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Lazy sub drummer, bad gig (not humor)

Discussion in 'Bass Humor & Gig Stories [BG]' started by Fuzzbass, Oct 16, 2019.

  1. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    Did a bar gig last Friday night with an all-original power blues/funk/rock trio -- which interestingly enough has been my busiest band. As usual, I didn't know who the drummer would be: the #1 guy will be leaving the band because of his day job, which has already been keeping him from many of the gigs, so we've been using a variety of subs and looking for a replacement.

    I get to the bar and start unloading my SUV. A guy I don't know comes up and asks whether I'm the bassist. He must be the drummer, so we introduce ourselves. He then says he wasn't completely up to speed on the songs, so hopefully I could communicate with him. Yes, of course I will -- but that goes without saying in a no-rehearsal sub situation, so this was an "uh oh" moment.

    Some background: the name of this band ends with "Blues", which is highly misleading because only 20% of the songs are straight blues. The rest are a mix of blues, rock, R&B, funk/go-go. Obviously they're not jazz fusion in terms of complexity, but nearly all contain gotchas of some kind: tags, syncopations, stops, rhythm and/or tempo changes (and modulations, though that won't affect the drummer). Point being, you can't come in cold and fake your way through.

    Given that caveat, I gently warn the guy that the BL isn't bashful about calling members out if they're not playing his music right, but it's not personal, happens to everyone including me, so just nod and keep rolling. Guy responds with "I've been on tour with (so and so) and (such and such), I don't really take that well". Another "uh oh" moment. I shrug and say okay.

    Gig starts and it quickly becomes clear why he sought my assistance: he did almost no advance prep. The BL was especially unhappy, and after the 1st set I found out why: the drummer had two full months to prepare.

    I'm pretty sure this happened: the guy thought "Blues band? Oh, this'll be a sleepwalk like amateur open-mic night", so he didn't bother to review the tunes until his drive down to the gig, at which time he realized that his assumption was dead wrong.

    The 2nd set was worse than the 1st, partly because the songs were trickier. The BL tried to restrain himself, giving instructions through a gritted-teeth smile, but eventually got so frustrated that the smile turned upside down and he started changing his song lyrics to include snippets like "drummer didn't learn my music", and "he should give the bass player half his money" (which was darkly hilarious, and not the least bit excessive because I had to hand-hold the dude through every song that wasn't straight blues).

    The 2nd set ends -- one more to go, but the drummer starts packing his gear! The BL was incredulous, but the drummer said "keep the money, this is not fun, I'm done". BL cussed him out for quitting. Drummer stood and puffed his chest, then turned away, saying "I'm not going to get thrown in jail because of you". (Side note: unless the drummer was strapped, the only possible result would have been drummer in hospital, BL in jail). BL only became more infuriated by that childish threat. Manager turned on the house music and said "it's okay guys, we'll call it a night". The back and forth continued at lower volume. I tried to stay out, but when the drummer said the BL's behavior was wrong, I pointed at him and angrily said "YOU'RE wrong, you didn't bother to learn his songs".

    I'm not saying it's OK to call musicians out. Onstage frustration, anger (etc) is counter-productive, can look bad to management and audience, yadda yadda. That said, the BL has been living for his music for decades. He's done three self-financed albums, and early this year recorded an album in Nashville that was completely financed by a small label. The label is currently promoting him through various channels and his single is getting some airplay. So: the BL has made small but significant steps toward his lifelong dream, and this was one of his CD release gigs, but he got utterly disrespected by a sub drummer who was too unprofessional to do his job and too self-important to be apologetic about it. I didn't recognize the artists the drummer claimed he'd supported, but even if they were somebodies, it doesn't effin' matter: you give your best at every gig, not just the high-dollar/high-visibility ones. In situations like this imperfection is expected and acceptable, but utter cluelessness is not.

    P.S. Turns out that the drummer was recommended by the producer of the BL's album -- and that producer is now aware of what happened. The back-and-forth moved to Facebook over the weekend, and the producer publicly told the drummer "You disappointed me, and more importantly, you disappointed your bandmates". Later, in a different thread posted by the BL, the producer said "A certain 'drummer' has been trying to call me but I do not accept his excuses". I've no idea whether this producer is a significant player, but he works as an exec for the label, frequently records artists at Sound Emporium in Nashville, and it's probably not a good idea to disappoint anyone active in the music scene.

    Note: I'm not interested in karma/vengeance. The drummer is out of state; hopefully I'll never run into him again, end of story. That said: the BL has occasionally suffered consequences from his lack of restraint (and I hope we don't lose this venue because of the onstage dust-up), so by that same token it would be perfectly reasonable for the drummer's rep to be stained by his unprofessionalism. He had two months to prep, and if he had the talent level that he claimed then it would have taken him only a couple/few hours to listen to the tunes and write charts/cheat sheets.

    TL;DR: see thread title. Just venting (sigh)
  2. saltydude


    Aug 15, 2011
    boston CANADA
    Wow. That’s a horror gig. Sorry you had to deal with that.
  3. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Victoria, BC
    Jeez how humiliating for everyone. Sounds like you kept your cool pretty well considering the situation... :rage:
    Bo McCarty, Mr_Moo, dkelley and 7 others like this.
  4. 74hc


    Nov 19, 2015
    Sunny California
    One of the unwritten rules is to never mock one's bandmates on stage, regardless of whether he/she deserves it.
  5. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Wow. Yeah that guy blew it. I do sub gigs all the time. I require certain things before I take the gig (set list with keys at least a week out, recordings of any original material, etc.). But I also out forth the effort to NAIL everything I possibly can. Otherwise I'm not taking the gig.

    That drummer should have learned the music because he said he would. That's the first thing. Bit he should also have more pride in his work.

    Anyway..... sorry you had to wrestle with that.

    You mind if I ask who the BL is? I would like to look up his work. Funk/rock infused blues sounds right up my alley.

    (Feel free to PM if you want to keep this story and his name separate.)
  6. And that’s how “Fire the drummer” became a thing.
  7. Vanceman


    Feb 14, 2007
    So. Cal.
    Good story, well written. Though I'm just a weekend warrior, I feel for ya'.
    barrenelly, JPDsma and Fuzzbass like this.
  8. Slater

    Slater Leave that thing alone. Supporting Member

    Apr 17, 2000
    The Great Lakes State
    Once, I showed up for a gig and saw a stranger setting up a drum kit. I called out to no one specific, “Who’s the drummer?” Another band member replied, “Some cat named Steve.” It was a long night. I never asked the BL where or how he found Steve, but after that night I never saw him again.
    Mr_Moo, pcake, Fuzzbass and 1 other person like this.
  9. oldrocker


    Feb 13, 2005
    Long Island, NY
    Wow, 3 sets of original songs, its a trio, and the you have not had 1 rehearsal with a brand new drummer.

    What could go wrong?

    I would have packed up after the 2nd set as well if the BL was belittling me during set 2.
  10. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Could have been handled better by BL, but there is no excuse to take a gig, especially doing originals, and not prepare. You did whatyoucould, and obviously BL appreciated your efforts.

    Not the first time I've seen a band leader get on someone who wasn't up to snuff. I saw a gig with Lucky Peterson (gigs with him are really tough - he will just call out tunes, and will switch mid song). He leaned over during a drum break ad said "I used to play drums like that... when I was eleven".
  11. J-Mags


    Jun 18, 2018
    Durham NC
    I'm not with drummer or BL on this one. BL should have lowered his standards and gone into survival mode once he realized he's got a crap drummer. 2 months should be enough time rehearse once if your songs are more complicated than they seem. OTOH drummer should have listened to the stuff, tried to work it out, and communicated with band if he was having trouble getting it. Both BL and drummer blew it.
    Super25Smasher, Pfun, BLYN and 34 others like this.
  12. MattZilla


    Jun 26, 2013
    Dam. Back to delivering pizzas.
  13. dramatwist


    Sep 27, 2019
    Bad experience, man. Subs=Tumbling Dice.
    Super25Smasher and 210superair like this.
  14. Low Down Brown

    Low Down Brown Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2018

    Drummer bummer :rollno:

    Two months!?
    Yeah, that won't fly in professional circles in Nashville...or anywhere, really. His sub days are soon to be limited.

    I hope you guys find 'the drummer' soon.
  15. Samatza


    Apr 15, 2019
    I once accidentally double booked so I asked a friend to sub for me with one band. They were worried that he wouldn't cope with all the original material but I assured them he would be fine.

    I sent him all the original songs and all the covers that we do so he could prepare himself.
    Despite the guys being a little apprehensive they called me after the gig and said "that's amazing, this guy plays exactly like you".

    Obviously he put in the work and made sure he fitted right in. When I caught up with him he told me he had a great time with the guys and would love to do it again.

    My point is if you're subbing take the time to learn the material, if you're not sure call someone and ask, there's no shame in doing that. The BL should not have taken it out on him on stage either, that's unprofessional but it's also unprofessional to take a sub gig and treat it like it's not important. Every gig is important no matter if it's a huge production show or a back yard barbecue.
  16. Yowch!!
  17. SunByrne


    Aug 29, 2019
    Pearland, TX
    Two words: drum machine.
  18. eJake


    May 22, 2011
    New Orleans
    I don't think the band leader was wrong. Drummer embarrassed himself the second he showed up grossly unprepared for a pro level sub gig.
    barrenelly, FRoss6788, joebar and 6 others like this.
  19. juancaminos

    juancaminos Supporting Member

    May 30, 2003
    USA, Phoenix, AZ
    Exactly this. Have been there done that with drummers and guitar players. I always salvage the gig by going into survival mode if need be. Dumb down the set list, call out simple songs, talk to the drummer at first break to see what can be done.
  20. Llewellen

    Llewellen Guest

    Dec 23, 2016
    Who prepares for two months to sub on one gig? I mean, he would end up playing for $1.49/hour, not including travel, load in and load out time.

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