Gigs From Hell

singleordoubleheads

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Here's another one that was pretty nuts--in the fall of 1993 my (at-that-time) band agreed to do (for free, of course) a HUGE birthday party/blowout gig for our Band King's father-in-law. It was on a Sat afternoon (luckily) in the middle-of-freaking-nowhere. We drove waaaaay out in the country, then waaaay down into a deep hollow/valley surrounded by nothing but Mother Nature. Was excited to do it at first--free food/drink/etc, but that changed big-time in the next few hours.

First off I had a very difficult time finding a level spot to set up. Finally we found an old piece of plywood and it kinda helped level things a bit. How they ever got power to this hellhole I have no idea! The food was horrible, with flies all over EVERYTHING! I ended up eating a few hot dogs and mostly chips out of the bag. The bathroom situation was a total disaster--a tiny camper (filled with junk) was the only toilet! (I chose to take a whiz in the weeds, thank you).

We FINALLY got started playing much later than expected and it was already getting dark. During the day it was pretty warm and a t-shirt was fine. As soon as it got dark it got cold...I mean REALLY COLD!! My drums and cymbals were drenched in dew! The only heat was a bonfire going about 25 from us, but the smoke was choking me! We FINALLY packed up and I don't think we got home until 3 or 4 in the morning (I think we GOT there at 2-3 in the afternoon before). Honest to GOD. I've been playing gigs for about 33 years now, and that was the most exhausted I've EVER BEEN after ANY gig!! I was in bed until 4pm the next day LOL!! I will NEVER forget that awful gig!
 

Drumbo61

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I was playing in a female impersonator bar in Hollywood in 1973. A number of fairly convincing "ladies" got up to sing favorite standards. Toward the end of the evening a somewhat corpulent grey haired guy named Fel got up to "perform".
He was wearing a bikini bra and skimpy G string. He was going to do a "fire dance" which consisted of dipping a cloth stick of some kind in rubbing alcohol, brushing it on his arms, lighting it on fire and rapidly blowing it out while "dancing" all around the stage. My job was to play a "sing sing sing" type solo while he did all this. I started playing thinking I was doing the right thing.he turned to me and shouted "faster, louder"over and over, It seemed the faster and louder I played the more angry he got. When it was all over he did not speak to me.
 

pwc1141

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haha ..... that reminds me of a night where I played in the house trio at a jam night and a tap dancer wanted to do a couple of numbers on the wood stage. Ok, we thought. Bo Jangles mixes with jazz. His ragged clackety-clack went on through two tunes and I was getting agitated so I whispered to the guitar player to play "Misty" as slow as he could which I figured would be hard to tap dance to. My mistake. The guy clacked his way through that after which I called a break and went outside to scream ......
 

GeneZ

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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 .......
I would have grabbed a mic and screamed out...
"WHAT ARE YOU PEOPLE ALL DOING IN MY LIVING ROOM!!!!"
 

Roch

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I played house band for an open stage once a week for two years. The owner of the bar was a nice older guy who was a hobby guitar player ..every week he wanted to get up and play a number on the guitar..it was usually Wipe Out...God!..He wasn't the greatest guitar player so he wanted us to play it slower than the recording..nothing like playing a slow version of wipe out to a half empty bar on a week night..every week...for two years...woo hoo!
 

moodman

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The only 'biker' gig I've played was in Indy, we had a 10 bike escort from the bar we were playing to a big field.
We sat up on top of a gigantic panel truck that held a great white shark (dead I assume) it was a side show attraction and it was interesting watching bikers throw our stuff up to others on top, though nothing got broken. We played a long 90 min set which went over fairly well until we tried a slow tune (Old Habits) which seemed to pizz some of them off, so we kept it up tempo from then on. While we played, the bikers used my van to do drugs and, I'm pretty sure, turn tricks in. After the gig, my friend who had gotten the gig for us, was passed out, on a pizza as it happens, in the back of my van and a woman that he had promised a ride home was in the passenger seat. She was drunk and had a purse full of those small booze bottles like you got on airplanes and as she would finish one, she would throw it out the window to break on the sidewalk or whatever it hit. The 'route' to her 'home' kept changing, going by several bars and finally into an apartment complex in a bad part of town. She jumped out and leaving her purse, said wait here. She entered an apartment and, seeing my chance, I sat the purse atop the nearest car and started to drive away. She was just exiting the apartment with several bad looking dudes and started screaming "you done me dirty, you done me dirty!!" yeah, I did, I done her dirty.
 

Ounce of Pain

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The gig was fine, but getting there was the nightmare... just this past summer, I had recently purchased a well-used GMC Yukon to replace my BMW wagon for hauling gear to gigs. Needed the space for hauling our PAs, subs, etc, in addition to the drums and bass cabinet. It was loaded to the roof and beyond with gear, including a loaded roof-rack box. Couldn't-see-out-of-the-back-window-loaded inside. My bass player rode shotgun. This particular voyage was about 3 hours from home, though some remote parts of eastern Maryland.

I had done a lot of work to the Yukon, including replacing the brakes (my brother is a mechanic and I'm mechanically inclined). It passed state inspection, too, after the repairs. Apparently that inspection didn't include the brake lines because, as I now know, it's super common for GM truck/SUV brake lines to rust out. While I was going about 40 mph in one of the less-remote parts of the trip, a guy cut me off to get his Dunkin', crossing into my lane (right curb lane) from the middle lane to make the coffee turn. I slammed on the brakes, and came to a slow, but not a stop. I managed to avoid hitting him, by maybe an inch, but the brake pedal went to the floor! Fortunately the road in front of me was clear, so we continued to gradually slow down but couldn't completely stop. The parking brake helped, but, again, not enough to entirely stop the truck. And I didn't want to junk the transmission if at all possible by slamming it into park.

I saw a relatively open parking lot I could turn into, with a slight uphill grade. Managed to get in there and come to a stop without hitting anything. AND IT WAS AN AUTO REPAIR SHOP! Insane luck in many respects. Brake fluid gushing all over the place, no idea how it didn't start a huge fire. But, of course, the guy who does their brake lines was off that day! Fortunately there was another shop just down the road, and I was able to limp it to them for the repairs. The gig was the next night, and it was a bit of a beach vacation, too, so, we left the Yukon at the shop, loaded with all of our gear, and with hopes of getting a rental car and continuing on to the beach. We walked two miles down the road to the rental car shop, thinking it was too much the middle of nowhere to get an Uber. Got there with 5 minutes to spare before they close because we couldn't call in advance (directly anyway; kept getting routed to India) to see if they had any cars. Well, they didn't. So, after much pondering, we found a rental car 30 minutes away, caught an uber (derp, there are ubers everywhere) to go get it, drove the rental car to the beach, returned the next day for the Yukon only to find out it wasn't ready as promised at noon. Or 1, or 2, or 3, or 4, or 5pm... then got REALLY nervous because the gig's at 9 and an hour away... so we went bowling to calm our nerves. Fortunately the Yukon was finally ready at 6, we hit the road, returned the rental car, made the gig, and didn't die en route! $1500 brake job later...
 

Big Beat

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Oh, man, where do I start... Here's one...

About twenty years ago, we're playing a 1950s themed party for about 200 people. We're setting up on the stage, almost ready to start, and our frontman is nowhere in sight. Ten minutes after we're supposed to have started, he's still missing. We're worried because he's not answering the phone and it's really not like him to just not show up. Screw it, we play the set without him. The bassist takes over the vocals, horribly. He can't sing and doesn't know the lyrics, but we somehow get through it. As we're finishing up the last song, I see our missing frontman standing in front of the stage, unsteady on his feet, with puke on his shirt and still not quite sober. Turns out, he actually got there early, but a couple of girls in the audience took a liking to him, brought him down to their table and bought him a drink. A few rounds later... to make a long story short, the girls stayed on for the show and had a great time, but our hero was neither very used to such feminine attention, nor was he an experienced drinker. He was eventually discovered by one of the promoters in the men's room, on the floor behind one of the toilets, in a sort of upside-down yoga position, where he "meditated" through our entire performance. Then he says, as in some old Russian joke: dudes, I saw us up on stage, we kinda suck... I nearly killed him.
 

singleordoubleheads

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The gig was fine, but getting there was the nightmare... just this past summer, I had recently purchased a well-used GMC Yukon to replace my BMW wagon for hauling gear to gigs. Needed the space for hauling our PAs, subs, etc, in addition to the drums and bass cabinet. It was loaded to the roof and beyond with gear, including a loaded roof-rack box. Couldn't-see-out-of-the-back-window-loaded inside. My bass player rode shotgun. This particular voyage was about 3 hours from home, though some remote parts of eastern Maryland.

I had done a lot of work to the Yukon, including replacing the brakes (my brother is a mechanic and I'm mechanically inclined). It passed state inspection, too, after the repairs. Apparently that inspection didn't include the brake lines because, as I now know, it's super common for GM truck/SUV brake lines to rust out. While I was going about 40 mph in one of the less-remote parts of the trip, a guy cut me off to get his Dunkin', crossing into my lane (right curb lane) from the middle lane to make the coffee turn. I slammed on the brakes, and came to a slow, but not a stop. I managed to avoid hitting him, by maybe an inch, but the brake pedal went to the floor! Fortunately the road in front of me was clear, so we continued to gradually slow down but couldn't completely stop. The parking brake helped, but, again, not enough to entirely stop the truck. And I didn't want to junk the transmission if at all possible by slamming it into park.

I saw a relatively open parking lot I could turn into, with a slight uphill grade. Managed to get in there and come to a stop without hitting anything. AND IT WAS AN AUTO REPAIR SHOP! Insane luck in many respects. Brake fluid gushing all over the place, no idea how it didn't start a huge fire. But, of course, the guy who does their brake lines was off that day! Fortunately there was another shop just down the road, and I was able to limp it to them for the repairs. The gig was the next night, and it was a bit of a beach vacation, too, so, we left the Yukon at the shop, loaded with all of our gear, and with hopes of getting a rental car and continuing on to the beach. We walked two miles down the road to the rental car shop, thinking it was too much the middle of nowhere to get an Uber. Got there with 5 minutes to spare before they close because we couldn't call in advance (directly anyway; kept getting routed to India) to see if they had any cars. Well, they didn't. So, after much pondering, we found a rental car 30 minutes away, caught an uber (derp, there are ubers everywhere) to go get it, drove the rental car to the beach, returned the next day for the Yukon only to find out it wasn't ready as promised at noon. Or 1, or 2, or 3, or 4, or 5pm... then got REALLY nervous because the gig's at 9 and an hour away... so we went bowling to calm our nerves. Fortunately the Yukon was finally ready at 6, we hit the road, returned the rental car, made the gig, and didn't die en route! $1500 brake job later...
WOW!! Pretty crazy!! Reminds me of a kinda similar thing with my GMC. I had a 1997 Sonoma and was on the way to a gig about an hour from home, driving in a massive downpour at night in early winter about 3 years ago and--Bingo!--a guy almost stopped dead in front of me to get into a parking lot and MY pedal went to the floor!! Luckily the gig was only about 2 miles away and it was flat the rest of the way. I bought some brake fluid at the gas station and filled the master cylinder to get home but it was a nightmare drive. Lucky for me I drive for a living and there was almost no traffic coming home but my pedal was on the floor when I got home at 2 am
 

latzanimal

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Here's one from the other end of the spectrum..

Many, many moons ago, band I was in carried a HUGE show all in ATA flight cases in a 28' box truck. So, we were loading in and there was an older lady who kept coming over to our guitar player and asking, "you guys aren't very loud are you?" To which the guitar player would assure her the gear was all for show and that we were not very loud at all. This happened 4 or 5 times. After we were set up and ready to sound check, the same guitar player walks over the lady who kept questioning him and said, "We are about to do a sound check, if there is anyone with heart problems or a pacemaker, you should probably get them out right now!"

He still laughs when talking about the look on her face...
 

Stretsch

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WOW!! Pretty crazy!! Reminds me of a kinda similar thing with my GMC. I had a 1997 Sonoma and was on the way to a gig about an hour from home, driving in a massive downpour at night in early winter about 3 years ago and--Bingo!--a guy almost stopped dead in front of me to get into a parking lot and MY pedal went to the floor!! Luckily the gig was only about 2 miles away and it was flat the rest of the way. I bought some brake fluid at the gas station and filled the master cylinder to get home but it was a nightmare drive. Lucky for me I drive for a living and there was almost no traffic coming home but my pedal was on the floor when I got home at 2 am
PSA for those who don't know: if your brake pedal goes to the floor it is probably the master cylinder that has sprung a leak. PUMP the pedal a few times to build up pressure and you will at least get some braking. Cheers
 

Ounce of Pain

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PSA for those who don't know: if your brake pedal goes to the floor it is probably the master cylinder that has sprung a leak. PUMP the pedal a few times to build up pressure and you will at least get some braking. Cheers
Unless three of your brake lines have exploded... in which case you're... HOSED! Lucky to be alive.
 

moodman

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PSA for those who don't know: if your brake pedal goes to the floor it is probably the master cylinder that has sprung a leak. PUMP the pedal a few times to build up pressure and you will at least get some braking. Cheers
My master cylinder went out just as I topped Tioga Pass and I had to do that to ever decreasing effect all the way across Yosemite and down to the valley. Using the hand brake and having a standard tranny ( I wouldn't drive in steep mtns in an automatic) and, thankfully, a slow leak, it was still hairy. I bought a cylinder in Fresno, fixed it and went back on vacation.
When I lived on Hill St in SF, (with that name in that city, you know it is steep) I braked on the steepest part, something broke and it was gear down and hand brake til stopping several blocks down as the street leveled more. I went through at least one stop sign but, it was common, at that time in SF that many neighborhood intersections had no stop sign and people going up or down got the right of way, I was given a wide berth.
Neither of these incidents were as scary as what happened to my best friend and bandmate who was working on his E-type Jaguar ( the 'hood' is actually the whole front end of the car and hinges at the front, so it goes up and blocks, totally, forward vision) and decided to give it a test run, forgetting to push the hood latches in. On a curvy, hilly country road, going around a corner, he hits the brakes, apparently pretty hard as, the pedal actually breaks off and the hood flies up. He managed to stay on the road and get stopped without this story having a bad ending, bet he never forgot those latches again.
 
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TheBeachBoy

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Speaking of car problems, I forgot about the time we did a private gig in Flagstaff (about 2 hour drive north from Phoenix). The guitarist and I got there early so I could put some posters up in another venue that my other band was going to play at a few weeks later. When we got back to my car, it looked like someone threw a soda on my hood, but I didn't really think much about it. Once we started heading to the gig I noticed the engine temp getting really hot. That wasn't soda, that was coolant! Fortunately the gig was really close, so we opened up the heat vents and lowered the windows and I figured it would cool down by the time we were done with the gig. When we left, our bass player and singer followed us to a gas station so I could top off the coolant. We took our chances on it not overheating and made it home no problem. Never got hotter than normal. It was just a leaky radiator cap.

Another time before that we were going to a duo gig (just the singer and me) in Sedona, almost a 2 hour drive as well. I brought my wife along, as our singer rented a car for him and his wife. My car at the time was a 1990 Grand Marquis and about halfway to Sedona it overheated. Our singer was already really close to Sedona, and we were cutting it somewhat close with time so he didn't want to double back, plus didn't have room in his car. We called everyone we knew and finally got someone to pick us up. We made it back to our place, moved the drums to my wife's car, and got back on the road. We made it there just as we were supposed to start. The singer played solo while I set up, but the party was fine with me being late since he already told them about my car problems. Later we went to pick up my car and it had been towed by the nearby town. They had a real racket going and since the car wasn't worth much and it would cost too much to tow back to Phoenix plus all their ridiculous fees, I ended up having to sell it off to them. Legal crooks.
 

singleordoubleheads

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PSA for those who don't know: if your brake pedal goes to the floor it is probably the master cylinder that has sprung a leak. PUMP the pedal a few times to build up pressure and you will at least get some braking. Cheers
True but in my case it was a pin-hole in one of lines, not the MC--I should add that the fluid I dumped in the MC was gone in about 2 miles! Luckily we were going home VERY late and I still had my E-brake if absolutely necessary. It was the worst drive home after a gig EVER...
 

bellbrass

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My actual worst gig was one on a beautiful Memorial Day, back in the late 80s. I was in an original band, and we were trying get signed. So, gigs were hard to come by. My role in the band was mostly as hired help - the band was well-established before I came on board, and all the decisions were made when I wasn't there. It was ultimately the reason I quit and moved on.
Anyway, a guy had approached the guitarist / leader at his workplace, and asked if we were interested in playing a gig for a car show. He was told there would be over 2000 people in attendance, including several regional bar owners and booking agents. There would be no pay, but we would be provided a stage and free food. Of course, the guitarist jumped at the chance for the dreaded "exposure gig."
We arrived at the event, taking place at a large park near town, only to find out the that "car show" was, in actuality, a car stereo show. That's right, folks, we were asked to play for an event where car stereos were being evaluated and judged.
It only gets better.
We were directed to the far corner of a parking lot, because, we were told, "we don't want the noise from the band to be too loud inside the tent where the contest is being conducted." The parking lot, by the way, was a field. We drove over to the specified area, only to find...well, nothing. They had roped off a small area for our band, and that was it. When we reminded the promoter that we were promised a stage, he admitted he had forgotten, and told us to "go ahead and set up, and we'll see if we can find something for you to play on." We explained that we were not going to set up on grass. Then came the matter of a power source....they hadn't even thought about that. They told us that they would get a gas generator for us.
I wanted to go home right then and there, but the bass player got in my face and told me I had a bad attitude. So did, apparently, everyone else, because nobody in the band wanted to unload anything, until we had a stage and power. So we sat, and waited, for over an hour.
Finally, a guy showed up in a pickup truck. He had gone to the local hardware place and gotten several large planks of plywood, along with a gas generator. We placed the plywood sheets - no more than half an inch thick - down, and proceeded to unload. Meanwhile, we could hear very loud car stereos from the tent, about 1/4 mile away.
We got set up, and plugged in for a sound check - the generator was started, and we made it through 3/4 of one song before it kicked off. The guitarist's dad was there to pull the starter to get it going again. One more song for a sound check, and then the generator kicked off again. Fortunately, the guitarist's dad was mechanically inclined, so he knew what was wrong - the carb was fouled. He adjusted the mixture as it ran to keep it going.
By this time, it was 3 or 4 in the afternoon, and the sun was bright and bearing down on us, as there wasn't a cloud in the sky. I looked down on my almost-new Ludwig Rocker 2 kit, and saw that the black wrap was bubbling up from the heat. I freaked out and said that I had to get my drums out of the sun. Once again, the bass player, the bully of the band, told me to suck it up and play, and that I could "glue it back later." That was a lesson in band dynamics I'll never forget.
We played, with the generator quitting every 2nd or third song, sometimes right in the middle, sometimes at the beginning, sometimes in between songs. The guitarist's dad was right there to get it going again, every time. God bless that man.
The worst part was that the only people we saw were contestants and event attendees, on their way back out to the parking lot, to find their cars and leave.
That's right, folks - we got to watch 2,000 people get in their cars to leave. Not one of 'em came over to check us out. They just kind of glanced at us with puzzled looks on their faces....as if to say, "Why in the hell is a live band playing in the parking lot of a car stereo contest?"
 
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BennyK

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Congolese band I was in shared the bill with a hot shot outfit from Haiti who decided they liked my bass drum better than theirs . Me and the janitor were the only white people there . I chose my words carefully, but got my bass drum back .

Edmonton, Alberta @ 1976 . Local bike gang hired us for their annual bbq . This fellow named ' animal' decided to play my drums with two greasy slabs of beef . The whole place was high on PCP and who knows what else . It was a long night . Cops were parked everywhere, bass player ran off into the night and never returned . we got paid with " things "


Police functions can get pretty nasty sometimes when they aren't getting awards . I played in a cop band - chief of detectives was the front man . I remember a K9 demonstration that went wrong , and that's just one example .

Smiths Falls Ontario was home to one of the largest mental institutions in the country . Wed night was open mic at the Rideau Hotel and guess who got the gig ?

Kingston Blues Festival 99 (?) . Trio with chick singer - guitar man is so late for the gig from the night before that we played the whole show minus 5 minutes with bass ,drums , vocals and some harmonica . Crowd of about 3000 in front of city hall . Guitar man hot wired the singers car and drove back to Ottawa .

Ontario Undertakers Association annual banquet gig . name of the band - The Beaverheads . We all wore Davey Crockett hats and did reggae covers of TV commercials and sitcom scores . Weird ? you bet .

I'm trying to remember what I used to try to forget ... there's more .
 
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