Sub Par Sub - Cancel or on with the show?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by eow, Feb 13, 2014.

  1. eow


    Mar 5, 2003
    Kansas City
    OK. So here is the situation and I'm looking for a broader perspective than my band mates.

    We are a regional 80s band. We are currently in a transition process with keyboard players. We have a hand full of subs that we are using now. Some better than others. For 3 shows (club gigs) we have the #3 pick. This guy is not the best choice but with careful set list planning around his ability and what he knows we can make it work. He is a little sloppy and does not have the best gear.

    The issue is that a couple of members of the band are outright refusing to play with this sub because they don't want to tarnish the "brand". Disclosure: This sub knows a lot of the material as he was the keyboard player in the band for several years but this was several years ago. So the singer has said that he does not want to do the shows with this guy on keys and that we should cancel.

    First: This takes $$ out of my pocket
    Second: I think he is taking himself waaayyy to seriously.
    Third: It is hard enough to get booked nowadays. when you have a solid relationship with a venue and several dates on the calendar with them you don't cancel and jeopardize that relationship.

    We are a very good band and have a great following and get paid well as a cover/tribute band but I don't think playing with this guy is going to be the end of the world.

    Has anyone found themselves in a similar situation? What did/would you do?
  2. M0ses


    Sep 11, 2009
    Los Angeles
    I totally understand your singer's position. I guess it completely depends on how seriously you take this show. He's not willing to put anything but his best foot forward. But you have good reasons as well; the crowd will probably barely notice the difference so why care? Good enough for you, not good enough for him. I can't tell you where you're going to be able to meet with this, though. You're gonna have to hash it out with him, really.
  3. Hmm. That's a tough question to answer. I'm one who says the show must go on, so I'd use subs - HOWEVER, NOT AT THE RISK OF GIVING THE BAND A BAD RAP! If the singer doesn't connect, or worse, keys distract, or ticks off the singer - its not going to be good.

    Good luck and best wishes.
  4. mancefine


    Jul 7, 2013
    Endorsing Artist: Orange Amplifiers and Spector Basses
    In this environment (meaning today's music scene), cancelling multiple shows will be alot worse than not playing at full strength. Odds are the audience won't notice a quarter as much as you guys do, and like you said, just structure your set around his strengths. I think you are right here.
  5. IMO you sorta answered this right off the bat - finding good venues that pay well is a rarity for sure, and canceling would surely put that in jeopardy.

    Second, and I say this purely from a pragmatic point of view: People don't notice if you're not perfect. We all make mistakes from show to show, and it's probably safe to say that the vast majority of your fans/bar patrons won't notice much, if any, difference. As a matter of professional pride I definitely understand and sympathize with your singer's concern, but I've noticed that as long as you get the song *generally* correct it's not really going to affect your audience, unless your gig is the watering hole down the street from Berklee.

    It may even be worth taking the time to walk through him with the songs and find ways to make them easier while maintaining the overall feel and sound of the song.

    It's a tough position, but IMO your brand image will suffer more if you're considered unreliable than if the keys aren't quite right.
  6. D.A.R.K.

    D.A.R.K. Supporting Member

    Aug 20, 2003
    It's an '80's cover band….
    as long as everyone is dancing and drinking it really doesn't matter. They really don't care how good the keyboardist is, as long as he can keep up on the most basic level.
    Or just turn him down and they still won't care.
  7. pacojas

    pacojas "FYYA BUN"

    Oct 11, 2009
    the last band i was in used subs a lot. guess what,.. everybody had fun & nobody cared! gl.
  8. fontez5


    Apr 19, 2009
    Columbia, IL
    I see their point completely as it sucks to share the stage with poor players, however it is tremendously risky, and rather foolish, to cancel solely over this.

    Maybe you can have him low in the FOH mix so his poor playing won't really be heard? Not sure how your PA situation is if you have a dedicated sound guy or what, but maybe on his main lines have him turned up more and lower him back down the rest of the time. We've done that in my old band with good success. Keep him higher in the monitors so he won't notice how low he is out front.

    </two cents>
  9. There is a reason "The show must go on." is such a common phrase in show business. Kudos to you for having multiple subs lined up. If your band mates are worried about the band's rep, introduce your sub and thank him for sitting in multiple times during the gig. Your sub will like the recognition and you will communicate to the audience that this is not your normal lineup. If your band is known and has a following, your fans will understand if you are not in top form. Most won't notice anyway.

    If you have a sub, there is no reason to bail on the gig.

    Good luck!
  10. I agree with you, especially on #1 and #3.

    How to handle it? Damn, I'm having a hard enough time dealing with my own band's interpersonal dynamics.

    I guess you need to establish a quorum who agrees with you and have an intervention with the singer.
  11. GlennW


    Sep 6, 2006
    Tell the singer to learn how to play keys, or play with the sub.
  12. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    You DO NOT cancel shows on the books.


    You get by the best you can.

    How bad IS this guy?

    A little sloppy? Not a big problem.

    His gear is sub-par? What does that even mean? He's a keyboard player. As long as he plays something that kinda sounds like the part the audience expects, you'll be fine.
  13. Decent guitar players can step it up and over-play a bit to cover sub-par keys player, and I'm sure these gigs would go just fine.

    People want to hear the songs, not necessarily a virtuoso keys player. Only the stuck-up musicians in the room will know. If the bass, drums, and lead vox is nailing it, you're fine. Yeah, you guys will know, but your typical mainstream audience member will not.

    (Just feeding you some justifications you can present to your bandies).
  14. jive1

    jive1 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    I've been in a similar situation. We had a well paying private party gig, and we had a contract, so cancelling wasn't an option.

    A couple weeks before the gig, the trombone player and bassist said they couldn't make it to the gig, so I had to scramble to find subs. The regular trombone player recommended a friend, the drummer switched to bass, and I called in a friend to play drums. At rehearsal, the trombone player stared blankly at the sheet music for 2/3rds of the rehearsal, and the drummer couldn't nail the Ska or Reggae beats. The bassist texts me, and tells me he wants to go back on drums and that he had a bass player he'd like to use. I call the trombone player, and tell him it's not going to work. The sax player in the band calls in a friend that used to play trumpet for the Moscow circus. We do the next rehearsal, and the trumpet player kills. But the bassist came in late, unprepared, and played with a confused look on his face for most of the rehearsal. He gets canned, and I scramble for another bassist. I make some calls, and I get someone who I met with the day before the gig to go over the tunes with. I had to tweak the songlist, and modify some arrangements to make it easier for someone to jump in.

    We do the gig, and it goes very well. The people loved us, even though there were some things that weren't as we expected. Here's the e-mail I received from the client:
    "Just want to tell you, and the while band, how much we appreciated your being here. People LOVED YOUR WORK. I'm still hearing from partiers about what a great time they had, how the band rocked, that they loved your sound, your energy, your style. So BIG THANKS for being here. We know you did a major thing to come to Charlottesville and we are truly grateful. Please pass this on to the whole band, as it probably took a whole lot of good vibes from many sources to do this gig."

    It was stressful, but I managed to fill in the spots and do the gig. If you have a decent paying gig, the good players seem to crawl out of the woodwork and their schedules open up. I wouldn't cancel, I'd keep looking for someone or make it work with who you have.
  15. eow


    Mar 5, 2003
    Kansas City
    Thanks all for your feedback. One other thing I forgot to mention and it will be interesting to see how it changes or solidifies your opinions....
    They suggested we use tracks for these shows. :bag:

    I don't think that is a good idea either. I told them the train wreck potential from missing a cue with tracks would be far more damaging and embarrassing than the #3 sub.
  16. jive1

    jive1 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    I agree, unless you guys are already set up for it. Which means that you have tracks, a means to start and play them, a means to play the click track without the audience hearing it, a drummer that is accustomed to playing with a click track, and an opportunity to work with the tracks so you don't get any surprises. Otherwise, the opportunity for a trainwreck increases exponentially. Sequenced tracks do not forgive at all.
  17. sinbad7


    Dec 17, 2010
    I say you play the show. Cancelling a show looks much worse than having one guy miss a few notes on the keyboard. turn him down a bit, don't play anything that you have doubts on and rock out and make people happy!
  18. marmadaddy


    Oct 17, 2005
    Rochester, NY
    Don't cancel for all the reasons listed. As to the singer, just appeal to their ego.

    "I completely understand and I don't blame you. It can be tough to play my parts when I'm hearing what kb player is doing. I can't imagine having to sing over it. This sucks because we can't afford to lose these rooms. It's really a no-win situation but we stand to lose more by cancelling the dates than by keeping them with kb player. It might not be too bad though. You can do this, you've done tougher dates and put on a great show."
  19. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    As for using tracks; I do it all the time, with no click-click. It means you have to have the tracks up loud in everybody's monitor, and you had better rehearse to see if it will work.

    For us, it was no biggie. But we're exceptionally talented, and incredibly lucky.
  20. Not to mention humble.;)