Unusual Gig Stories

wraub

Well-known member
As a bass player, I've played at frat parties in the rain, desert parties powered by sketchy generators, a tenement in Bed-Stuy, a combination Rock & Roll bar/Sushi restaurant in Oklahoma City, Sony studios in NY, a regular twice a week gig for 1500 people at a college bar/club in Tempe, a strip clup in The Bowery, and for a broadcast from a radio station in New Jersey. Each of these has a story or two.

Perhaps I'll have some good ones as a drummer, someday. Here's hoping. ;)
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
It was 1967, I was 17 years old and the other three band members were 16 years old. The Hullabaloo Club on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood was holding a battle of the bands. We played there twice, in two of these battles. A “battle of the bands” was a great way for a club owner to get lots of free music. Supposedly, the club was looking for a band to become one of their house bands. Or at least that was the motivation they used to fill up the roster of bands. So we played and eventually from all of the bands, we were selected to be a runner up. We were one of two bands that would have a play-off. Winner take all.

The other runner up band played some strange kind of music. I did not like it too much. Sort of long drawn out psychedelic kind of songs. Our band was all about rock and roll, R&B and the blues. I was back stage and I went up to the lead singer of the other band to congratulate him on his being chosen for the play-off. He just looked at me as if I was not there. He said nothing. Not a very friendly guy.

After the play-off we came in second place. Oh well, that was the way it went. I later discovered that the band that had won that night was The Doors. And the “out of it” lead singer was Jim Morrison. Later after learning the history of the Doors, I finally understood why Jim seemed so out of it that night. He was always “out of it” and very into himself. He was usually on some sort of medication, i.e. alcohol. Eventually, as we know, five years later in 1972 the door closed on that band and Jim Morrison lost what you might call, the final battle of the bands.

Speaking of closed doors, sometime later we played a second battle of the bands at the Hullabaloo Club. We won this second battle of the bands. Super! Now we had a chance to get some paying gigs! Hold on a minute. We then found out that in order to play in these clubs on the Sunset Strip you had to be a member of the Musicians Union. Membership cost over $200 each. We were young with no money and we were still in high school. We could not afford the union dues. And besides, we were too young to get into some of these clubs, let alone play past the 10 PM curfew. So consequently that door closed for us, and that particular door never opened again.

.
 

moodman

Well-known member
Playing the NAACP Blues Festival in Sacremento, mid 80's, some amature electrician wired the stage with 220 instead of 110. The bass player's amp fried in a puff of smoke, the guitarist's Mesa Boogie hadn't been plugged in but, my Carvin PA Board, sitting on my kick case beside me actually stated shaking, then went out. Instead of playing we made a trip to Skip's Music and left our stuff for repair. I felt bad for the NAACP, not only our stuff but DJ gear, lights and other sound reinforcement gear all fried. The bass amp repair was $120 or so and in my Carvin the electricity had arced past the fuse and was stopped by a part Carvin had designed for that, it cost $1.86. Paid for by the NAACP. We did play a make up gig for them to help, opened for Hank Ballard. (I had been a serious fan of his since the Finger Poppin' Time days. I always wondered what he thought about Chubby Checker hitting so big copying Hank's tune The Twist. When we got that gig I decided I'd ask him. I had never seen him and was expecting an old looking dude,( I'd drummed along to his records when I started) so when I passed a slender, not that old looking dude on the way to the stage, I just nodded and said hi thinking it was a younger band member of his. It was Hank. Didn't get to ask my question. Read later that he was fine with it, didn't mind the royalties at all)
 
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moodman

Well-known member
It was 1967, I was 17 years old and the other three band members were 16 years old. The Hullabaloo Club on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood was holding a battle of the bands. We played there twice, in two of these battles. A “battle of the bands” was a great way for a club owner to get lots of free music. Supposedly, the club was looking for a band to become one of their house bands. Or at least that was the motivation they used to fill up the roster of bands. So we played and eventually from all of the bands, we were selected to be a runner up. We were one of two bands that would have a play-off. Winner take all.

The other runner up band played some strange kind of music. I did not like it too much. Sort of long drawn out psychedelic kind of songs. Our band was all about rock and roll, R&B and the blues. I was back stage and I went up to the lead singer of the other band to congratulate him on his being chosen for the play-off. He just looked at me as if I was not there. He said nothing. Not a very friendly guy.

After the play-off we came in second place. Oh well, that was the way it went. I later discovered that the band that had won that night was The Doors. And the “out of it” lead singer was Jim Morrison. Later after learning the history of the Doors, I finally understood why Jim seemed so out of it that night. He was always “out of it” and very into himself. He was usually on some sort of medication, i.e. alcohol. Eventually, as we know, five years later in 1972 the door closed on that band and Jim Morrison lost what you might call, the final battle of the bands.

Speaking of closed doors, sometime later we played a second battle of the bands at the Hullabaloo Club. We won this second battle of the bands. Super! Now we had a chance to get some paying gigs! Hold on a minute. We then found out that in order to play in these clubs on the Sunset Strip you had to be a member of the Musicians Union. Membership cost over $200 each. We were young with no money and we were still in high school. We could not afford the union dues. And besides, we were too young to get into some of these clubs, let alone play past the 10 PM curfew. So consequently that door closed for us, and that particular door never opened again.
Sounds like your young band had some good players, my band joined AFM local 3 when I was in highschool only because we had a older drummer friend who led his own band and mentored us.
This guy, Keetie Phillips
 
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moodman

Well-known member
My band played one of the Hullabaloo Clubs with dancers and set just like the TV show, somewhere in Vermont, I think'
We got paid by check , were broke, on the road, so we slept in our van in front of a bank in the next town til it opened. They didn't cash it for us, we scraped up enough gas money to the next gig, a college in Connecticut. As we drove, the guy driving slammed on the brakes for something, I turned to see if the gear was alright and caught a Crown PA amp across my nose, leaving a 1 inch split. No bandages, I played with that open cut aching that night, They kept requesting 'Get Off My Cloud', we must have played it 5 times and each time the girls climbed on the boys shoulders and they danced like that.
 
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moodman

Well-known member
Playing a gig 30 miles from our home town, our van broke down and at the end of the night we needed a ride home.
One of our guitarists spotted a guy he knew from our town and secured a lift for us. What we didn't know was that he was quite drunk, celebrating his release from prison and the fun wasn't over. As we headed out of town on a 2 lane highway, he accelerates to 80 or so and drives in the opposite lane. "I'm not scarin' you guys am I?"
"No man, no" we lied. "Good, cause I don't want to scare you, I WANT TO KILL YOU!" With that he slams on the brakes and we slide sideways into a construction area beside the road. He jumps out and starts taking a leak, we waste no time exiting the car and refuse to get in unless he lets someone else drive. At length he lets the one guy who knew him drive. Our biggest band member sat between him and the driver to stop him when he dove over and tried to grab the wheel every minute or so.
 

Push pull stroke

Platinum Member
Playing a gig 30 miles from our home town, our van broke down and at the end of the night we needed a ride home.
One of our guitarists spotted a guy he knew from our town and secured a lift for us. What we didn't know was that he was quite drunk, celebrating his release from prison and the fun wasn't over. As we headed out of town on a 2 lane highway, he accelerates to 80 or so and drives in the opposite lane. "I'm not scarin' you guys am I?"
"No man, no" we lied. "Good, cause I don't want to scare you, I WANT TO KILL YOU!" With that he slams on the brakes and we slide sideways into a construction area beside the road. He jumps out and starts taking a leak, we waste no time exiting the car and refuse to get in unless he lets someone else drive. At length he lets the one guy who knew him drive. Our biggest band member sat between him and the driver to stop him when he dove over and tried to grab the wheel every minute or so.
No wonder he was in prison. I bet he went back, too.
 

moodman

Well-known member
My Blues band opened the Bean Blossom Blues Festival one year. We had another gig later that day.
I had my Black Beauty and stand, my 15" New Beats and stand also my Ghost and throne.
Trouble was, the backline had yet to arrive, no drums.
There was a 'free stage' where local bands could play for free, getting some exposure. There was a band setting up on that stage so I asked to use their drums. They said yes but, with this condition, they wanted to play a set on the main stage and they wanted it to be before we played. I told them thanks but no thanks, we had a gig to play later, no time.
I used my band's Rubbermaid Tee Tote as a kick. I took out the shirts but it lost bottom end so back in they went. I taped my Ghost to it, taped it to the Harp players heavy amp and then the sound guy dialed it in. (it actually sounded good)
I rode, open or shut, those hats, crashed 'em too. We made jokes about the situation and had good crowd response.
As we finished the set and were taking our gear down, the free stage butt holes were dragging their kit on stage, they'd benefited from the lack of backline and got to play their set.
That night we opened for Anson Funderburgh and I got to play Wes Starr's Fibes kit with my band.
 

moodman

Well-known member
I got hired to play at a wedding, it was a Jewish wedding. The last thing we worked on at the rehearsal was Hava Nagila.
We had ran through the first section when the leader stopped and said "good enough, see you at the gig"
I mentioned that the song had several sections, he said "it'll be cool"
Yeah, it was pretty f'n cool
We started it off and instantly the dance floor was flooded with folks fixin' to get down. But as we kept repeating the first section, they started to TURN, unhappy and righteously so, on this special day, they left the floor and man, that day, WE were the buttholes.
 

moodman

Well-known member
Not really a gig story, music related though. In '72 me and a close friend decided to hitchhike from San Francisco to Indianoplace in our home state. He'd just gotten out of the army, was waiting for his benefits to start and so, was broke.
My band had gone south, I'd had to pawn my Luddy's, now I had two $20 Traveler's Checks and $4.
We had only stood on a corner a minute or so when a little white VW Bug stops, 2 guys in the front seats. They ask where we're headed and we say East, over the Bay Bridge. We get in the back and, as we drive, they ask if we want to buy some weed, say they know where to get some but need some cash, we say no. Getting near the Bay Bridge they turn down the bayshore instead of getting on it. We ask if they have a map and the guy riding shotgun says "I'll look"
He opens the glove box and the only thing in it is a big automatic pistol. Taking it in hand he says "OK dudes, you're robbed" Immediately the guy with the gun starts wanting our wallets, yelling and saying 'let's shoot 'em man, they look like cops" (I had shoulder length hair) he kept up the "let's shoot 'em" stuff only stopping to open the door and vomit every few minutes. He holds the gun on my buddy while the driver and I go into one of those small corner markets to cash the checks, buying Marlboros and orange juice but, they'd only cash one, so we had to repeat the process, more juice and butts. Still repeating his mantra of "let's shoot 'em", they are rifling through our wallets and packs, deciding what to do with us when the "shoot'em" guy finds something in my wallet. It's my Musicians Union Card AF of M Local #54, Santa Rosa. He's shows it to his partner and they both chorus "Oh man, you're a musician! Oh man, we're sorry we have to do this!" "we're junkies man, we can't help it, we had to do this" "we're sorry man"
They let us out in a housing addition under construction, we keep our packs and they did not shoot us.
That was 1972, musicians were revered, right or wrong. How do you think that would go these days?
 
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moodman

Well-known member
My has to do with Customs and a bass player with a record.

We'd booked a week of shows in Canada. We flew flew out of NY and when we landed Canadian Border Services let me and the horn player through no problem...then we all got called back.

We spent the new few hours answering questions about our past and towards the end they were asking things like "Well - what if one of you couldn't come into the country - two of you likely wouldn't continue."

Long story short - our bass player had an incident on his record from a while ago that was the kind of incident they wouldn't allow him to come into Canada for. (I guess there's a time limit on these things? because now he's able to) -

Anyways it was rough. We'd already received payment for these shows and this whole "Music is Medicine" camp thing...so the horn player and I had to scramble and find bass players in two of the cities we visit and just did the camp as a duo and then do these forced collabs with other artists at the camp haha.

Lesson learned - make sure everyone's passports are cleared if you are doing international travel! Even if the other nation is Canada haha.
What a different world I gigged in Canada in 1980. My band Unique Blend crossed the border in northern Idaho, we didn't have passports, we did have to have enough cash as required. A few miles before the border the leader said"OK dump your weed" and everybody tossed their stash 'cept me, no can do. We sailed through the border in about 15min,
hadn't been searched, and people are moanin' their losses. I became the host of the nightly pre-gig meeting.
We wrote a little parody song and sang it one night, it seemed to divide the town into two factions, some thought it was funny, others did not like us anymore. There were new rules for bands after we left too, our song list was too funky I guess.
While we spent 3 weeks in the Arctic Circle, we met some members of the MacKenzie Delta Band, one member was getting married and hired us to play his wedding reception. The pay was a couple of boats from his rental company for a day. Along with Louie Goose (The Elvis of the Arctic) and the local CBC man we sat out on a 12 hour odyssey across the MacKenzie and over to Aclavik. We stopped at the camp of an Eskimo, dog houses dug in the bank of the river, a walrus hide drying on ply wood and several tents with drying smoked fish. We traded 2 steaks and 2 beers for a cardboard box full of dried fish and munched on that all day. We came across a Eskimo lady on a large sandbar with 3 toddlers and a litter of pups. We stopped and she fed us tea, Caribou and muktuk from a metal bucket full of whale oil.
She threw a log into the rapidly moving river and hit it 3 times with a lever action Winchester, like John Wayne would do. In Aclavik an Eskimo asked the black members of our band "What tribe are you from?" Answer: "The Sacramento"
Best thing about those days ? 30 hours a week on your instrument, on stage, good training.
 
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moxman

Silver Member
A long time ago.. a friend asked if I could fill in for him at a Dixieland bar. He was a union guy so I thought sure.. I show up and these guys were really old - apparently they'd been playing this bar every Thursday for 30 years - but they could really play! I played in a jazz trio and it wasn't much of a stretch for me.. and they were really impressed that I nailed the 'Chicago ending' - tap-boom, tap-boom ..... tap-ta-tap-boom! Lol. In any case, the gig ended and it's time to get paid.. they empty out a bucket and hand me $1.25. I look a little surprized.. but then they all straight faced tell me how well I did and that it was a really good night... they usually only made 50 cents each a night! And I'll never forget the trumpet player telling me how he plays an extra gig on Sundays.. but it only pays 35 cents! Then one guy chimed in saying he played the week before and only made a nickel!
They were all so serious - I wasn't sure if they were pulling my leg or what.. but I don't think they were!
 

moodman

Well-known member
A long time ago.. a friend asked if I could fill in for him at a Dixieland bar. He was a union guy so I thought sure.. I show up and these guys were really old - apparently they'd been playing this bar every Thursday for 30 years - but they could really play! I played in a jazz trio and it wasn't much of a stretch for me.. and they were really impressed that I nailed the 'Chicago ending' - tap-boom, tap-boom ..... tap-ta-tap-boom! Lol. In any case, the gig ended and it's time to get paid.. they empty out a bucket and hand me $1.25. I look a little surprized.. but then they all straight faced tell me how well I did and that it was a really good night... they usually only made 50 cents each a night! And I'll never forget the trumpet player telling me how he plays an extra gig on Sundays.. but it only pays 35 cents! Then one guy chimed in saying he played the week before and only made a nickel!
They were all so serious - I wasn't sure if they were pulling my leg or what.. but I don't think they were!
Old guys can be slick. Hmmm
I can remember $5 and $10 gigs when I started out.
 
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