Thursday, April 30, 2015

Rock and a Hard Place - Gigging Horrors

It's been a while since I've been in a band*, but this post pushed my way by @Chris_J_Turner got me wandering down memory lane. I thought I'd share a few of my own experiences.

Adventures in Space...

The band would often turn up to a venue to find we were expected to fit five guys and all assorted rocking paraphernalia including a drum kit in an area more suited to, say, an agoraphobic field mouse. Here are my Top Five Comically Small Stage experiences:

5. Booked to play in a student union bar, we were assured that we'd be playing on a stage. Upon arrival, we quickly realised that the 'stage' was actually a drum riser.

4. An alcove in a pub which the band filled. It had a view of the main area of the pub that was obscured (and I'm being charitable there) by a massive supporting pillar and a ninety-degree bend.

3. The area usually occupied by a pool table. Much of this area was taken up by... the pool table, which had been wheeled to the side "out of the way".

2. In a room roughly five times the area of the drummer's mat we had to fit in the entire band, instruments, amplifiers, P.A. system and... 30+ drunken, dancing birthday party attendees.

1. A bay window. Seriously.

We've also been placed directly in front of the exit to the pub's smoking area, meaning that there was a constant stream of people pushing past us, tripping over and stepping on our equipment while we were playing our set.

... and time.

Timekeeping in the band was always a bit of an issue: most of us would turn up in plenty of time, but one guy would always keep us guessing as to when he'd arrive. Sometimes he wouldn't turn up until five minutes before we were due to start playing (or, on occasion, five minutes after). The trouble was that he was the one bringing the P.A.

From the point of view of the venue, we'd regularly turn up ready to set up only to find that the area we were supposed to be setting up in was taken up by pool tables, arcade machines and dining tables (sometimes with diners still dining at them) that they "hadn't got around to moving yet."

Having a Bad Day

We went to an open mic night once, and just took guitars along as reputation had it that the venue supplied its own amplification gear. Reputation was right, but we hadn't thought to enquire as to the quality of the equipment. Similarly, we'd been on hiatus and this was to be treated as a bit of a practise. We were awful and the equipment was worse, with the lead guitarist's amp switching settings of its own accord and the footswitches seemingly acting as random settings generators. The amp I was using kept overheating and cutting out, and the stock drum kit was of the kind that you might get an enthusiastic but not particularly gifted drummer for their eighth birthday. We didn't actually die on stage, and this acts as pretty convincing evidence against the efficacy of prayer.

Stage Invasion

Playing in a Working Men's Club for a fortieth birthday party, what appeared to be the birthday boy's aunts took a shine to our lead guitarist and joined us on stage for at least two songs, repeatedly groping his backside and hogging the mic for much of the time. They weren't accomplished vocalists.


Glossing over the time I turned up to a gig without my guitar, and the other time that I got home from a gig without my guitar, we had a few last minute panics when we realised we didn't have some key gear. Once, having driven an hour for a Sunday afternoon gig at a pub's summer festival our drummer realised as we got ready to sound-check that he'd forgotten to bring any sticks. That is, however, nothing compared to the time we were getting ready to sound-check and then decided it might be a good idea to call our drummer (a different one, this time) and ask where he was. He hadn't realised there was a gig. We played "unplugged".


We played at a past-and-present-staff social for a well-known supermarket chain. Part way through the first set one of the older partygoers approached the band to make a request. That request was "can you turn it down a bit please? We'd like to talk."

Power Struggles

A disturbing number of gigs have caused abdominal gripes when we've asked "O.K., where do we plug in?" Trailing daisy-chained multi-adaptors through the middle of an audience was a more common occurrence than I'm comfortable admitting. Once, although we were on a decent stage with outwardly sensible electrics, we suffered a mid-song power failure as the circuit-breakers were tripped ("that happens all the time," we were told afterwards). The audience carried on singing in the dark and when the power returned we just joined right back in.

The most memorable power-issue, though, was actually at the same venue in item 2 of the Top Five in the first section, above: we had to run the P.A., three guitar amps, three effects boards, two wireless guitar receivers and various flashy lighting devices through one 13-amp wall socket by way of an impressive network of multi-way mains adaptors. The socket concerned was on the other side of the room from the band, behind the revellers.

How about you?

Got any interesting, funny, uncomfortable or downright horrifying gig stories? Leave a comment!

* If you're in or near Milton Keynes or Northampton and you need a fairly competent rock-happy rhythm guitarist with the lead-y type leaning (or just fancy a jam) then get in touch.