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Trading war stories - live shows that went so wrong

Discussion in 'Bass Humor & Gig Stories [BG]' started by ialma, Nov 11, 2018.

  1. ialma

    ialma Supporting Member

    Jul 1, 2006
    South Italy
    I guess we all went through difficult times onstage.

    My top two :
    1) when the TIP of my cable gave way during a show, playing pinball in the circuit cavity and random shorting the signal.
    Had to stop show and open compartment, remove the bugger and get another cable ;)

    2) when we played near a mountain rural church. Lots of light which attracted LOTS of insects.
    We spent the show swatting mosquitoes and moths :D
  2. Bass V

    Bass V

    Dec 11, 2008
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    I've encountered that skiffling on the streets in Waikiki on a termite breeding nite but nothing compared to what Buck and the boys encountered at a early '90s Blue Oyster Cult show when the lights were on their faces attracting an incessant onslaught of those bugs going in every hole in their heads the whole time til Buck says to Donald ''this sucks'' and that was the end. too bad cos the previous 2 shows that week were the best I've ever seen them, and I've seen plenty BOC. Jon Rogers was on bass and he was the BOSS of that band those nites, he made the music really move and groove.
    mikewalker and McG like this.
  3. ComesATime

    ComesATime Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 2012
    I haven't had any true disasters, but a few come to mind. As a note, I have no problem with drinking in moderation, but I never drink before I play, and, even after, I'm usually too busy riding the adrenaline high to even bother afterwards.

    In my first gigging band, the guitarist/singer and drummer would drink and/or smoke a bit before a show. We played a "Battle of the Bands" sort of deal at a college, and I should've known it was going to be a rough night when the college used a Marshall stack as a vocal P.A.

    We went on later in the night, and, by that time, the guitarist/singer was pretty drunk. The drummer wasn't much better, between that and some oregano.

    It was a show that I felt incredibly down about after. The drummer had a lazy on-again-off-again tempo, and the guitarist/singer could barely play guitar and sing at the same time. When he managed it, his vocals were absolutely off key. We had a good argument after that one.

    Funny enough, we played this the following year and won. One of the other bands demanded a recount, incensed that they had lost, and then took to social media to rage about it and slag on us. My drummer was friends with them and had tried to defend them. They were called "Cut to the Chase" or something like that. I told them to Cut the poopie. That pissed them off further. Well worth it.

    About four years ago, I played a tiny venue in Brooklyn. It was a summer night, and the venue didn't have any air conditioning (or it was down). There was no breeze, so whoever opened the windows really just let in more humidity.

    With about 100 bodies in the room, it got to the point of stifling pretty quickly, and, when we finally had gotten on "stage" (it wasn't much of one), the humidity plus the stage lights made things pretty uncomfortable. I believe this was also the show that the saddle on my low E bottomed out for no reason at all. I can only guess that the thumb screw was a little stripped, and so when I rested my hand on the bridge to palm-mute for a verse, it just went plonk. No low E for the last song. The song sounded a bit off with the higher octave, but I played around it well enough.

    I was glad I always bring a spare t-shirt.

    Also in Brooklyn, someone had turned a house into a venue for the summer, and they had a DJ inside and bands outside. Another summer night. Lots of alcohol was had at this place, and people weren't exactly neat. The floors inside were all sticky with spilled drinks, and the lights were all down to facilitate the DJ's vibe. No a/c, so you felt as if you couldn't breathe. Outside, it was hot as hell with a good amount of humidity. I figured we were screwed with the DJ blasting inside, but we turned up to compensate. We played a good set, but it was definitely uncomfortable with people bumping into us, spilling drinks near gear, etc.
    mikewalker, craigie, McG and 4 others like this.
  4. Bass V

    Bass V

    Dec 11, 2008
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    sounds like the bug swarm woulda been preferable lol
    ComesATime likes this.
  5. BassCliff


    May 17, 2012
    So. Cal.

    I'll relate a recent experience.

    We've been playing a pretty nice honky tonk every month or two, usually on a Saturday. We have to load in pretty early to sound check before the doors open, around 4pm for a 10pm show. Doors open at 6pm. I know that's a lot of down time but we get a nice room to hang around in, good food, and free beer. It has a full sound system on a good sized stage. We play only a singe two hour set and the pay is more than twice the usual bar band pay. I think it's a pretty good deal.

    One weekend we decided to play both Friday and Saturday nights. Everyone except the bass player was running late getting to this club. They couldn't get off work early enough, there was bad traffic, whatever. We barely got any sound check at all but we muddled through the two hour show and had a pretty good time.

    Then Saturday night everyone, except the bass player, was even later arriving to the club. The owner was upset and took out his anxiety on the only band member who was there at the time. Eventually the other band members arrived and we smoothed out things with the owner. Doors were already open and we knew we'd have to go with the previous night's mix that had been saved on the board. Add to the mix a brand new soundman for that evening. He had been waiting around since 5pm to sound check the band but most did not arrive until almost 9pm. The soundman was not happy. (NOTE: Never piss off the soundman.)

    After a nice supper and a couple of beers we begin the show. Our drummer wears IEMs so he usually can't tell how loud he's playing. Plus, the back wall of this stage is brick. When drummer hits his snare it sounds like a .45 caliber going off in the back of my head. Most of the time I have vocals only in my monitor mix because I can usually hear the stage instruments from their amps. The keyboard player likes to have everything, especially kick and snare, in his monitor. I had explained to the keyboard player that, because of the SNAFU with our arrival time, we're just going to have to grin and bear it as far as our monitor mix was concerned this evening. I didn't want to make a bad situation worse. But he would have none of that. His mix has to be perfect.

    During the show the keyboard player starts waving his hands at the soundman in the booth, making hand gestures trying to tell him to turn the guitar up, turn the chick singer up, turn up the kick and snare, turn the guitar vocal down, turn the pedal steel down, etc, in his monitor. I'm already wearing earplugs because the snare is taking my head off and the guitar is melting my face. Thankfully we all have separate mixes. I don't care what comes out of the keyboard monitor. But I started to notice that my mix was changing.

    About halfway through the performance, the club photographer comes up on the stage to take some live pictures of the band. While we're singing and playing I see the keyboardist giving instructions to the photographer to tell the soundman what he wants in the keyboard monitor. Uh oh, this won't be good.

    A couple of minutes after the photographer left the stage, out of my monitor I hear cannons and machine guns, wailing sirens, and jet engines, all at decibel levels that liquefy internal organs. It seems the soundman was turning things up in my mix instead of the keyboard mix. All I could do was turn my monitor away from me and point it toward the keyboardist next to me.

    I looked at the keyboardist and said, "I told you so." Then I just smiled, played, sang, danced a little, and put on the show by feel since everything was so loud I could hear nothing. It was the most uncomfortable I have ever been on stage. But I didn't let it show. (I hope.)

    Moral of the story; The whole band must arrive in time for a proper sound check. Hopefully the band has learned its lesson and next time it will go much smoother, as did the the other times we've played there. Yes, they've booked us back in that room and they'll probably keep us in the rotation as long as the band is punctual. It's actually a nice gig and I'd like to keep it. If you've been following my gig reports I'm sure you can figure out what club and even what gig I'm talking about. It was quite an experience that evening.

    Thank you for your indulgence,

    Last edited: Nov 16, 2018
  6. drummer5359

    drummer5359 Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 10, 2011
    Pittsburgh PA USA
    This happened to me as a drummer last February. I wrote about it the next morning and posted it o a FB drummer page.

    "I have not made up my mind whether or not to share this story with the general public, but I have to share it with you guys for your amusement. Tonight I did something rather remarkable, and I'm not sure if I should be proud or embarrassed. Actually, I am proud and embarrassed simultaneously.

    A little back ground. Friday night I was staging gear for my Saturday gig. My knee went out and I fell to the ground. I was in a lot of pain and had trouble sleeping Friday night. Actually, I pretty much didn't sleep at all. Normally I load the van my self, and then pickup my nephew who helps the band as a roadie. He helps with load in, set up, tear down and load out. At the end of the night he helps me unload into my rehearsal space in the basement and I take him home. (He doesn't drive.) Because of my injury I picked him up and brought him back to my house early Saturday afternoon and he helped me load the van. We got to the gig and setup, everything was going fine, except that I was incredibly tired.

    The first set went perfect. We had a good sized and enthusiastic crowd who danced for every song. The owner was there and loved us. During the first break she booked us for another gig, this time in November. So far, so good. That's when it got weird.

    If you had asked me yesterday if the next event was even possible, I'd have said no. We started the set with "Simple man", I fell sound asleep during the song, but I kept playing. I kept good time, was playing rolls and finished the song. But, I kept dozing off. It happened during every song in the second set, all fourteen songs. Our bass player never noticed. Both guitarists (including my brother) knew something was not quite right, but they didn't know what. Our singer did realize what was going on, he was horrified and scared to death, but also stunned that I kept time okay and never stopped playing. We made it through the whole set somehow, we had people dancing the entire time. The crowd still loved us and never realized what was going on. I flubbed a few cues, since I was sleeping, but the train never went off completely off of the tracks. It was like being in the middle of a "Twilight Zone" episode.

    I drank a bunch of Pepsi during the second break and we made it through the third set without incident. It has to be the weirdest thing that has ever happened to me in all of these years of performing. And now at 7:20 the next morning, I'm still awake. lol."
    mikewalker, mmon77, JRA and 17 others like this.
  7. Nashrakh


    Aug 16, 2008
    Hamburg, Germany
    I don't have any disaster stories of my own, but just the last weekend I had a weird experience. Was playing a gig with a big band, relatively small-ish ensemble that day with maybe 25 people on the band stand. I played my Ibanez SR with the powerspan pickups. In this band, I always play them in coil tap mode for a more oldschool sound. No PA support, onstage rig only.

    We were about to play an encore that demanded a bit more volume from the bass AND a heavier attack, and since the stage had awful electric hum which I only noticed at this point, I switched from single coils to humbuckers, thinking it will eliminate hum and give me a bit of a volume boost at the same time. It sounded like a good idea. Of course, I was also digging in, which I only do in situations that require it, I have a very soft and controlled attack otherwise.

    However, I underestimated the volume boost. And for some reason, I couldn't hear it. Was wearing earplugs and fighting a cold. Sounded perfectly normal to me, though. After the show, multiple band members told me that I was so loud that it sounded like a Soviet tank approaching (on a wooden stage no less, I was told it shook like crazy) and I blasted the whole band off the stage until the percussionist came running over to turn down my rig.

    Which I didn't notice either. The drummer loved it. The band not so much.
  8. A gig that went so wrong.

    This was a few years ago, we got booked for a wedding by someone that attended one of our local gigs, in other words we didn't know them and were given NO info for the wedding. There was no dress code or song requests, just play 8-12. Seemed simple enough.

    So we drive about 2 hours away and get to the venue. Quite the interesting crowd. Our music was met with a lukewarm response. About 1/4 of the crowd were family/friends who had come "up north" from places like Tennessee and Kentucky. I am not kidding when I say there were alot of the men at this wedding wearing bib overalls and no shirt? Really? For a wedding? And many of them were drinking clear liquid from mason jars with cherries floating in there. Our singer at that time never turns down a free drink so 1/2 way through the evening he had sampled enough "shine" to be incapable of forming consonants. And as bad as that was we were getting all kinds of responses we couldn't pull off and in many cases had never heard of. Sonny Landreth? I'm sorry, I'm not familiar with his music.

    And with about an hour left in the gig I was sick, like get a bucket I'm puking my guts out sick. To be clear, I don't drink when I'm driving so it was not alcohol related. But I did eat some asparagus from the dinner buffet, not an easy item to throw up for your system let me say. I played at least 3 songs from the mens room playing through my wireless while being sick. Because our singer was impaired he was calling out songs not in order and starting them while I wasn't even on stage. It was not a great night.
    mikewalker, mmon77, JRA and 11 others like this.
  9. theinfamous


    Dec 22, 2014
    I've got one.

    One of my band's first few paying gigs, the drummer knew some guy who booked the bands at an upstairs bar. Super cool venue, and set up really well for live music. It was about an hour away from where we live. (This will be important information for later)

    We were told there would be sound provided, and a sound guy- a pretty rare thing for us.

    Well... we arrived at the venue, and find that the guy who booked us was in florida, (the gig was very much NOT in florida) and had not told anyone that we were playing. The staff was very confused. In hindsight we should have just cut our losses, gotten something to eat, and gone home. But we were going to play, damn it.

    There was no pa set up. No sound guy. The bartender didn't know what light switches did what. Luckily, we had brought our trailer, so we had all of our sound. We did however have to lug all of it up two flights of stairs.

    To make matters worse, there was a VERY loud DJ playing downstairs, so nobody at that bar even knew we existed. Our biggest crowd of the night consisted of four people sitting in a booth in the back of the room for about twenty minutes.

    Our keyboard player was a gear nerd and had inexplicably decided to bring a metric ton of dodgy vintage gear, including a mostly broken, off brand rotating speaker which was completely redundant because it didn't rotate and he played through a guitar amp anyway. Well, half way through our second set, he discovered any and all drinks were comped for the band. He then proceeded to do a shot of rumpleminze after every other song. This of course got out of hand pretty quickly.

    We played fine, got through the gig, but Mr. Keyboard guy, who we found out later was on some sort of medication he should definitely not have mixed with alcohol, (in addition to being about 95 lbs soaking wet) was absolutely hammered. He told our drummer that he was "going to kill him" when he was asked if he was okay, and then fell into his amp and non-rotating speaker.

    Overall, it was a miserable gig, and we were very thankful when it was done. But little did we know, the nightmare had just begun...

    During load out it became very clear just how loaded Mr. Keyboard was, as all those shots of rumple he had consumed came home to roost at once. Remember the two flights of stairs we had to traverse? Well, he was carrying the guitarists amp in one hand, and a case in the other, half running toward the stairs, and fell. If he would have fallen on the stairs, he would have gone all the way down with the amp on top of him. We had to stuff him in the front seat of the vehicle and tell him to STAY before he hurt himself or ruined someones gear, which confused and angered him. Meanwhile, the drummer was waiting at the downstairs bar to get paid, so me and the guitar player had to load everything out ourselves, including the metric ton of dodgy vintage keyboard gear. He had even brought along his rhoades, because of course he did.

    Finally on the road, I was very angry, and just wanted home, a beer, and bed. That turned out not to be a reasonable wish. It was extremely foggy that night, and we had to drive 45 on the interstate, and the drive which should have taken less than an hour turned into a two hour crawl. About 30 minutes from home, Mr. Keyboard awoke from the stupor he was in and began rolling down his window. The driver goes "hey if you have to puke, let me know because I've gotta pull over." No verbal response. I was sitting behind Mr. Keyboard, and I began to feel a light mist on my face. I thought it was actually mist until I smelled rumpleminze. I got covered in liquor puke before I knew what hit me. I yelled "what the f*** man!?" He turns around and just says "what?" slumps over, and passes out. I had to ride the last 30 minutes in the car, furious and covered in half digested alcohol.

    We obviously fired him, and to this day, I don't think he really remembers why.

    Tl;dr: played a gig, no one showed up, got puked on in the car on the way home.
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2018
  10. oldrocker


    Feb 13, 2005
    Long Island, NY
    Did ya get paid?
  11. theinfamous


    Dec 22, 2014
    Surprisingly, yes. I think they paid us just to make us go away, because they were so busy at the downstairs bar.
    ialma, mikewalker, GregC and 2 others like this.
  12. Scoops

    Scoops Why do we use base 10 when we only have 8 fingers Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 22, 2013
    Sugar Creek, Wisc
    I am me
    I was playing a gig where the motto of the band is "Take the music past where you found it".

    I was kinda befuddled by this as the guitarist played the same licks, the same way, every night. Not an ounce of improvisation for the Blues Rock we were playing.

    Well, we were ending the second set, and I added a couple grace notes to my bass line. It grooved a bit better. Guitarist wasn't happy with that. So much so that when I came to his side of the stage, he started stabbing me with the neck of his guitar and told me to get the F*** off his stage.

    We took a break, the other band members consoled me and told me how unprofessional that was.

    I finished the third set, packed up my belongings, and never played with that band EVER again.

    The drummer called me and said "Please don't let this get out, this could hurt us"

    That was then, this is now
  13. McG

    McG Goat Hill Gamblers

    Oct 6, 2010
    Costa Mesa, CA
    (I've posted this story before but it certainly belongs in this thread.)

    I played a dive bar many years ago that as soon as we walked in the door everybody mentioned that the place smelled BAD. I mean the air was toxic. There were about 20 or so hard core barflies in the place. Most likely regulars who no longer noticed the foul smell of unclean restrooms and filthy, beer stained carpet. Truly the dive bar of your nightmares.

    First issue: We set up and the house sound guy gave us a quick check. Things sounded ok. We waited the 15 minutes to start time outside just to get away from the smell of the place. Came back in and took the stage at the designated 9:00. Hit the first note .... to full FOH feedback. Look up to see nobody at the board. He was outside smoking. One of our guys ran to the board and turned it down.

    Second issue: As we were playing the stench started getting to me. I got light headed and started feeling nauseous. My head was spinning and ears were ringing. All I could think about was to not lose it on stage. During a 1 4 5 blues number I'm really struggling to keep it together. Then I sensed things didn't sound right. I looked at my hands and saw I was playing a half step flat and didn't even know it.

    Third issue: A moment later my feet went out from under me and I was on my ass. I actually had walked off the 2' high stage. Fortunately I wasn't hurt and got back on stage and somehow finished the show. I had to sit outside in fresh air for a good twenty minutes before I could go back in to pack up.

    That's the worst war story gig I have. :p
    mikewalker, mmon77, Mr_Moo and 8 others like this.
  14. theinfamous


    Dec 22, 2014
    Did the place have a gas leak??

    One of the unfortunate side effects of the smoking ban in bars was you got to smell just how awful those dives actually are.
  15. McG

    McG Goat Hill Gamblers

    Oct 6, 2010
    Costa Mesa, CA
    Nope, no gas leak. It was a combination of urine, beer, cigarettes (it was before the ban) and overflowing garbage cans. The worst of it was the urine. The men's restroom had a trough type urinal the length of the wall. Some drunks would be far back from the trough when they cut loose, others would walk through it to be closer, then track the muck back to the bar carpet. It didn't look like the place had been cleaned in a long time. The mixture of the, um, er, aromas was pretty toxic. :help:
    Mr_Moo and theinfamous like this.
  16. Thespis


    Feb 2, 2016
    I was in a production of 42nd Street which has a number called Shadow Waltz where one of the leads has a bright light on her with shadows behind her. One night a moth was attracted to the light and spent the whole number in front of it. It looked like she was being eaten by Mothra.
    mikewalker, mmon77, LBS-bass and 10 others like this.
  17. dlb1001


    Jan 30, 2007
    Some years ago, a former band played at a similar place. But, the owner covered it up with the smell with heavy dose of bleach...it covered up the nasty smell but we had to deal with chemical smell!
    McG likes this.
  18. arbiterusa


    Sep 24, 2015
    San Diego, CA
    Yeah. This one is thirty years old. I'd just turned 21 and got picked up by a full-time working band, everyone else a decade older. Ideal situation to both learn the trade and get into a lot of trouble.

    Had a bar babe I'd been having a thing with show up to my show, get drunk and convinced that I was sleeping with the waitress of the establishment we were playing at. Which I wasn't. No matter, though. Some sort of fight starts during the third set in the back of the room. There are a LOT of people involved, goes on through half the set. Cops show up. Bar babe is nowhere to be seen. Finish set, ask what happened, bar babe had slugged the waitress, security guard took her down, she bit him, she got "restrained" and her arm broken and hauled off by the local constables. Back part of the bar looked like it had been bombed.

    A great deal of humor was had at my expense for months afterwards. We kept playing the joint. Never saw bar babe again, which was good.
  19. Bar babe bomber!

    We had booked a show for a outside venue that was close to me for August in Texas. I figured we would be alright as it is in the shade about 6 PM and we used to ( key word USED) to practice in a warehouse without AC. These days of course we practice in a nice house with AC. Anyhow I get occular migraines every now and then and they are odd in that it passes pretty quick but for a couple of days I am a bit light sensitve -dont like loud noise and get nausea from heat.
    Day before the gig i get a pretty good occular migraine and spend the day of the gig in the AC just hoping that the symptoms will pass. Well nothing for it i head to the gig with my sunglasses and just hope for the best. The stage is Itty bitty and also to add to the fun some of my old friends get in some kind of text fight about who should and should not be coming to the gig because of romantic drama. Anyhow we setup and go on the little stage in the 100 degree heat. Suprisingly I hold up pretty good singing and putting on a show but when we stop. I feel like passing out and throwing up all at once. So we run through the first couple of sets and we take a break. I head to my apartment around the corner and throw some water on my face and cool off. I return to find the rest of my band unprofessionally plunking around and doing some half assed karaoke. I was too sick to be angry but just shooed them off the stage. We made it through and I even helped pack up and went home and didnt even throw up. The only think i can recall is just holding it together by strength of will!
    Here is a pic of that gig towards the end
    mikewalker, mmon77, Mr_Moo and 5 others like this.


    Mar 29, 2006
    I got sick just reading this.
    theinfamous, McG and Jimmy4string like this.

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