Gigs From Hell

pwc1141

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I am sure we all have them but my favorite is this .....a big city hotel had a very ambitious New Year's Eve event in their spacious and lofty lobby with a 6 tiered stage where a 16 piece band and multiple singers were to be the main event. I was booked to do a 90 minute warm up show in a jazz quartet led by a very fine French clarinet/sax player, his son on bass and - against my advice - his son's piano teacher girlfriend on keyboard. The place was crowded with at least a thousand people milling around and I climbed up to the top tier where the big band drummer's kit was and we set up there. The leader wanted to go get an insulin shot and asked the three of us to start off without him. "Lullaby of Birdland" is called and we start but after about 4 and half choruses, the female pianist just stops and looks at me. I whisper "WTF ?" and she says "I thought you would like a solo"..... "Yes", I said "but not half way through a chorus !!" at that she started to cry and ran to the side of the stage. Her boyfriend on bass then rushed off to console her. So about 20 feet in the air with lights on the stage, I am sitting there all alone. Luckily. within a minute the clarinet player reappears and after I quickly explain what happens, he calls "Sweet Georgia Brown" as a brushes and clarinet duo. We get going and after a chorus or two he spots the F&B manager all the way down at ground floor and decides to go kiss-ass and leaves me doing that brushes and bass drum vamp thing once again all alone, way up in the air near the ceiling with all the folks below wondering and great spotlights on me. He and the others did return but it got worse from there on .......
 

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Targalx

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Ha! Well, I would need an entire forum and an entire year to type out all of my gigs from hell. From showing up to a venue and the owner saying, "Who are you? We didn't book a band for tonight!" to having some drunk guy leap headfirst right into my kit at a frat house party while I playing (to be expected, so I brought the "thrasher kit"), to driving 100+ miles out into a rural area for a gig only to forget your bass drum pedal (guess who LITERALLY kicked the kick drum all night because finding a kick pedal was absolutely impossible?), to playing a gig in France with an unruly crowd who was constantly talking smack about us, only to later realize that my singer was Canadian and understood every word they said, and at the very end of the gig, started speaking in perfect French to a sea of astonished faces!
 

Trilock_Gurtu

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Played a gig where a guy in the crowd was shot in the head, a hit, we later found out. I didn't hear it from the stage, but saw the flash, and then people freaking out, running, etc. Cops locked the club down, we were there for many hours as they interviewed everyone, processed the scene. There's been no nightmare gigs after that one.
 

SwivoNut

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We played a wedding reception in a Knights of Columbus hall in an upscale neighborhood next door to the township police station. During the first set a fight broke out on the dance floor - all women - and boy, can they fight dirty. Second set - same thing. Third set - same thing. The leader said to pack up, we're getting out of here so we left without playing the fourth set. Sometime after we left there was a shooting in the parking lot. Several days later we got a nasty letter from the bride's father demanding a rebate for the set we didn't play. We had to oblige because we signed a union contract specifying that we would play four sets.
 

shuffle

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Simple but ugly
Biker gig
1976
Benefit for Scrap Iron,he llost both legs
Three clubs there
Goldwing burnt to a crisp in the bonfire!
400 bikers
25 women
1 German Shepherd on acid.
Buck knives full of powders
Played from 9pm to 6am with help from the powders!
Not a fun gig!
No beatings,no shootings just ugly
 

gbow

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Some fan decided to bring a monkey to the show! You know, one that supposedly sits on your shoulder and looks cool, preferably on a lease.

Between the crowd, noise, whatever, the darn thing freaked out. Got loose, couldn't be caught, jumping around all over the place. Winds up on stage, on my drumkit, knocks over a cymbal and proceeds to pee all over the drums!

Not sure how it was eventually caught, but I think it bit a couple of people along the way. I actually felt bad for the poor thing, not going to say what I think of the person who brought it.

We took a break immediately!

gabo
 

moodman

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Boston '67, a party for graduates of Cardinal Cushing College. It takes place on a small fishing boat in Boston harbor.
There is only room for half the students at a time, so two trips. The chart table had been removed from the cabin and that is where we set up. We squeeze into the space provided and I find that the beer bar is directly behind me and, all night long, plastic cups dripping with beer are passed over me (I got my share but was soaked) and everything was wet anyway because we're on a boat. A mic stand touching my floor tom rim made it shock me when ever I touched it, and on the first break, the bass player trips over a coiled rope on deck and bashes his nose, which bled profusely. By the end of the night my hands were bleeding from small cuts I got by hitting stuff as the boat pitched around. When it was finally over, as we loaded off that tub, the crew, an old man, a middle aged woman and a boy, presented us with neckties. The had a bunch of ugly, clown puke neckties, that looked used, and gave us each one, why?, I've never been able to figure that one.
 

moodman

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Playing the Hogshead Brewpub in old Sacramento '85, we set up in a basement room with 3 windows behind the band that open on an alley that descends so, small window behind guitar, larger behind me and a full window behind the bass man. We are playing the first set when I notice, in the stage lights, that the guitarist seems to be enveloped in a fine mist. Someone was in the alley urinating right by the window and it was splashing in , my window was closed and the bassman slammed his shut just as a second stream started there. Guess they didn't like blues?
To the guitarists credit, I guess, he finished the tune before going to clean up.
Parked next to my van that night, was a car and trailer with a home-made sign on the trailer, 'Red Hot Chili Peppers'. I'd never heard of them and thought it must be a latin band. I can't help but wonder if those pee'ers were peppers.
 

Roch

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One night while we were playing to a packed floor , unbeknownst to us one of the waiters placed a free round of sweet Drambuie shots on the back grate of our old 80’s Peavy sound board. They eventually rattled and a couple tipped over into the the grates. The pa started to squeal like crazy, sending many running for the exits with their hands over their ears. We still didn’t know why. When we figured it out out we discovered that the main channels were shot so we had to flip the monitors around and make due with those.to top it off, the old sound board was a loaner from a buddy..
 

TheBeachBoy

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We played a wedding reception in a Knights of Columbus hall in an upscale neighborhood next door to the township police station. During the first set a fight broke out on the dance floor - all women - and boy, can they fight dirty. Second set - same thing. Third set - same thing. The leader said to pack up, we're getting out of here so we left without playing the fourth set. Sometime after we left there was a shooting in the parking lot. Several days later we got a nasty letter from the bride's father demanding a rebate for the set we didn't play. We had to oblige because we signed a union contract specifying that we would play four sets.
Then you charge the equivalent of that last set back to them for hazard pay.

I don't have many nightmares like the ones you all have shared. The worst is probably for setup/teardown. We had to bring our gear around the side of the house, which the front and back had an elevation difference of 2-3 levels, so the ground was really steep. I had everything in my Rock n Roller like normal (minus the hardware case) and it was still almost dragging me down. I think at one point I was sliding down. I'm sure it looked quite comical. The gig itself was fine. A really hoity toity to-do, and the hosts were really appreciative of us.

The other time was when I wasn't sure if I broke my foot. This was on St. Patrick's Day a couple years back. We had just played a gig at an Irish bar and were going to set up for our second gig. I was driving our singer but he was taking a while to get the check for the first gig. We finally get to the second one and I wanted to order food before we played, so I got all my stuff and the singer gets his. I locked my car because I thought he had grabbed all the rest of his gear. Turns out, he still needed something. He asks for my keys so I toss them to him, but he can't see because there was a streetlight behind me creating a silhouette. The keys go down a storm drain, and with my temper, I kick the wall, yelling profanities. The guitarist and singer were able to get my keys, but I had to set my drums up with the bass drum and hi hat switched, so I could play the BD with my left and rest my injured right foot on the hi hat pedal, with a bag of ice on it. Turns out I had just sprained it and it healed up within a couple weeks. I only missed one or two gigs before it felt good enough to use. So, that was my self-induced nightmare. I've gone to anger management since then and have gotten a lot better.
 

Erik

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I've had a few, but this story is one of my "favorites" -
I think it was late summer 1986 in Pocatello ID. I was fresh out of high school playing in a cover band. We were on a circuit and we had a 1950's school bus that we traveled in. Typically 4 nights a week sometimes 5. Anyway, we played at Crystals Palace, which was a biker bar across the street from a sugar beet processing plant. The plant made the whole block smell like a garbage can. That week there had been several fights, threats against the band, the band housing was disgustingly dirty and I slept in the bus. When we finished on Saturday night, several bikers approached the stage, all with fire arms visible, but not drawn. We were told that they had decided that we could keep our gear! Oh thanks! And that we would not be paid for 4 nights work. The bar was out of business and we had played their last party. The next couple hours was very tense, everything we carried out was looked over by a biker and "approved" or questioned. Our female singer was harassed relentlessly but untouched. We were not allowed to leave until all the bikers had left. They took our bus keys and threw them into a dumpster. One of the guys gave me a 5th of Jack and said it was for being a good sport. The booking agent paid us a couple days later and promised better bookings. I gave my two weeks notice and joined a different band on the same circuit.
 

kdgrissom

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I had a Jazz trio for a few years. I had the contacts and got the calls, so I always booked the gigs. We had about 50 well rehearsed tunes in our repertoire that were tailored to playing receptions, cocktail parties and dining gigs, where we were background ambiance...not on display or the center of attention.
My Guitarist one day decides to make some calls and books a gig for us. It was at a huge, multi-story assisted-living facility on Valentine's Day. The money was good so we agreed to do it. What the Guitarist held back until we started setting up was that this had been promoted as a "Dance".
I was immediately filled with dread, because we didn't have any real dance tunes, except for some Bossa Nova and thirties swing classics. We came under continual verbal backlash from numerous fire-breathing Women in their mid-80's (all "Arthur Murray" dance school graduates), who wanted Cha-Cha, Rhumba, Mambo etc. The Guitarist kept his eyes to the floor during the onslaught and I wished to offer him as a human sacrifice to the dance-starved octogenarians angrily milling about the dance floor!
My lovely Wife refers to this gig as the "St. Valentines Day Massacre"
 

pwc1141

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The rough gigs some of you have related stories of remind me of my early days as a newly arrived young guy in Sydney, Australia where I played in pubs where even the bouncers had Alsatian dogs. At one we had police break up brawls with me swinging a heavy mic stand to keep the brawlers from our stage gear, at another the crowd reacted to our decision as talent quest judges and and the bass player was hit with one the bottles thrown at us, and at yet another a Hawaiian dancer doing her thing during our break was seriously manhandled by a drunk and and was knocked out cold by her manager ...... oh the joys of youth ...... :)
 

EvEnStEvEn

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Gigs from hell?
Heck, I take at least one every year.

The latest was several months ago. Wedding reception. In a barn. for $250 each.
After driving down some jagged muddy backwoods farm roads for an hour we finally arrive to discover a tin barn with no floor - only manure.
That's the only available place we could set up to perform thanks to some plywood sheets that were provided.



Yep, I played 3 sets on uneven rickity plyboard placed atop a manure pit.
 

willythekid

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bay area
Simple but ugly
Biker gig
1976
Benefit for Scrap Iron,he llost both legs
Three clubs there
Goldwing burnt to a crisp in the bonfire!
400 bikers
25 women
1 German Shepherd on acid.
Buck knives full of powders
Played from 9pm to 6am with help from the powders!
Not a fun gig!
No beatings,no shootings just ugly
Oh yeah, I had almost the same, with east coast Pagans..
 

moodman

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Playing the '86 NAACP Blues festival in Sacramento, we set up my drums, my Carvin PA, the guitarist's Mesa Boogie and a an Ampeg bass amp. The stage got accidentally wired with 220 and when the power was turned on, my Carvin board, sitting on my kick case next to me, started vibrating, actually moving. The ampeg gave out a cloud of smoke.
Lights for dance groups and DJ sound systems fried too. Instead of playing, we made a trip to Skip's and put stuff in the shop. The Boogie skated as it hadn't been plugged in, the Ampeg cost $150 to repair and the in the Carvin, the electricity had arced past the fuse, without blowing it, and was stopped by a $1.69 part that was there to do just that. We got paid and reimbursed for the equipment repairs, I kinda hated it for the NAACP. We played another gig for them opening for Hank Ballard.
 

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