Brilliant...This is an interesting thread, for sure.
I'm a number of years (screw: over a decade!) away from my last steady live gig: the sort of situation where I'd played the charts several hundred times with the same folks, and could rely upon muscle memory to get me through seamlessly. Even then, I didn't self-medicate until after the set: with one glaring exception, about which more directly.
Lately, I find that I'm playing live more as a sort of a utility last-minute fill-in sideman, where I seldom know what is going to go down until I get there. With a lot of luck, I'll have one or two rehearsals to get things going. The gig I'm currently ramping up for is a big high-dollar benefit with a local blues band, and their charts are full of twists- and I'll get 4 rehearsals, and there's nothing on paper. If I'm not seriously on top ear-driven form, I'll be even more seriously fucked. Some of the arrangements are a trip!
Frankly, I like this sort of challenge these days. And, having said that: the idea of approaching such a gig even slightly compromised is beyond my comprehension. I'll have water, thank you. Afterwards? If it pours, I suspect that I'll drink it. Nastravya!
Now I can tell my brain-packed-in-cotton-batting story, I guess. The year, 1982. The venue, Chet's Last Call in Boston, right across from Boston Garden/North Station (above the Pink Pussycat Lounge, for folks who knew the neighborhood when it was still there). The band I'd founded, managed, and pushed to the world, had played a gig opening for Death in the Shopping Malls, and were loading out down the fire escape, as was good form in those days. My keyboard player lost control of his grip on my trap case, since he was trying to make time with a comely young brunette (he had the top handle, of course), and in the ensuing caramboulage, I ended up underneath said trap case, one flight down, with a torn ACL and MCL in my right knee. Which could be, and was, fixed surgically.
No troubs so far, right? Right-o. Except that that very night, I had booked us for the Saturday night headliner slot at Chet's only 3 weeks later (during basketball/hockey season- a plum gig). So we did it, anyway. And I discovered that 3 fresh prescription percodan and 2 shots of 100-proof Stoli will just very damned near make it not hurt too-much-ish, at least sufficiently to get through a 90 minute set with nine gazillion stitches, staples, and screws in the freshly-repaired knee on your freakin' kick drum side. Apparently, the 80s were a bad decade for getting knee surgery. You know what? Pain _hurts_, and it has a way of focusing your attention. But we did the gig we'd contracted for.
Here's the cool realization: I believe I sucked. I actually believe I sucked rocks through a freakin' *straw*, man. I'm not at all convinced that there are enough adjectives to describe the downright exquisite levels of suckitude I believe I traversed that evening. Arrangement? Fuck. Tempo? Fuckfuck. What _species_ am I? Fuckfuckfuck. Funny thing is that several of our fans said that that was a really good show: go figure. But cotton wadding and I just don't get along very well, I guess: I'm a control freak. It also set back my PT about 3 months... But, by Gawd, I'd said I would do it, and do it I did.
It is a good thing that the next few days are still a blur. Don't try this at home: your mileage will vary, and you won't like it. (;-) Never again!
Some folks can do the work a little bit out there. Some would seem to be able to do it a *lot* out there. Speaking strictly for myself, I would seem to be able to do it a *tad bit* out there. But, after all this verbiage, the question has to be: "WHY?"
You make the call!
There should be a +feedback button somewhere for this...