Hey, it has to happen, right? All those wonderful nights where people compliment your playing, tell you the band is great, and you get along well with your “employers” (eg club, bride & groom, company, etc) should be balanced out with jobs that make you appreciate those finer moments.
Although I’ve never had a player NOT show up, I’ve had some come very close to being late. Our drummer got lost on the way to a wedding gig once. This was before the age of cell phones. The technique used by our singer was to remotely change her answering machine message on her home phone to directions to the gig. Then she found out she didn’t have enough time to record it all so she re-recorded it at a break neck speed before the beep went off, thinking that the band member would call her number (by pulling off the road and using a pay phone). Her efforts paid off, that’s exactly what the guy did, got back on the road and showed up 15 mnutes before we were to play.
In this day of cell phones and navigation devices, this is less likely to happen but people do forget their cell phones or they’re out of a charge.
With respect to equipment, I’ve never had a failure but I’ve heard many a story of their amp suddenly smoking. I’ve been lucky in that aspect – but as a guitarist you can have some backup. If you use an external foot board (with various effects) you can plug directly into the PA (provided there is a free channel) and get the amp fixed later. If the footboard dies, you can go off the amp straight and use the onboard effects (useful to get a modeling amp here…like Line6)
One thing that threw me with my Line6 amp until I figured it out – my power cord is a plug-in type on the amp end. I forget that and when I move the amp around it sometimes comes loose and then -ack! – I have no power! Nothing comes on! Lesson here: when you set up, double check all connections so there’s no surprises on stage.
Here’s where the stories get a bit more….colorful.
Story #1: A long time ago we were playing on a slightly raised stage (about 2 steps) and I had my heavy Les Paul Custom on my shoulder when this guy comes over to me and motions me to come closer so he can talk to me. I bent over – and this guy grabs me by the neck and pulls me closer to him so I can hear his request. I’m nearly falling off the stage at this point (a thigh-high railing kept me on) but this apparently inebriated person didn’t notice. When I finally got away from him, I told our bassist (who called the tunes) and he ignored the request until the guy came over to me a second time. “Frank, call that tune and get this guy off my back!”, I growled and we finally played his tune.
it gets better…
Story #2: We were playing a private home on a large lot of land down in Morgan Hill, CA. I was filling in with this band and they had equpment and lights.
Well, these good ol’ boys were drinkng when we got there and while setting up, there were some hostile looks cast our way (not sure why other than their happy, elated state). It got dark and it got cold. The people throwing the party wouldn’t let us use their restroom to change clothes either.
So we got our stuff plugged in, used our lights after dark and played I guess 2 sets. That was our arrangement and then another band was coming on. They wanted to use our lights, we wanted to leave. Even though they were asking a favor, they gave us attitude: “Hey, man, can you dig playing without lights?” We got all the sound equipment loaded onto the trucks and waited until the last minute to pull the plug on the lights. By then, all the band members were on alert that we were taking off fast.
Sure enough, when the plug was pulled on the lights, there was some confusion at the party. People wanted to know what was going on. We jumped into our vehicles, and took off down the road. I don’t even know if we got paid for this gig.
I was in another band that was quite Top 40’ish and less rock (although when we did do rock tunes, that was my forte). We got a gig at Fort Ord near Monterey, CA (which was closed under the Clinton years).
I’ve played military bases before, but I don’t know what they were thinking when they booked us. This was not a coed crowd – it was all enlisted men, no one to dance with, so it was purely entertainment. And they didn’t want to dance (obviously) – they wanted to ROCK. And they weren’t shy about expressing themselves. In essence, we were boo’d off the stage and trying to make a go of eeking out a single set of our more rocker tunes. They wanted Van Halen and we were doing Men At Work. Lesson here: know who your audience is and what they want!
I believe our contract was honored and we got paid, but we couldn’t wait to get out of there!
Note that these are only a few “bad” stories while most nights are much less exciting – thankfully!!
This week I’m going to Utah with my girlfriend to attend the Sundance Film Festival. I hope to have a story or two when I get back!