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 finishing a set as atrium pianist on a cruise ship, I was about to walk up the staircase, which was spiral and majestic, when a passenger approached me and said "Awesome stairway." So I looked at the staircase and nodded my agreement, whereupon the passenger said "No, Stairway to Heaven," which I had just played. I thanked him.
During a set at the Flint Jazz Festival in 2002 we brought on a scratching DJ to play a song that he had recorded with us earlier in the year. He sounded real cool in the mix on the CD so we thought it would work in a live setting. We didn't rehearse with him, he just rolled his gear onto center stage and we counted the tune off and he started playing.
He had headphones on and after he missed the first couple of breaks we realized that he couldn't hear the band. He could only hear himself. When we got to the end of the tune he didn't stop, so we counted off another tune and continued the show. We had him turned down in the house mix but he had no idea what was happening. When we ended our set, he was still scratching and we had to tap him on the shoulder to let him know we were done. He just stopped and rolled his gear off the stage to much applause. We didn't know if the audience liked him or was just glad that he stopped.
I sit in with acoustic guitar player/singer occasionally. One day he called me about doing a "club" gig at a local bar. I accepted. I thought the job started a little late, but showed up around 10:30 to set up for an 11:30 start time. The place was deserted except for a couple of guys on a deck between two buildings (2 different clubs). One was the singer. The other was a security guy. I took my stuff in and started to set up on the deck. I asked the singer if he knew anything about the job and he said he didn't and it seemed as weird to me as it did to him. We finished setting up and sat around waiting. Around 11:15, 13 security guards came out of the still empty club on one side of us and had a meeting. As they were leaving to go back in the club, I asked one of them what was the deal? He said that around 12:00 midnight the club would be packed with 800 to 1200 guests. He wasn't lying. Most of them didn't speak English. Several of the security guards spoke Spanish.
Our job was to play for the overflow of people that came outside on the deck. They played loud Latin dance music (DJ) inside. Most of the time it bled out to our area.
The people were well dressed, friendly, and we got several tips playing the Americana stuff this singer did. I pretty much just "embellished" all night. Around 1:30 AM the large wooden deck that separated the two buildings split in half from one end to the other. Fortunately, it was only about 18 inches from the ground. No one was hurt. Security came out and moved all the people inside or to a lower deck area. We figured we could just get paid and split, since our now split deck was empty. We really didn't want to relocate to the other deck with our equipment. (Lazy)
We put the microphones away and were just about to take down the speakers when the head guy came up and said "You're contracted to play until 3:00"
We turned one speaker in the direction of the other deck and played instrumentals the rest of the night to an empty deck. We didn't bother hooking up the microphones again. I thing we played "Wipeout" twice (without a drummer).. They loved it. Some gigs are like being in the twilight zone. This was the weirdest one I've ever done.
Last week I got a call to play a frat party gig in South Carolina. I accepted the gig and opted to ride with the drummer to save gas and prolong the life of my car. I met the drummer at his house, and we embarked on our journey to the college. The first few hours of the drive were relatively normal, so we stopped for gas and continued on. Then things got interesting.
Between exits 22 and 23 on I-385, the ride started feeling strangely bumpy, as if there were large rocks on the road. We decided to pull over, and the car behind us did as well. A relatively urban-looking lady started yelling "Get out of the car!!!" at us, and at first we were a bit skeptical. Then, along with this statement she expressed, "THE CAR IS ON FIRE!!!" We decided this was our cue to exit the vehicle (at this point, smoke was billowing from the hood). Upon exiting the vehicle I could see the orange glow under the car. The oil had caught on fire and was dripping flames on the ground. We retreated a safe distance and watched as the car slowly burned.
About one minute after we were safely positioned, a large bald man with a fire extinguisher came running out of the woods. He urged the drummer to pop the hood, and then proceeded to put out the fire. After the fire was out, he explained that he was on his lunch break and just happened to notice us on the side of the road. We were relieved, as he had just saved our musical gear from a sure demise.
The drummer then called AAA, and while we waited for the tow truck arrive we conversed with a local police officer. We learned about his Dodge Charger, the way his 12 hour shifts worked, and about his talented family. Since it was cold outside, we hung out in the back of the cop car...which (had the cop not been so nice...) could have potentially been a bad idea.
About an hour later, the AAA tow truck showed up, and we were on our way to Clinton once again. We arrived in style--cramped in the front seat of the tow truck with the musical gear in the car towed behind. The show went relatively smoothly, minus one fight that broke out. We played "Free Bird" towards the end of the night, and retreated to the guitarist's dorm after the gig.
The next day, we hitched a ride with the drummer's mom--who drove out to SC from Atlanta to meet us. Thus ended the life of one drummer's vehicle, and one epic gig.
It was I think in '95 or '96, and my metal band was performing at some hole in the wall. No stage, just lights pointed at the floor. I was the star lead guitarist. After we did a sound check, we waited for people to arrive. Only 5 people showed, so I got so disappointed I drank many shots of vodka and beer.
By the time we were ready to perform, I couldn't even stand, let alone play. They took me to the van, and did the gig without lead guitar. Afterward my bass player put my $200 in my pocket, and took me home. The height of professionalism, I'd say.
Back in the '90s a band I was in got a gig playing at a big charity run. We were set up outside on the roof of a small building. Great sound, a sunny day, and a big crowd at the local university track stadium. "When you start playing," said the organizer, "we'll start the race."
Unfortunately, he hadn't taken into account that the stadium was the beginning and end of the race. When we hit the first chord, everyone began running OUT of the stadium. By the time we finished the first song, the place was deserted, and the gig was over.
I was with my bandmates passing through Santa Barbara CA. headed to Orange County where we had a gig the next day. While walking around browsing stores and what not and enjoying the nice day we found ourselves in this huge store that had a little bit of everything including a lot of used items. I ran across an odd sized guitar case that was leaned up against the wall so I opened it to see what it contained. Turned out to be one of those latin style instruments with the courses of 3 strings together, can't think of the name at the moment, but I had never seen one in person and was kinda thrilled and excited to mess with it.
I was plinkin' away and about that time this kinda dumpy old Hispanic man came up and tried to take it from me. He couldn't speak English and though not getting especially angry or too physical he was obviously trying to get it from me. I'm like "Hey gramps, I saw it first". But he wouldn't let up. I finally gave him a pantomime of "Dude, back off". With that he walked away and I look at my buddies like what was that all about. A few minutes later the guy comes back with a younger man that could speak English. Turned out the old man was a street musician and that was his personal guitar. He was friends with the store owner and he would set it in that particular spot when ever he took a break.
I was so embarrassed. I told the young guy to explain what happened and that I was very sorry. He was actually pretty cool about it smiled and shook my hand.
But I got ribbed about that the whole weekend. My bandmates were all "You big bully stealing an old man's guitar".
Quite a few years ago now, we worked and had a few memorable experiences with a rather heavy set drummer. Here are some stories:
It was the end of the night, and the last song for the gig. The drummer stood up in place to execute a roll on the cymbal to end the song. We got a nice audience response in reply, and as the drummer sat back down on his drum stool, the seat cracked and the shaft of the seat seriously went up his butt. We couldn't get it out and had to take him to the emergency room at the hospital to get it removed.
We played a Christmas party at an American Legion. Same drummer dressed up like Santa Claus for the gig to add a little festiveness to the show. A man in the audience got really drunk that night and somehow managed to start an argument with the drummer as they stood in the middle of the dance floor area. The argument turned physical and it was quite a strange sight to see Santa rolling around on the floor with some guy as he was pounding the crap out of him at a Christmas Party.
Same drummer, and the band was playing for a benefit in a gym at a local
high school. The benefit included free draft beer for the members of all of the participating bands who came out to play on their own time for the benefit. The benefit had started at noon and our band was next to the last
to finish out the event, which put us up on those risers at about 8 in the evening. The drummer had been drinking the free draft beer since noon.
Half way through our show, the drums stopped playing and we all turned around to see why he stopped playing. He had totally "vanished". With a pause in the show and a little investigation, we discovered that he had passed out from drinking and fell backwards off the riser and was laying on the floor out cold, and out of sight.
I was playing lead guitar for a local Country band and at the end of the night we played a song called "Momma don't allow no playing round here." The premis was to do a verse and let each player solo. It was our way of recognizing each member of the band. This was extremely up tempo and in the key of E. Our rhythm player always counted down and started the song. The count started and for whatever reason on this night, our rhythm player started in the key of C We knew right away we were in trouble as the rest of us started in E A ghastly collection of noise began to fill the air. Being on the other side of the stage I could not see his fingers so I yelled to the bass player "what key is he in? He responded I think he's in "G" To which I thought he said Key of "D" I turned to the keyboard player and said he's in "D" To recap Rhythm player in "C" bass in "G" lead and keyboard in "D" and drummer in "what in the world is going on??"
As the drone of noise continued and as our lead singer who never let us know who would be the first to solo; proclaimed " and here's Frank on keyboards!! We all dropped out, to nothing but silence and the sound of Frank, completly lost (as was I) tinkering on the keys trying to salvage a lead and laughing hystericaly.
By the middle of the song we finally got on the same page and finished what, to this day was the worst rendition of a song I have ever been part of.
But what makes the story classic is that as we finished this last song, the crowd who obviously had been at the bar all night long began this fist-pumping- hootin'n holloring- standing ovation- calling for an encore chant. We looked at each other cracking up laughing and 35 years later we still laugh about that night.
I was booked by an agency to play sax on a jazz gig on Thanksgiving Day for a corporate client at a very nice resort. Thinking there would be good food, as I was used to working for bands rather than agencies, I didn't eat lunch in preparation for my Thanksgiving feast at the gig. Surely they wouldn't keep us from the buffet on Thanksgiving!
5:00 call time arrives. I set up, sound check, and listen in horror as all the other gentlemen on the gig are discussing the dinners they just had.. at home. As it turned out, the gig was for a Canadian company, who don't observe Thanksgiving on the same day as we do in the States, and it was plated. We wouldn't be fed.
By the time the gig was over (10 PM) and I packed up and headed home, I was starving. Naturally, not a single business was open on Thanksgiving Day at 10pm, not even a grocery store. I got home and had to call my roommate and beg him to bring me leftovers from his family dinner so I could have something to eat.
To add insult to injury, I didn't get my check from the agent until February of the following year. Worst Thanksgiving Ever.
I was playing a gig in a south jersey club and we were doing a happy hour gig. 3 to 7 kind of thing. The bassist in our band was a stone alcoholic. I mean this guy would do a shot of whiskey and follow it with a Yuengling. After doing the shot he would pour some of the beer into the shot glass to get any sediment left from the shot. So we play 2 sets at the happy hour and i see this guy making his rounds. He must have had at least 10 shots of whatever while on our 25 minute break. We are getting ready to start our last set and i see our bassist staggering back to the stage with one eye shut. He stumbles onto the stage and puts his bass on. We were opening the set with the remake of that Bob Seger song Turn the page. We were doing Metallica's version. So he is standing on stage blowing like a flag in the wind. He plucked one note of the song then started to fall backwards hitting the wall in the back of the stage. He crashed and just slid down the wall and laid on the floor with his bass in his hand. One of our sound crew picked him up and laid him down on one of my drum cases on wheels and wheeled him into the band room. We finished the set without a bassist. We later had to take him to the emergence room and we left him there. He got out the next day and where do you think the first place he went to. His local bar.
Another night he was coming home from the bar loaded as usual. As he was driving he decided to change the station on the radio. At this point he ran into and hit 2 parked cars. So he leaves the scene and makes it home. While he was on his way home he sees the state police going to the scene that he just created. He thought he was home free. He pulls into his driveway and is getting ready to go in the house thinking he beat the accident. There was only one small thing he noticed when he was on his way into his house. He noticed that his front bumper was missing and the front bumper had his license plate on it. He just sat on the step and waited for the state police to come to his door which they did. LOL
This was in about 1975. We had dual guitars with double stacks, an oversized double set of clear blue drums, a big bass rig, and my seldom heard double cheese organ with a rotating speaker and an electric piano to boot. Our gigs always started the same way: Flash bombs, followed by the band tearing into a very hard Rock and Roll song. Only one problem, this gig was a SKI LODGE, in the SUMMER! All the hill people were looking at us like we were nuts.
This went on for about two hours, but no one left. We finally hit a southern rock tune, and the whole audience got up and were dancing and two stepping and partying. Everything went well thereafter.
We had a gig in an upscale hotel, and arrived an hour or so before the guests. There was an odor of sewage in the large banquet room, and the wall to wall carpet was wet and squishy. As we brought our equipment in, we realized there was something very wrong: the smell, the rug, and you could see wetness moving from the rug up the walls. There were some hotel employees with wet vacs moving around the room trying to get the problem under control as we set the equipment up.
By the time the guests were arriving the problem seemed to be taken care of, aside from the smell. We stood and watched as the cake was put on a small table for viewing, and the table collapsed, and the cake hit the floor. The employees just stared in disbelief and horror. We were trying not to laugh because it was so crazy. Then to top it off, once we started playing there was no pleasing the father of the bride, a constant barrage of demands and requests to turn down. Wedding from hell.
Back in the early to 1960’s, in certain combat zone bars, I was periodically asked to fill in for absent or undependable guitar players in the local country bands. Being still in high school at the time, I was essentially a ‘bar room know-nothing’. Part of the gin-mill introductory education I was given was the directive to stop playing what ever song we were in and start playing the Gillette (“Look sharp…”) theme whenever we spotted any altercation that broke out in the bar or on the dance floor. That “Look Sharp…” tune was unmistakable and it gave the big guys, playing cards in the back room, time to come out and take care of business and clean up the mess before the Boston police could make it to the bar. It really worked.
My band was playing at a dinner/dance club one summer in the late 80's. The first set was pretty mild for the dinner crowd and we'd build up to a great rock set. Well this particular night, the manager had a problem with our volume. Our drummer was a large man, 6'-4" about 275 lbs, and abrasive as a brillo pad. We called him King, and he was the epitome of a hard rock drummer: he loved to ROCK!
The club owner asked our drummer to play quiet, a few times, finally asking him "Don't you have some brushes or something?"
The King replied in his best Andrew Dice Clay attitude, "What, do you want me to paint something?"