Gigs From Hell

Erik

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Hilarious reading all your gig fiascos!

Today I remembered one I previously posted about in 2009.


I once got a call from a pick-up band I barely knew to play for a Jeeper's Jamboree campground that was so deep into the Sierra mountains it could only be reached by helicopter or a 2.5-day jeep journey. The band chose to take the copter - so our PA, drums, guitars and amps were transported in a giant net swinging beneath us. Really scary.
I was reassured the pay would be "well worth the trouble" after it was all said and done.

Load-in took three chopper trips in and three out for us & our gear. We played on a huge flat rock in a large natural ampitheatre stage made of giant rocks surrounded by a meadow and pine trees. This was an annual event so they had actual electricity on site. no generators, thankfully.

It looked pretty cool when we got there, but after 3 evening shows and 2 nights of camping there I was miserable.
NO showers - had to bath in the creek.
Our sets were from 9pm to midnight. The audience were Jeepers + wives & friends numbering in the hundreds except by 9:30 pm most of them were back in their tents bedding down after each days events which began at 6am so most of our performances were played to tents with sleeping Jeepers inside.

After the gig I was informed the pay only worked out to be about $75 a day after all that work & hassle - a complete waste of my time for approximately 250

During the long awkward drive home with the bandleader I firmly expressed my disinterest regarding any future jobs with them - I couldn't even look at him anymore, lol.

I was so exhausted getting home that I slept for 16 hours.
The heli ride would have been a great experience. I've ridden in one once and loved it, but it was an executive type and very nice inside. The view in the Sierra's must have been beautiful.
 

khoop

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Steven, was that the Rubicon? They' still doing it. I live in Georgetown where they start the Jeepers Jamboree but I've managed to dodge that bullet so far.
 

moodman

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Our Van broke down as we got to a gig about 30 miles from home. After the last set, we're looking for a ride home and a guy from our town offered us a ride. Turns out he was celebrating getting out of prison, was quite drunk and the fun wasn't over. As we left town on a two lane, he keeps increasing in speed and when he hits about 80, he starts driving in the wrong lane. 'I ain't scarin' you guys am I?" 'No, no man" we lied.
'Good, cause I don't wanna scare you, I want to kill you!" At this point, flying down the road in the wrong lane, he slams on the brakes and we slide into a construction zone where, to our relief, he gets out and starts taking a whiz. We get the F out too and refuse to get in the car unless he lets someone else drive. He finally lets the one guy that knew him drive. He sat shotgun with a guy between him and the driver who had to keep him from grabbing the wheel every minute or two.
Not at a gig but kinda music related. Me and a buddy start out hitch hiking in San Francisco heading for Indianoplace. Our first ride is two dudes in VW bug who claim they're going east. When they get to where we should cross the bay bridge, they turn and start down the bayshore. We ask if they have a map and the passenger says 'I'll look' and when he opens the glove compartment, the only thing in it is a big automatic pistol. There's no way out of the back seat of a bug and it didn't look good. " ok dudes, you're robbed" he said as he took the pistol in hand.
I had 2 $20 traveler's checks and about $4, my buddy was broke. Though we had hair to our shoulders, the guy with the gun, who kept opening the door to puke, kept saying 'let's shoot 'em man, they're cops" They took the $4 and held a gun on my friend while we made two stops and cashed the traveler's checks, buying a pack of Marlboros and orange juice each time. The 'let's shoot 'em' guy kept at it until, going through my wallet, he finds my Musicians' Union card, #54 Santa Rosa. 'You're a musician? Oh, man, we're sorry we have to do this, we're junkies man, we can't help it" both guys apologizing for robbing us!
They let us out in a housing construction area, they let us keep our backpacks and weed. ( I did keep my pack behind my head as we walked away from them, just in case he did shoot) These guys were jonesing and puking, we figured that we probably could have took 'em, but that gun.
We had a tale to tell and got help and free food on the road. In 1971 musicians were respected, today we'd probably have been shot.
 
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Erik

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Ok, 1 more. 1st band I joined after moving to Indy was playing a big charity event at a downtown hotel. A lot of effort went into preparing for the gig. This event was tied to the NFL combine being across the street. Lots of big wigs, old money, nfl players, coaches and owners in attendance. Our singer never showed, totally blew us off. We played 1 set with our sax covering vocal melodies and we were fired. The organizer was understandably pissed off. The singer told us that she had been in hospital with diabetic symptoms and couldn't call. A couple weeks go bye and I'm telling a coworker about the night and a few minutes later she comes in from her car with a program for a blues and jazz review featuring our singer from the same night! When confronted with the evidence, she quit and walked out. She had been planning the review, which she booked and promoted and thought she would be able to make both gigs since we were starting late. I haven't worked with her since.
 

blueshadow

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Well no one died and it was in a nice enough place and the band was ok and the pay was good....but it was a country dance band playing for a men's club and none of them brought their wives or girlfriends. 200 men in the room sitting on their hands listening to us for 3 hours....Now That's HELL!
 

bongomania

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Well no one died and it was in a nice enough place and the band was ok and the pay was good....but it was a country dance band playing for a men's club and none of them brought their wives or girlfriends. 200 men in the room sitting on their hands listening to us for 3 hours....Now That's HELL!
Did you try playing Rawhide?
 

TheElectricCompany

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I was too young to know better when I was playing my gigs from hell. In high school all the gigs in my town were easy listening dinner gigs. I was in a band that wanted to be the next Led Zeppelin, starting with our volume. Restaurants and coffee shops sure clear out quick when you open your set with War Pigs turned up to 11. I'm surprised no one ever kicked us out, but then again, we were pretty damn good.

I managed to find photos of what at the time was a smoothie bar we played. Imagine a high school band playing nothing but Zeppelin, Sabbath and originals for 90 minutes in a room this small, with a dozen tables of people trying to drink crappy smoothies. This was par for the course in Katy, Texas, in 2006.



 
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singleordoubleheads

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Wow! So many incredible stories...not sure if mine measure up but here goes--

--Waaay back when I first started playing (this was 1987) I was in a old-timey (mostly) country band with guys at least 30 years older than me and they all liked their beer. So we were booked for a 7(!) hour day-long gig!! 7 sets starting at noon and going to 7 with sets lasting 45 min and a 15 min break. Here's the kicker--it was OUTSIDE on a flatbed along a main highway in June!! I think we had a small roof but can't remember now...it was hotter than hell and our guitar player got so drunk he nearly fell off the stage and down a steep hillside directly behind us. I think we only made 50 per man iirc! I would NEVER take that gig nowadays, but back then I didn't know any better LOL!

--A few years after the last story (1995) I was in a MUCH better country-rock band that did pretty well around our area. Our bass player got us our 1st gig at a new place and we were all excited to play there, but the first 2 sets were dead and as was pretty customary around here, we offered to quit early and just take half the money. Not an ideal situation but we didn't want to play all night and risk getting stiffed. Well...the owner wasn't around (naturally) and the barmaid was having a hard time getting him on the phone. Anyway, he FINALLY shows up and is OBVIOUSLY high as a kite and VERY agitated. We TRIED to reason with him and point out that we were trying to SAVE him money by quitting early since the joint was empty. He VERY angrily grabbed a huge pile of case out of a bag and dumped it on the bar and shoved it at us saying (paraphrasing)"here's your F-ing money, now get the F out and you'll never play here or Club X--a different place way across town--AGAIN!!!!" We happily left, but sure as sh!t, our gigs at Club X disappeared as well. What a kook!!!
 
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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 .......
Bless your heart!! hope you avoided them after that!!
 
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I've got one. Back in the 80's we got a call to do a wedding. All I really knew is that it was on an island off the coast of Maine. I stored most of the band's equipment in my barn, so I loaded the truck like I always did and set off for Maine...2 hours. We were told to all meet in this parking lot...got there and there was a school bus sitting there, we're all looking at each wondering what joy ride were we going on. We were told to unload and reload everything on the bus, which we did. With our cars left behind we all boarded the bus and drove for about 15 minutes. We came to a dirt road where the bus had to back down to the waters edge. The island was about 5 miles out. So we pull all our stuff out of the bus and roll everything on casters or by hand truck down this very long and uneven slatted dock. At the end of the dock there was a lobster boat (seriously) waiting for us....soooooo once again we load everything into the boat and off we went. I'll mention here that we had quite a bit of gear. Everything was midi including the drum triggers. We finally see roughly where we are going, to a huge mansion up on a hill in the middle of the island. The kicker was that we got to the island at low tide and the dock was a good ten feet up above the boat. Using a wooden ladder which was attached to the side of the dock we daisy chained the equipment up to a driveway where..guess what, a pickup truck was waiting. So we load THAT friggin truck up...we were all bull&%$( at this point. It took two trips up the hill. We felt we were home free only to find out we had to carry all the gear up a flight of stairs where we would be playing on a porch. It was so windy that my crash cymbals were flopping up and down on their stands.

When the gig was over we had to do the same exact set of exchanges. I had to draw a picture to figure it out but we ended up loading and unloading 4 times each way, YES we handled the gear 16 times.............and by the way I had just had an operation on my neck...C5/C6 and I was wearing a full collar brace around my neck. I told the guys I was not going to be involved in any of the loading, risking snapping my neck, but I felt so bad for them that I got involved as much as I could. I came real close to killing the leader by the time this was all over with. I don't remember what we made but it wasn't enough!
WINNER!!!
 

dale w miller

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Here's one from a very special place in hell... Northern Florida.

My band was on tour and we played this youth place... I honestly have blacked out the name in my memory... but the first 2 bands went on and the crowd was having a good time. Some "dancing" (read moshing/slam dancing) people were clapping yelling and generally having a ball. We got on and started playing and they all sat down and watched us. Not. One. Peep. No talking inbetween songs no cheers or movement, nothing.... it was like a freaky twilight zone episode. We kept mouthing "what the fxxxk" to each other. So we ended the set a little early and said thanks and packed up. Truly the gig from hell.
Ugh. That would have sucked.

Different style? My guess is the crowd wasn’t there to see you.
 

Tmcfour

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Ugh. That would have sucked.

Different style? My guess is the crowd wasn’t there to see you.
Yeah it was just strange. Never before or after had that kind of reaction. The funny thing was years later I was contacted on Facebook by this guy who was at that show and he said he had been a fan of our since seeing us at that show.
 

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Maybe not the worst gig, I play in a Christian group, we were asked to play at a cowboy church after a rodeo event. The first thing that happened is our bass player couldn't make it, our leaders daughter who used to play with us wasn't able to make either, so I knew someone and he said he could. So as we were setting up all three bass players showed up (I guess three is better than none) the second thing was after the rodeo the maincowboys played out in the arena for an hour and a half. By the time everyone got in and had their meal, it got real cold and the wind started to blow real hard. We actually got a real stage (one of those fold up trailers) We had to tie the music stands to the rail. We played to a very small crowd (due to the cold and wind) I had to put weights on my cymbal stands, and a few times went for my ride cymbal only to find it not there (it hadn't blown over, the wind just turned it vertical)
 

moodman

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My band, Big Finn, played a lot of small Kansas towns. In one the only power source for the outdoor gig was a plug on a light post, on the town square. The cord would not stay plugged in so, a guy shinnied up the pole an held the plug in for our entire set. He slipped from time to time so, we got used to the power going out at least once in the song. If it was me, I'd have taped that mother, gotten a ladder or longer cord to an easier plug. so often venues and those responsible for making gigs happen are So inappropriate.
 

CSR

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I got a call from a middle-aged “girl” singer who wanted me to play a jazz trio gig in a small town about an hour away. I got loaded up and started driving in a February blizzard through about two feet of unplowed snow on top of icy roads. After a couple of hours of wrestling the car to stay in the center of the road, I slid sideways into the empty parking lot..

I loaded into the small bar and set up. So, an hour later, in in my tux at the drums with an upright bass player and keyboard player. The 60-ish singer steps up to the mic (totally unnecessary in the small room). She’s wearing a tight floor-length glittering silver off-the-shoulder cleavage-down-to-here ball gown and starts.

Picture us starting “I get no kick from champagne...” to about a dozen roughnecks in snowmobile suits and camo hats at the bar who have absolutely no idea what we’re are or why the tv has to be turned down. They just stared for our first set and quietly downed beer after beer.

The owner, who loved cocktail jazz, paid us after one set. I loaded out, again in horizontal snow, and drove home another couple of hours. All together, six hours out of my life for $50. And a story.

I bet those guys at the bar have a story, too.
 

jptrickster

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Opened for B Willie Smith Beverly's Litchfeild Ct ,big gig for us at the time, some of you Ct peeps may remember this scene in early 80's. I was told by the management co to bring my snare everything else was going to be set up and ready to roll....
Everything except the cymbals that is. Yikes! drummer was in the studio Saturday took his pies Friday nite after the gig. Nobody knew.
We managed to find a set of shitty hats and a cracked crash cymbal so that's what I gigged with untill he showed up about 10 min left in our set, thanks a pantload!! Moral of the story , bring everything!!
 

moodman

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I was playing in a blues band booked to open the Beanblossom Blues fest and then we had another gig to go to. Backline was supposed to be there so I had my BB & stand, Ghost and 15"New Beats on a stand and my throne.
When we got there, no backline. There was a band playing the 'free stage' and I asked if I could use there drums.
They said I could but, only if they got to play the main stage and go on before us. We didn't have time for that so we used our Rubbermaid T-shirt tote as a kick. I taped the Ghost to it and the sound man dialed it in, it didn't sound bad. We played our set I rode and crashed those hats, we got good crowd response, making the best of a bad situation. By the time we finished the 'free stage' band had their drums pulled up on stage ready to set up, sure was cold.
 

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