Gig nightmare this weekend.

Discussion in 'Bass Humor & Gig Stories [BG]' started by fivespoke, Apr 9, 2012.

  1. I had to share the nightmare that I had with a gig that my band played this Friday.

    We were approached about 6 weeks ago by the manager of a local community arts centre, who wants to establish a regular monthly live music night. The venue is in a pretty small town, which has a good number of pubs/bars which host cover bands and also has an annual music festival (billed as a folk festival, but has grown into more than that), but there isn't a regular scene for bands playing original material.

    We were booked with two other bands and were expecting to play second.

    Then, the trouble starts. Firstly, we ask about PA. In our band we admit that we do it for a hobby, but we like to do things properly. To us, that means a sound engineer, decent front of house, mic'ed amps and drums and good monitoring. The organiser had different ideas, thinking we could get by with his small five channel system and no engineer or monitors in a hall that holds 300+ people. It took us threatening to pull out to convince him that he needed to book someone (thanks to Percy from Pulse PA in Poole for stepping in and giving us great sound).

    Two weeks ago, we find out that the headline band has pulled out. With a bit of frantic scrabbling about, a friendly local band agreed to step in at the last minute (thanks to Craig and the rest of the guys in Mountain Feet). Then, five days before the gig, their drummer was sadly killed in a motorcycle accident (R.I.P. Nick). We enter crisis mode.

    Another band was booked with three days notice, their bass player, who had quit the week before stepping in to play. We moved up to the headline spot. We haven't even reached gig day yet...

    Gig day rolls around, and we arrive nice and early to give Percy a hand setting up the PA, dress the stage and get a proper sound check done. With all the bands soundchecked and ready, we open the doors and wait.

    And wait

    And wait some more.

    The first acts go on to an audience of 15 people (25 if you're generous and count bar staff and the other bands). By the time the band before us are playing the audience has grown to about 20, plus bands and bar staff (bear in mind that this in a hall that holds at least 300). When we go on, its getting late, some of the audience have had a few drinks too many and start to go home. By the end of our set there were literally 8 people left in the audience, and four of those were mine and our drummer's parents!

    Still, despite it all we played a decent set and got a free burger out of it!
  2. Free food and a place to play. Sounds good to me ;)

  3. jumbodbassman


    Dec 28, 2009
    Stuck in traffic -NY & CT
    Born Again Tubey
    original music. get used to it
  4. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism

    You got paid and enjoyed yourself?

    Wow, if that is a nightmare to you....
  5. capnjim


    Mar 13, 2008
    Yeah..thats not a nightmare..its a jam. I do it a coupla times a month and pay for my own beer. At least you sounded good.
  6. Yeah, I've done gigs like that. With so few people to listen it starts to feel like a glorified band practice.
  7. blendermassacre

    blendermassacre Supporting Member

    May 28, 2009
    kansas city, mo
    we call gigs like that "band practice"
  8. Well, to be fair to the OP there was a death involved, so I think the title still qualifies.
  9. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    New England
    A gig ain't a gig unless you get fed.
    Welcome to ShoBiz
  10. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    As already stated, aside from the death, sounds like a typical original show.

    Wait. 20 people ASIDE from the other bands and workers were there? Sounds like what many would consider a GOOD gig. :)
  11. ACalbass


    Dec 16, 2011
    You mean that doing covers would have changed the story?
    I don't think so.

    To the OP
    Believe me,I am sure you are down because the lack of attendance,but you sure know all successful bands started the same way.
    Is a natural process.
    And the problems that come along? we all have them.
    Your music road start by you guys pushing forward steadily,knowing there will be forces pulling back.
    keep pushing.
  12. loopee

    loopee Supporting Member

    May 12, 2009
    Surrey, B.C. Canada
    Well, a paid band practice....that sounds great to me....only thing is since you didn't draw a crowd you might not be called back but that could also be the Arts Center not doing a promo for the show......

    Food + $$ + great sound (PA) + big stage (big room) + great playing = NICE
  13. hopturn


    Sep 19, 2010
    Charleston, SC
    sounds like showbiz to me. i once had to hit a guy in the head with my bass while playing a show because he was coming at our singer with a beer bottle. the bouncers dragged the guy outside by the heels of his boots! later, when we were packing up to leave we noticed that someone had slit the tires of our band van...awesome! AND the guy who had arranged to pay us $600 had been fired the week before, and the new guys just "didn't have the money" so we had to settle for beer/food/gas money.

    these days i play in great clubs for receptive audiences that would never come at us with knives or beer bottles...but you gotta keep that kind of stuff somewhere in your head. LOTS of factors go into any show. even joy.
  14. Rockin Mike

    Rockin Mike

    May 27, 2011
    If the owner was clueless about PA he might also have been clueless about promotion. You don't get 100+ crowds of people walking in off the street unless you're in Waikiki.

    A lot of bands do their own promo, nothing wrong with that. Just don't play for a percentage of the door receipts. A lot of club owners use that trick to rip bands off. Clubs are ultimately responsible for their own promo and for that they get the increased profits from a large draw. Any promo the band does should be focused on building a following, not getting seats filled on a particular Saturday night. When you have a following more seats will get filled and you can get better gigs but the point being your promo is for yourself and the club needs to do their own.
  15. This. Unfortunately.

    Until you get some loyal fans and word spreads around... original bands are tough that way. That's why covers bands get hired more... most venues just want some live music that people dance to and drink while view are at it.

    But like somebody said... all big name bands started like that... some days are better than others. Keep at it, and make sure people remember who you are. Even if only one in eight remembers you, and liked you, they may tell some friends next time view see your name on the bill. On, and on.
  16. Sounds like it could have been worse. This is a reason my band works very hard to vet the right size venues so that the crowd is not too spacious. If you have 100 people in a theater that holds 1,200 people that's 1 in every 12 spaces filled and usually makes for a low energy crowd. But if you have 100 people in a venue that holds 190 people then it makes for much more of a packed house feeling. This is also a reason why we don't book with bands that don't draw. I don't care if you guys are the next TOOL, if the only ones who know about it are your girlfriends then it doesn't mean very much does it?

    Promotion and other acts that draw are important with a venue that holds 300 people. My band Boo Radley's House is about to debut our full length album after being off the scenes for 18 months. We are playing the Phoenix theater in Petaluma, Ca that has featured Metallica, Smashing Pumpkins, Suicidal Tendencies, Primus etc and holds roughly 1,200 concert goers. Are we gonna pack the place? probably not, but you can see why were going to work extra hard as 200 people in the audience makes it look like no one's there...
  17. Cheers everyone for the response. TBH we took it in our stride at the time. We've played gigs to small crowds before, but never in such a big room. Wasn't helped by the bar being on the back wall so few people came forward. Oh, and while we got fed, we didn't get paid (not that that matters to us).

    The thing that made it story-worthy for me was the various bands pulling out, it was a bit of a saga for us just to get to a point where we were happy to play and that we even had a line up to play.

    We did our own promo, but it was slightly out of town for us so difficult to draw a crowd. The promo that the venue did was a bit limp, it didn't make enough of the bands on the bill and i think on reflection the door price was set far too high. We haven't been going long enough to have a really strong following, so we weren't really right for the headline slot, we only took it as the last men standing.

    A good band practice indeed!
  18. ahc


    Jul 31, 2009
    No. Virginia
    Couple years ago a trio I was playing with did a New Year's Eve gig in a restauraunt/bar to a table of 6 people. They left immediately after "Auld Lang Syne". We got fed, but the check bounced (the first time. Owner made good after that.) He did absolutely NO promo for the gig. Not even to advertise the lobster dinner that was part of the NY's deal (but not for the band :( ). I don't believe he owns that establishment anymore. Wonder why ???
  19. BassyBill

    BassyBill Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    Yep. I did a gig once where there was NO audience at all at the start. I went and talked to two women in the art gallery next door and persuaded them to come to listen to us. They sat through two whole sets and applauded every song. Nobody else came in for the entire gig. :D

    That gig was part of a mini "tour" of the region that we did to coincide with a CD release, at verious arty venues within say a 50 mile radius of home. We did maybe 12 gigs and at most of them we had numbers well below 20. We went back to playings bars after that.
  20. marantz10

    marantz10 Rickenbacker enthusiast and collector Supporting Member

    Oct 21, 2008
    Kansas City
    I've experienced something similar:

    We booked a show for a radio station's fundraising/charity event (unpaid). It is to be hosted at a community college's auditorium where Nirvana once played a show back in '89. We were understanding that being a radio station-based event, that they would do the advertising on-air and get the local kids to go. We showed up, the radio station turned out to be the community college's kid-run radio station, there were maybe 15 people in the audience (in an auditorium that could hold 400-500 people), and the PA/stage monitors/sound guy sucked. We had been expecting to expose our music to a huge crowd of people, and yet, according to Facebook: only 2 people "liked" our page after the event--and those two people were staff of the radio station.

    Moral of the story: I'm still convinced the only way to play to such a huge crowd of people (when you're not a big, popular band) is to hit the jackpot by being asked to open for a really well known band at a large venue. If you get that far, and your music is awesome, you can start a good following just by doing that one event.