was a small town and the last thing we expected was any audience, especially not bikers. We were convinced that we were going to die.

The bikers exited the building. As the smoke was clearing, an older man in a leather jacket walking with a cane and a woman under each arm came in and approached us. He said his name was "Pops" and that we were going to play for his Biker Bash. He also informed us that they would be roasting a pig and that we would be paid, fed, and provided with drinks. Oh, and he said there would be a Wet T-shirt Contest. He made no mention of what was required from us except to be there. After writing down the date of the gig and confirming that we would be there, Pops and his girls disappeared into the night. The three of us looked at each other with the biggest WTF expressions you can imagine.

Now we will fast-forward to the day of the gig. We arrived at the shotgun style building. A tiny stage had been fashioned out of plywood and 2x4's. We set up our PA, lights, and instruments. While this was going on, we watched a Harley connect itself to some chains that appeared to be buried in a huge fire pit. As the bike began to spin tires, tugging away at the chains, what appeared to be two old bed springs sandwiching a roasted pig came lurching up out of the ground...on fire and smoking...smelling like barbeque. It was equally exciting and traumatizing, especially when you could see the head of the roast beast. Things were about to get interesting.

As night began to fall, we were informed that it was time for the Wet T-shirt Contest to begin. After that spectacle was complete, it was time to take the "stage." We had rehearsed some cover tunes in an effort to appease the crowd. Playing tunes by Led Zeppelin and similar went over well. It wasn't too long before we received our first request. A biker came up and introduced himself as Johnny B. Goode. He requested...you guessed it..."Johnny B. Goode." We played it and continued along with our first of two sets. We had probably played two or three songs when our new friend Johnny returned to the stage to request...that's right..."Johnny B. Goode" again. We agreed and did so. Bikers began to mount and ride circles around the fire pit, drowning out the music. We didn't mind since it was drawing attention away from us, allowing us a chance to play our own music for a moment or two. It was then that we first heard gunshots. They were racing around the fire, riding their bikes, and shooting guns. I was glad they were aiming into the air and not at the band. That's a different story for another day. Moments later, our friend Johnny returned...he had been getting progressively drunker as the night carried on. His request for his song was much more insistent than the previous two times. We honored his request, especially after hearing the guns; we thought it best to do so.

A friend of ours showed up at the bash. He was older, more experienced, and more talented than we were. We asked him to set in with the band on a few tunes. "Born To Be Wild" came roaring out of our shitty little PA system. He sang the opening line "Head out on the highway, looking for my dentures!" We knew things were going to get weird (er) at that point. In the middle of "Roadhouse Blues" (where Jim Morrison rambles on in a scat style) He began singing, "Who can turn the world on with her smile? Who can take a nothing day, and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile?" It's amazing how well the "Mary Tyler Moore" theme "Love Is All Around" works with "Roadhouse Blues"...while bikers race around a huge fire, drinking, shooting guns, with semi-naked women hanging on behind them. It is moments like this when you stop and think...long and hard...about the direction your musical career is taking.

We finished our last song, put our gear away, and realized it was time to go see Pops in hopes of being paid. I was worried that there may be a possibility of being bilked, despite Pops being good on his word about everything else. I walked into the bar and down the long, narrow path to the table where Pops was setting, girls by his side. My band mates were behind me to back me up in case anything went wrong. …and by back me up, I mean we were more than willing to run away from any confrontation at that point. Pops complimented us on our work, paid us the agreed amount, and asked us to sign a receipt for double the amount "for tax reasons." He then told us he wanted us to come back for one more gig.

We said "Yes."

Thanks, Pops. Your word was golden and three teenage boys learned a little bit about life in the process and gained a story to tell our kids...some day.

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