A Vacation — and a CONTEST!

I was just in Europe, but I’m heading right back — this time on vacation. We’re going to spend a few days knocking around some fave cities, then embark on a tour of Paleolithic cave painting sites in France and Spain.


Our Cro-Magnon ancestors had to contend with such hardships as poor stage lighting, inadequate sound reinforcement, and excessively reflective surfaces.

I know it’s hard to tell when I’m being sarcastic, but this time I’m not. I wanted to be an archaeologist as a kid, until my mom said, “Why? All you’ll do is sit in a closet polishing worthless scraps with a toothbrush.” (Fortunately, she was more supportive of my musical dreams. She never said, “Why do you want to be a studio musician? All you’ll do is sit in a closet polishing worthless scraps with Pro Tools.”)

Since I won’t be able to post and reply as often as usual until I return at the end of the month, I figured you guys could help me keep things interesting. Which brings me to the latest tonefiend contest: the Cro-Mag Comedy Competition!

The rules are simple, just like the musicians we’ll be poking fun at. All you must do to enter is post a funny musical anecdote to the comments section below. It doesn’t have to be about musical stupidity, though experience suggests that those are the funniest stories. Nor does it have to be about guitar, though there are few things stupider than stupid guitarist stories. (Drummer, bassist, and vocalist stories are the obvious exceptions.) The tales should be true, or at least sufficiently true-sounding to dupe the rest of us. If they involve real people, please change their names enough to avoid legal action.

I’ll winnow down the entires to a manageable number via some as-yet-undertermined means (dartboard, or maybe animal entrails), and you, dear readers, will get to select the final three winners, each of whom will receive one of my unique handmade stompboxes, created in a closet at my cutting-edge workbench out of worthless scraps premium mojo parts.

Enter as many times as you like — but please, only one anecdote per comment. Also, please post your anecdotes here on the site, rather than in Facebook comments. Stories can be as long as you like, but remember: Your judges will be musicians, so they may have difficulty grappling with complex sentences.

The contest runs till I get back, or till jet lag subsides — whichever comes last.

Here’s a sample story to get the ball rolling. Naturally, I’m ineligible for the competition because I already have enough crappy little pedals it’s the ethical thing to do.

I heard this one from one of my favorite guitar techs. He’s such a pro that he refused to reveal the identity of the musicians in question, though I managed to pry from him the fact that it’s a leading UK or Irish band you’ve probably heard of.

Anyway, the band’s bass player insisted on using a large, loud, miked amp onstage, even though the front of house guy used only the direct signal in the PA. “Please don’t use an amp,” the crew and band pleaded. “It leaks into the other mics. It screws up everyone’s onstage mix. It makes everyone’s life more difficult. You can have as much bass in your wedges as you like. Or wear-in-ear monitors. Or anything! But please, no amp!”

“Sorry,” said the bassist. “It’s my sound. What’s more, I refuse to step foot onstage tonight unless I see my amp up there with a mic on it!”

That night the amp was right where the bassist expected it, with the usual mic in the usual place. But unbeknownst to the bassist, the mic cable wasn’t connected to the sound system. The cable ran offstage, where it was plugged into … a cabbage, pilfered from catering.

Okay — your turn!


52 comments to A Vacation — and a CONTEST!

  • So the drummer from my band… well it's tough to decide on one story about him, but I'll pick the one that doesn't make him a complete idiot.

    our rehearsals are placed at our drummers basement. (as with many bands I suppose as it's much easier to move about guitars and amps rather than drums).
    any way, we came to play one day and found him wasted on the floor, so we decided to pull a prank on him.
    we took all the equipment out of the basement and placed it outside in the nearby shed.
    then we headed to wake him up in a panic frenzy!!
    the funny thing about it is that he just got a new drum set about 3 weeks prior to that (which he still pays for today).
    after a mini heart attack, he ran about the basement, so we asked him "what the duck are you doing?"
    he said: "I'm getting rid of all the illegal stuff so I can call the cops!!"

    what a fun day it was…

  • smgear

    enjoy the trip Joe! Granted I’ve lived over here for a few years, but I still love when I get a chance to just be a ‘tourist’. I have a suspicion that Paris could be a cool city if you aren’t there for ‘work’ 🙂 but since you aren’t looking for funny/stupidity stories from CDG….

    I think I can beat your bass amp story. One of the bands that I used to run sound for had a percussionist ‘leach’ that would show up uninvited to gigs all the time. He thought he could play conga’s, but he couldn’t. So at first I’d mic him up and then just leave him out of the mix. After a couple week’s I’d mic him up and then not patch him into the board. After a couple more week’s of that I just put an SM81 on a stand and didn’t even bother connecting a cable to it. He didn’t notice for a few weeks and when he finally did, I just assured him it was wireless. 🙂

  • Laertes

    I can´t remember any funny story for the contest but at least I wish you a nice vacation and welcome to my country (Spain).

  • Oinkus

    I should win just for being at the pinnacle of stupidity! Have a great trip Joe enjoy your trip abroad! Stay safe and have fun. :stupid:

  • Benjamin

    I used to do audio work in a mid-size performance venue. One day a very talented young bluegrass band comes through. I’ve seen ’em before, so I know what they’re about. They’ve spent another couple of years on the road, so I know they’ll be a little more polished.

    What gets me and the rest of the staff is that on the performance contract it stipulates clearly “the stage shall be free of hay bales, vintage farm equipment, or anything else that might stereotype bluegrass or country music.” We figure this is fair because they don’t want to be pigeonholed. We also figure it’s funny, because you just KNOW that this stuff is only on the contract because it’s happened to them.

    The act is predictably good and for whatever reason they don’t touch their big catering tray, which means that the food goes into our fridge to supplement the staff’s food budgets. I actually stop in the next day for a sandwich because work is between my place and my train to New York. I walk into the theater to see what my coworkers are running that day and on the very same stage I see them soundchecking a musical kids act consisting of five guys in giant novelty cowboy hats surrounded by wagon wheels… and hay bales.

    Good sandwich though.

  • Erok

    I was new in town and agreed to play a gig after answering a personal ad, the band was booked for a 2 day wedding event and needed a bass player. Drove for 2-3 hours to discover the venue was a truck stop. Straight out of the Blues Brothers, chicken wire stage and everything. During the break the drummer hits on one of the bridesmaids, enraging her boyfriend. He tears out to find “the boys”, which provided a few precious minutes to grab our gear and run. Think they chased us for 20 miles or so before they turned back. Must have run out of beer…

  • ezcomes

    Have a blast Joe! If you find something cool in the tunnels…send some pic’s to us!!

    my story…
    we were working on a song…trying to get the intro to mesh right…the drummer would count 4…we’d start on the net beat and it just wasn’t working…so…lets count to five and start on 6…
    the drummer looks down at his kit…shakes his head…five?…the four of us look at each other, then back to him…yea, five…
    um…how do you count to five?
    to the disbelief of the four of us…he was serious…he couldn’t wrap his head around it…we even tried, count to four and then start at one again and we’ll start on the 2…
    ended up reworking the song so that the guitar started…
    poor guy…

  • Back in the late nineties I had the pleasure of hanging out, playing and studying a little with the legendary Amos Garrett (Maria Muldaur, Paul Butterfield’s Better Days, Great Speckled Bird to name of few bands he recorded with). Anyone who has met Amos will tell you that he is a great raconteur and it always made me a little giddy with excitement when he launched into a story; much like his solos the stories zoom and swoop unexpectedly in novel directions.
    One evening between sets he told me of his first public performance as a teenager – at Carnegie Hall.
    Amos was to back up a folk singer (who’s name unfortunately escapes me) and was dressed up in a rented velvet tux for the concert. He was armed with a couple of acoustics: a Martin six-string and a Gibson 12-sting.
    Carnegie Hall was staffed by Teamsters at that time, and they were famously uncooperative. There were performance stipulations: Amos and the singer were to sit on stools out front of the ancient and heavy velvet curtain which hung from the proscenium. Amos’ extra guitar was to stay out of sight, behind the curtain, and a stagehand was to deliver the guitars as they were needed in the set.
    They struck up the first song. Amos played his Martin six-string. It went well.
    For the second tune Amos needed the Gibson twelve. He looked around for the stagehand. He was nowhere in sight. Amos, feeling his cheeks redden in front of a packed house, panicked and decided to take matters into his own hands. He got up from his stool and, holding his Martin by it’s neck, plunged into the three-foot-deep velvet curtain and shoved his way through it’s ponderous bulk. He got to the other side and grabbed his Gibson twelve, then realized he would need the Martin again a song later. Still no stagehand in sight. He wrapped both guitars in a sort of bear-hug and pushed his way through the curtain again.
    It should be mentioned that the curtain at Carnegie didn’t appear to be cleaned all that regularly. When Amos re-emerged from back stage he was holding two wildly out-of-tune acoustics and was covered head to foot in a hundred years of dust bunnies accumulated in the ancient curtain, clinging to his velveteen tux. I gather the rest of the gig didn’t go quite so well as the first number.
    His FIRST gig!
    BTW, Amos lost a good deal of possessions and the use of his house in recent flooding in his home of High River, Alberta, Canada. A quick Google search would allow interested parties to contribute to his rebuilding. All the best, Amos!

  • Jermaine Eyum

    I saw this old blues guy warming up for Taj Mahal back in the mid-80s. Someone apparently told him that he wouldn’t be accepted by these modern kids if he didn’t have a drum machine. So there he was, with the same Yamaha drum machine that I once owned, parked on pattern 1. He starts it up. Boom BAP a boom boom BAP etc. Tweaks the tempo up and down a little then starts trying to play along. Well no, that was too fast, I’d better bring it down a little. Stops playing and adjusts the tempo. OK, gets through the first song a boom boom BAP and turns off the drum machine.

    Then he turns it back on and tweaks the tempo a little bit. Same pattern 1 as before. After about the 4th song this way, the crowd is getting noticeably agitated. I retreated to the bar and got a few extra drinks.

    If he’d just sat there and PLAYED it would have at least been interesting. As it was it was a complete travesty and I remember way more about that fiasco than I do about Taj Mahal’s gig.

  • smgear

    how about just a general recollection of the many laughs I’ve enjoyed over the years from showing up to a call gig or running sound and the following occurs….

    -Get there and either the guitarist, or more commonly the bass player starts rolling in their mega rig…
    -I get excited because they’ve got an incredible setup – high end instrument, vintage or high end amp, and a full pedal board of boutique effects
    – they get it all set up
    – they hunch over (they always hunch over when they play)
    – and they launch into a tune and reveal that they are total beginners/amateurs
    – meanwhile the other guitar player that showed up with a yamaha pacifica in a duct-taped gig bag running entirely through a first generation multi effects with missing knobs and a broken power adapter brings the house down with his fantastic playing.

    you can’t buy skill 🙂 And hooray for yamaha pacifica’s – those things are far too unappreciated.

    • smgear

      can we also have a moment of silence for all the bass players who can never figure out how to wire a DI into their chain properly? Let alone understand the difference between a ground lift and a pad?

  • smgear

    here’s one, in which I was the total idiot.

    I got asked to play fiddle for a special gospel service (full band plus about a half sized gospel choir). I knew the people (fantastic musicians – though mostly classical backgrounds) and had played with them before, but never in a bluegrass context. Nonetheless I assumed that if they wanted to do a bluegrass set, then everyone else knew how it was ‘played’. There was no time for a rehearsal and they handed me the set list just before we went out. I was really surprised to see that they were doing the ‘classics’ in really odd keys – which is a problem for fiddle because you can’t do the standard licks and double stops in the key of A flat, for example. So I ran over to the pianist who was the leader and double checked that the keys were correct. It’s what he wanted so I made a quick decision to drop the tuning of the violin (which those instruments don’t react well to).

    We got out on stage and I was supposed to kick things off. They started with a vamp and base beat and I launched into it. We quickly realized that the tempo I was used to playing these tunes at was twice what they had in mind. The whole thing spectacularly collapsed. Since we were dead in the water anyways, I asked if we could switch back to the proper keys and retuned my violin on stage. We did manage to salvage a bit of the ‘show element’ through banter while getting things back on track, but I definitely crashed the show for them (although they should have prepared a bit better on their end and we definitely should have had a rehearsal).

    Oh, and there were about 3,500 people in the house and it was live on the radio. 🙂

  • smgear

    One last happy memory while I finish my coffee.

    I saw Bobby McFerrin fire the sound guy in the middle of a show once when I was a kid. The guy was running the monitor aux’s post-fade and kept tinkering with the channel EQ. Understandably, Bobby is overly sensitive to what he’s hearing in the monitors. He asked the guy to stop a couple times and then unleashed the beast on him. He was quite right too, the second half of the show was much better with no one on the board. That occurred years before I got heavily involved in sound myself, but it was a fantastic lesson to learn – don’t F’ with the monitor mix during a show.

  • smgear

    sorry, one more… not an idiot story, but a funny anomaly. There was a band that I ran sound for a few times and they had a couple vocalists. One of them was a… bigger lady – tall, but also… lets say thick – very brickish. Whenever I ran sound for them, I’d start picking up a bizarre hum – similar in frequency to ground hum, but behaving like feedback. I tracked it down to her mic, but I couldn’t find a reason for it. The type of mic capsule at that angle to the wedges at that volume wouldn’t explain it. I took the mic apart to check the connections, swapped mics, etc. But it kept showing up. I wanted to solve this puzzle so I isolated and checked everything, and then hooked my laptop up to analyze the signal going through that loop. My final conclusion was… the lady’s appreciable mass had a resonant frequency of 60hz and when she locked her arms and legs in place and held the mic, the energy hitting her from the monitors got transmitted directly to the casing of the mic and back into the system. It was a physical feedback loop. Truly bizarre. I got her a boom stand and problem solved. But that’s the only time I’ve ever seen anything like it. I didn’t dare try to explain it to her though…..

  • Oinkus

    I used to D.J. in the bar next door to the restaurant I worked at for food and drinks was great place and sometimes had live music.Out of town band Telluride was playing there one evening and opened up with Billion Dollar Babies(that is only song I remember at least). Power went out , poof! After much hassle and deliberation the group went to the fusebox to find the likely culprit. Singer/Guitar player fried his hand somehow screwing around with this ancient deathtrap that was the fusebox. Actually discussed playing for him but the setlist was a little off my page and I had no desire to be thrown into the mix and fail miserably.(had desire but was smart enough not to do it) Was pretty much the end of the show as far as I remember it.Got to love being on the road and trapped in Alabama in the summer yeesh , poor guys.On a different side note I used to be friends with Dave Anderson there (Huntsville ,AL) only famous musician to come out of the town. He was on the Arsenio Hall Show , was a huge deal at the time. Now he is one of the guitarist in The Atlanta Rhythm, Section

  • Jermaine Eyum

    I had the fortune to run the sound for Stan Getz’ quartet in the early 80’s. It was on the back patio of the student union on a nice summer evening. We had set up a small riser for the band and had set up the baby grand that was usually inside the student union for anyone who wished to play.

    At the end of the evening, one of the campus facilities guys was trying to get the piano off the foot-high riser by himself. I was wrapping up mic cords about thirty feet away when I saw what he was doing, but it was too late. He’d flipped it on its side, so that the long edge was down. Then he pushed against the rounded end with his stomach and as it went over the edge, the keyboard end went down on the ground against the blankets (he had SOME sense), but momentum took over and the piano kept going until it was standing straight up on the keyboard end.

    The guy hadn’t wanted to let go I guess, so he’d gone with it and was now balanced on the piano’s upward-facing curved end on his stomach, yelling, arms and legs flapping pointlessly in the fragrant breeze of academia. After a few seconds he managed to jump off, just in time for the piano to fall down on its lid, making a sound that would have both impressed and scared John Cage. Fortunately he was unhurt.

    Several days later I was back in the concerts office and asked Annie about the well being of the piano. She laughed and said, “well we probably never would have gotten that much dust out of it any other way and we got that tuning it needed too!” :smirk:

    • smgear

      haha, that’s great! I about had a heart attack once when one of the guys on my crew came dangerously close to rolling a 9′ steinway off the stage when they were trying to turn it around. I made it over just when the dolly wheel hit the beveled edge.

  • Brent Gable

    Back in the early eighties I was in an acoustic duo named Gable & Bray. We played at a club in Va Beach who had decided to put on an outdoor concert and a lot of the acts who played there got to drive limos to pick up the performers at the airport. There were a lot of great performers who were booked for the concert and one of them was Taj Mahal who I had the honor of driving. When we met at the airport he kind of gave me this sideways look like he had seen me before and asked me what’s your name again? I said Brent, Brent Gable. He then responded, you’re a player right? You play guitar don’t you? Somehow or other, in my delusional mind I’m thinking to myself, so I wonder how he knows about me? Now the duo I was in at the time was my first “pro” gig mind you, but anyway I say yes I do play guitar. So Taj gives me a nod and asks, so Brent, who do you play with? My answer of course, Gable & Bray. So he pauses for a few seconds and then asked me as only he could put it, Gable & Bray? Who in the hell is Gable & Bray?
    We both just busted out laughing. It was a good day.

  • joe

    Hi from London!

    Here’s another one I remembered:

    Back in the ’90s I was in a band that played ironically sleazy lounge music. Clubs could never figure out who to book us with, so we just got paired with random weird acts. One was an avant-noise jazz jazz trio with sax, bass, and drums. They were good players — but it was the kind of stuff everyone hates, unless they’re among the .001% of listeners who dig avant-noise improv.

    We groaned a little when we got booked with them a second time, but this show was different: The trio took the stage, and then a second saxophonist started playing from the back of the club, walking through the sparse crowd (because ironically sleazy lounge music is only a little more popular than avant-noise jazz). And this guy was stark naked except for his sax. And it wasn’t some modesty-preserving baritone, but a skimpy little alto. All was revealed as he joined the trio onstage. Might have been a smart move, we thought — more people stayed for the band’s set this time.

    A few months later, our drummer ran into that band’s drummer on Berkeley’s always-colorful Telegraph Avenue. “Oh, the naked guy?” he replied when the topic came up. “I was really tired of that band, but I didn’t want to be the one to break it up. So there’s this guy who’s been running an ad in the back of the East Bay Express (the local free rag) for years. It just says, ‘Naked Sax Player,’ plus a phone number. I called him up and offered him $50 to just show up at the gig and start playing. Everyone else quit that night.”

  • This is a humiliating story about musical stupidity and a guitar player.

    Yes, the guitar player is me.

    In the early ’90s, my friend “Dan” and I decided to form a no-nonsense, loud-guitar rock band, which Dan kept insisting would help us meet girls. We were both just out of college, and had grown up listening to classic rock, punk and (what later became known as) alternative rock. Neither of us were really musicians or had any experience playing in actual bands. We mostly had just spent a lot of time on our own as teenagers, making obnoxious noises with guitars and distortion pedals.

    We started off by getting together at his apartment, bashing out some lyrics and barre chords. I would bring along Dr. Rhythm, my trusty old analog drum machine, and we would work out song ideas on Dan’s 4-track. Now, obviously, a cheesy drum machine wasn’t gonna cut it for a “real” rock band, so we had to go out and find an actual human being who would be willing to play with us.

    I ended up tracking down another friend of mine from college, “Stacy”, who had just graduated with a degree in world music. She was already an accomplished percussionist and vocalist, and had performed with a handful of smaller national acts. By a sheer stroke of luck, she had recently acquired a well-worn used drum kit, and was (surprisingly) interested in being a part of our band.

    Our first attempt at playing together was in an appropriately cramped and dingy basement, covered in scraps salvaged from a carpet store dumpster. As we began to work on our first song, Dan and I were showing Stacy the basic structure. We simply looked at each other and started playing at the tempo we had originally set with the drum machine. Stacy looked a little baffled, and asked me to do a count-off, so that we could all come in together.

    So I tentatively barked: “One… two… THREEFOUR!”

    After several aborted attempts of this, Stacy finally picked up her drumsticks and clicked out an even rhythm, demonstrating how it transitioned into a steady drumbeat. It was then that I had a startling realization:

    A count-off was not, in fact, simply a stylized way that the Ramones or Led Zeppelin started a song, but actually had the purpose of SETTING THE TEMPO.

  • Back when I was in college, I was in a new pop rock band called the Neverlovers. We were playing on a bill with a bunch of other bands as part of the annual spring Arts First festival. We were scheduled to go on first, so we had our equipment up on the stage ready to go, and I was feeling nervous as hell. The theater had a heavy stage curtain that was lifted by a backstage mechanism. I was so busy going over our set list in my head that even though I could feel the curtain brushing up against my sleeve, I did not realize that my hoodie tangled in it until it was too late. The curtain lifted me up about foot off the ground before they lowered it again and helped me down. I was nervous as hell before the curtain, embarrassed as hell afterwards, but the rest of the gig was fine. My shoulder was sore for about a month, but it makes for a great story. (My wife, who was not at the show but has heard about it many times over the years, loves to bring it up whenever she wants to make a point about how oblivious I am to my own surroundings…)

  • smgear

    How about a non-musical band story?

    I went to a college that had about 3000 students in the middle of nowhere so all the musicians knew each other well. We had several good bands among the students and were all very supportive of each other. Towards the end of college, a couple of us who were the main players in our own bands and all respected each other’s playing decided to join forces to form our own band – a low-level ‘supergroup’, if you will. The problem was that with studies, work and our other bands, we were all too tired to work on anything so we’d just hang out, create funny band names, theorize good tune and album concepts, and on rare occasion jam. It was the most fun and drama free band I’ve ever played in… because we never let something as trivial as music get in the way. 🙂

  • mwseniff

    I used to run sound for a local band that toured the midwest circuit in the mid 70s. After I had been running sound and slowly straightening out the spkr wiring, ,mic snake and actually getting the most out of a marginal PA for a week or so it started sounding pretty good. One night after a gig I asked the vocalist/bass about the lyrics to a Led Zeppelin tune they did. His head jerked around eyes wide open and I thought I had stepped in it for sure. He said “You can understand the lyrics in the PA”? After that they made me the 5th band member, introduced me along with the band and gave me an even split of money from gigs. They even started helping more with the load out after the gig and anything else they could think of to make me stay on the sound board.

  • I find stupid human tricks work rather well to get an audience remember you: play a genius diminished descending lick in the most ridiculous place? Audience doesn’t remember that, but jump up on a table or the bar….
    One night at Checker’s Tavern in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, I was set up right where the bar conjoined the stage, so it was no big deal to step up on the bar (Paul Butterfield’s ‘Born in Chicago’, if memory serves). No big deal. Except that there’s a collective gasp and looks of disbelief. What up, man, I just jumped up on the bar of a beer joint?
    Then I feel a little ‘zing’ from the headstock of my 335. I glance over and spot the ceiling fan that just grazed my guitar and nearly took my head off on the way up.
    A week later I had to surf the most broke-dick table in all of Iowa. Older, no wiser.

  • I used to do sound for bands in high school and college. One of the first bands I worked with at college was an early-ish emo band that was just getting started together. Good tunes, good energy. Made sense when they got picked up by a major.

    Anyway, I was a decent enough tech and did a good set up. Everything was solid and stable and good sounding. Until the singer would pick up and hold the mic. Feedback city. Every damned time. I would go through pains to try to make sure it wouldn’t do that, that the mic wasn’t anywhere near feedback, but to no avail. No dice. And he would keep picking it up and holding it anyway. Every damned gig. Anyone else could hold the mic without feedback but not him. It’s like the vaudeville gag where the guy tells the doctor “It hurts when I do this.” “Well don’t do that!” Eventually he stopped holding the mic compulsively, probably about the time they were swimming into deeper waters.

    Years later I knew the precise reason why: he was always cupping his fingers around the back of the cardioid ball mic around the base. Closing up the back venting ports that make the cardioid mic a cardioid mic. Making it instead into a feedback-prone omni mic. “Well don’t do that!”

    • Every singer of all time did that. I marvelled as a teen how many frontmen on MTV would cup their hand around the base of the mic in the worst render-it-a-omni-mic ever. Still goes on…Simple physics, really…

  • Another band I worked with in college only once, thankfully. Mediocre local metal band. They were okay, sound was just fine. But the bassist/singer/frontman was drunk and abusive, and making a point of berating me on mic all night. No one else had a problem with what I was doing. Oh, and he had a Disney-esque attitude towards pants–all hanging out and flapping in the breeze, and it’s not like he was a fit or good looking guy. Looked really dorky with his horizontal striped t-shirt that he kept on, too.

    His band mates apologized profusely. No, they didn’t need to tell me he was an asshole when he was drunk. I suspected it might be the case when sober, too. But it was fine, because as I guessed no one was interested in seeing his ass flapping around on campus ever again so it was never again my problem of knowing when he was going to be an asshole.

  • Elliot

    I was asked to play guitar at a church conference with a guest band, simple enough, done it before, no problem.
    when I show up for rehearsal there’s already several dozen guys standing around making “moaning ghost noises”…
    I find out only the band leader showed up and she had called my band mates to play bass and drums…
    we “practice” a few songs as the place starts filling up. (by practice I mean played about 15 seconds of each song and she would stop and say “yah we got that one”)

    show time and the place is about 100 people over capacity, she turns to me and says “go for it”, grabs the mic and starts running around the stage speaking in tongues while the speakers erupt in feedback. about 7 guys jump over the walls of the sound booth and start frantically messing with any knob in sight. suddenly we’re nearly deafened by the sound of 3 rams horns in the second row, feedback still wailing.
    through all of this the whole crown is screaming and going berzerk, and my poor wife in the middle of it hoping to not get knocked out by flailing limbs.
    they finally get her mic working but she’s on a different channel now and we’ve lost her in our monitors (drummer lost everything in his headphones), so we’re all completely lost and have no idea what to play. so we just try keeping a steady groove with nods and footstomps while she yells out chord changes.
    so after that first “song” she launches into a song we didnt even “practice” and had never heard before, while we can still barely hear her at all.
    after 2 hours of this she starts freeform jamming and then tells us to “take it” while she preaches for another hour.
    after a little more than 3 hours, we were finally done……….with the first of 5 sets over 3 days!
    sound issues got fixed but everything else was pretty much the same each time.

    looking back though, that was some of the most fun I’ve ever been payed for!

    • smgear

      haha. I’ve run sound in a couple hundred churches and there seems to be an underlying belief among preachers and singers that you can do whatever you want with a mic, position it anywhere, and move to any spot in the room and it will magically work – or it’s the sound guy’s fault. On the other hand, the sound design is typically equally poor so… it’s always a fun challenge. 🙂

      That reminds me of another story. When I was in college (christian college), we had a lot of fairly prominent people speaking in chapel. As is typical, we always taped the on-switch of the lavs to avoid hassles and kept that channel muted until they started speaking. However, we did of course have that signal live in the booth for the full service and noticed when we solo’d it in our headsets that a lot of these people had terrible singing voices during the worship/music parts of the service. So, one year we made a series of recordings (just for our own amusement) where we did a separate bus mix of ‘famous people singing’. We’d cut the other singers and mix the unsuspecting person’s lav in front of the instruments as if they were the soloist. Many of them were hilariously terrible.

      • Elliot

        I know exactly the underlying belief you’re talking about, oh how many times this older gentleman would rest his arm by dropping the mic to his side, pointed directly at the monitor, and then look around bewildered as to why there was suddenly so much feedback.

        I too would love to hear the “famous people singing” album!
        We had a similar situation with recording a service once.
        no one had ever heard the pastor sing before… then we found out why…

    • Bebah Palulah

      It doesn’t really fall into the “stupid musician” category but it’s a pretty funny story. I’d love to hear a recording of it. Get a video next time!

      • smgear

        I think if the recordings still exist, they’re in a box of DAT’s that is deep in the storage locker. We would have all been fired if word or the recordings had gotten out, so I don’t think we made any user-friendly format dumps. Do they even make DAT players any more?

      • Elliot

        perhaps not “stupid musician”, but it was a near complete disaster nonetheless. I’ve never played to a crowd so ecstatically oblivious to how completely lost we were.
        I too would love a video if only just to see the terror on our faces!

        • Bebah Palulah

          Well as I imagined it, it seems the singer had some incredible self confidence and sonically I had categorized it under “Trout Mask Replica”. Ground breaking, unique, and bizarre. Perhaps not intentionally so.

          • smgear

            yeah, pretty much. usually the ‘speakers’ were just standing there on stage stoically half-singing along under their breath, which made it even funnier.

            To Elliot’s point, I know there’s been a lot of my own legitimate ‘performances’ that I hope no recordings exist of…. 🙂

  • Oinkus

    I see DATs on craigslist every once in awhile. Probly find one on Ebay I would bet.

  • Oinkus

    Do any of you folks know a supposed “pro” player that doesn’t tune or have the ability to adjust an amp to get even a half decent sound? A normal comment from the guy is “Jimi wasn’t always in tune man.”

    • smgear

      Mr. “just focus on the music man”? Yeah, I know him 🙂 Picking somewhat arbitrary numbers, I’d estimate that half of the gigging public thinks their responsibility to the sound stops at their fingers (no concept at all about how the rig actually works, how a PA works, basic band interplay and tonal balancing concepts, etc.). Another 25% of obsesses way too much over those factors and try to bend the laws of physics to compensate for their poor playing or technique rather than just practicing. The remaining population is a spectrum of gradually progressing ability and musicianship – and I love those players regardless of the end of the spectrum they fall on.

  • Jjamie Ray

    It was a big day. In a misdirected shot at obtaining responsible employment (midlife crisis?), I entered physiotherapy college at the tender age of 39. There we were, an unlikely ensemble of 18-to-20-year-old women–& me. I also regularly moonlighted as West African bass drummer/bassist in an “audience-participation/interactive band”.
    And today was my 40th birthday. I had a day of classes, drive to the airport, a flight, a fully paid gig in another prairie city that night,
    overnight hotel stay, a flight back, & an important physiotherapy exam the following day back in my town. I could do it. All I had to do was stay awake for about 30 hours. I’d done it before. And, hey, it was my birthday.

    Classes ended, I leisurely drive to the airport, stow my bags. Ahh, I have an hour to spare. Why not a wheat beer or two at airport pub prices? Good beer. I have a student loan, & everything hereon in is paid for, and I get $175 free & clear on top. And, hey, it’s my birthday, & I’m in the band.

    Several delicious pints later, I lazily sense my name cited with increasing urgency over the airport intercom: “Final call for Jjamie Ray! Jjamie Ray report to Gate 3 immediately! Flight A416 will be taxiing immediately!” I awkwardly lurch through the gates, up a mile-long gangway, & into the icy gaze of 200 pairs of eyes, including 8 pairs with whom I’ll be sharing the stage in a few hours. Ned, my friend & an exquisite percussionist, nods, grins at my folly. I order a drink.
    It’s my birthday.

    (The luggage hold of this aircraft contains approximately three-dozen instruments for our stage. And also, since we’re an “interactive band”, about 700 “mini-djembes”, one for each one of our corporate-suits-on-retreat audience, housed in massive touring cases on wheels. We have no roadies. We snake through hotel sub-basements, up ramps, through kitchens, load & unload every one of these instruments at each gig, ready for the crowd. A herculean task for the sober.)

    We touch down on land, a shuttle to the inn. In the hotel bar, Ned, delighted & amused by my spirited birthday behaviour, reminds me that the band is waiting for me to help set up, change into show garb, do sound check, & work out a few changes. I careen into the ballroom, & in the last-second, hazy rush to place 700 drums, I sense that the stage is not quite right, but I can’t place exactly why.

    Opening song, some heavy polyrhythms, I’m the bass drum man, the audience pours in. The first piece is 12 minutes long. Oh, that’s what’s wrong; the stage floor is bare, painted plywood, not a carpet to be seen. With every stick strike on these massive drums, the stage panels bounce about a inch.

    The bass drums & mics slowly begin to migrate across the back of the stage. I must follow them. I see the free-drinks bar open up at the back of the ballroom. I have to smile, dance, do my thing. I am concentrating fervently on stage presence & locking into the groove. To my right, the edge of the stage is approaching. My problem-solving skills are less than optimal. We crescendo, arms raised skyward, & my set disappears over the edge of the stage. A four foot drop.

    The audience laughs appreciatively & applauds. Amusing, clumsy, all for the show! The stage banter twists, lags, stretches to cover the struggle at stage right. I wrestle, tumble over drums, tangle in rigging. It is my birthday. All I must do is stay awake.

    I had not stayed awake. My next memory is the taste of hotel room carpet, being shuttled down hallways on a luggage cart. I sway precariously onto the plane. This time, I am unaware of its denizens’ eyes’ iciness or lack thereof. Ned shoulders me into my seat.

    Back in my home town, I am coherent. I am in a cab, I am in a classroom, I write an exam. I am second in my class. It was my birthday.

    Ned recounts that, the morning after the show, he had screamed & physically bounced my body repeatedly, ever higher, off the bed as our departure grew near.

    “And I’m safe in assuming, Jjamie, that you didn’t hear the announcement as you stumbled into the plane’s cabin?”

    “I don’t recall even having boarded the plane.”

    “Over the intercom, they said, ‘Jjamie Ray, Jjamie Ray to board Flight A568 immediately. Initiating bag pull.”

    My head shot back. “Ouch!” Ned peered at me quizzically, then laughed uproariously, & soon I joined him.

    My knee-jerk response was that the “bag pull” procedure would be directed at my anatomy, much deservedly, rather than at my luggage. Needless to tell, I was known exclusively as “Bag Pull” for some time, in honour of my
    magnificent performance on- & off-stage.

  • There’s some great stories in this thread! I thought I’d go ahead and throw in my own story about the most potentially disastrous gig I ever played:

    My band was scheduled to play at a birthday party. The only thing we knew about the gig was that there would be four or five other bands playing, and it was supposed to be a big, well-attended event.

    After driving through a desolate industrial district, we arrived at the “venue”, which turned out to be an enormous metalworking shop. Gigantic machines, ranging from the size of a small automobile to nearly the dimensions of a ranch house, were spread out over an expansive cement floor. Resembling medieval torture devices, the machines sprouted spiked, mechanical appendages, sharp-cornered armatures and sinister blades. Raw materials were piled high up along the walls towards a towering open ceiling, and small chunks and shavings of metal scrap were clustered in heaps around many of the machines, like little ferrous sand dunes.

    A pleasant surprise was that there was a very generously-sized elevated stage constructed near the entrance with a full PA setup. The issue was that it was built entirely out of metal, the upper surface consisting of huge inch-thick steel sheets, stacked somewhat haphazardly, several layers deep.

    It was not deemed necessary for us to have a soundcheck, as we were playing first and there was only a handful of people there at this point. As we set up, I noticed a faint crackle as I turned on my amp. The sound guy assured us that they had tested out the setup and it was fine. However, as we made a few tentative sounds before starting our first song, our singer was getting severely zapped if he put his mouth anywhere near the mic. Fortunately, the sound guy had already figured out a solution to that problem.

    He handed our singer a pair of welding gloves, instructing him to hold the mic with them.

    By the time we left (long after our set), the party was winding down. Four other bands played on the same stage, drunk people cavorted and slid in huge puddles of spilled beer, and a small crowd of people entertained themselves by swinging between the shop machines on a thick rope, suspended from the ceiling.

    Miraculously, no one was injured or killed over the course of the evening (at least as far as I know).

    Now, the most dangerous situation I encountered while on the way to a gig, that’s another story…

  • In the fall of 1980, Jeff Beck came into a club where my band was playing. We were doing a medley of “Hip Hug-Her” and “Green Onions,” and there he was standing back by the sound board, with his perfect English rock hair, bobbing to the beat. We’d heard a rumor he was in Portland, rehearsing before the start of a tour, so it wasn’t a total surprise to see him, just a bit surreal. But things got weird when he followed us backstage after the set, gushing about how much he dug us.

    “Brilliant, mates,” he said in his mild English accent. “How would you like to open my show in Seattle?”

    We were, in Brit-speak, “gobsmacked,” and felt compelled to make him aware of a couple of pertinent facts. First, we’d never played anything bigger than a 200-seat club. Second, he was talking about the day after tomorrow.

    Beck laughed off our concerns. He said, “Just play Green Onions for thirty minutes. It’ll be great!”

    We arrived at the Seattle Center Arena plenty early and spent the afternoon hanging around the venue, getting nervous. By the time Beck finished his long and totally intimidating sound check, we were terrified.

    With no time for a sound check of our own, we quickly set up our gear in front of Beck’s stuff, and headed back to the dressing room to wait. Soon enough, a guy stuck his head through the door.

    “You’re on, let’s go.”

    We were walking up the ramp to the stage when the house lights went down. The roar from the packed arena was deafening, like a jet taking off. We made it to the stage in the dark and found our positions. A local DJ walked on stage and grabbed the microphone.

    “Seattle!!!!…ARE YOU READY?? Will you PLEASE WELCOME…”

    The stage lights came up just as he said our name. Our drummer counted four and we blasted into the first tune; not Booker T, but one of our rockin’ originals that went over so great in the clubs. But something was wrong. I could barely hear the band. We were being drowned out by the ominous roar of five thousand people booing in unison. I looked down at a guy pressed against the lip of the stage. He gave me a death stare and bellowed, “F**k you! We want Beck!!!”

    Then it occurred to me. Our presence on the bill had not been advertised in any way. When the house lights went down, these people thought Jeff Beck was taking the stage. We were doomed.

    In the corner of my eye I saw a large object making a lazy arc through the air, headed my way. I took a quick side step as a jumbo soda exploded at my feet, drenching my sneakers and soaking my jeans up to the knee. The people down front thought this was hysterical.

    “Ha ha ha…you guys suck…get off the stage!!!”

    We finished one song and started into another. Now debris was raining down on us. I watched the lead singer recoil as he took a size-twelve Chuck Taylor in the chest. I glanced back at the drummer: he’d been hit square in the forehead by some kind of projectile and his face was dripping blood.

    The second tune lurched to a halt. The crowd surged forward, seconds away from a full-scale riot. We looked at each other in total panic. The singer gave us the high sign and we bolted stage right, running for our lives.

  • I studied guitar in college and was required to play in the wind band as an instrument major. Since there are not a lot of guitar parts in this repertoire, I was put on an electric bass and given bassoon charts. I was seated next to a tuba player.
    One day this tuba player asks me what accidentals I could play. A little confused, I answered, “All of them.” And then I proceeded to explain the frets and how to finger notes on the bass. The next rehearsal, he asks me again about what accidentals I can play on the bass. I again explain how each fret is a half-step, so I can player a fret lower to flat a note or up a fret to sharp a note.
    This goes on for several rehearsals. I am getting frustrated and can’t understand why he keeps asking me the same question. I don’t remember exactly how many times this happened, but something finally clicked in my head. I pointed to the chart with the bass clef and showed him that I could play from this note on the clef to this note on the clef. He nodded and never asked again.
    He wanted to know the range of the instrument and called the ledger lines on the staff accidentals.

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