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Thursday, December 02, 2004

Seven Stages of the Bad Gig

Reposting this as a single entry upon request....enjoy!!!

Seven Stages of the bad gig or the delusional idiot’s roadmap to the logical conclusion

A very few bands get to play lots of great gigs, some bands before their inevitable destruction can latch onto a couple to talk up for the next twenty years but for the vast majority the great gigs never come. These are the serfs that toil, that clog the inboxes of the world, that harass the telephone and guilt trip causal acquaintances in ways that would make the “for only 13 cents a day you can save this child” commercial producers proud.

These are they that play on the Tuesday, on the floor, at the pizza parlor for no money and half-price beer. They are the players of the shitty gigs and lord, they are many.Somebody’s gotta play them right? Say there are 8 decent to really good places for a local rock and roll band to play in a given area. You figure two bands a night on the weekends which leads to 32 decent to good gigs a week. Now in any given town there are going to be hundreds of bands looking to rock out and those 32 slots are gonna go quickly. Those that do get the good slots they stop appreciating them because musicians are unappreciative assholes with delusional senses of entitlement that get fed to beastly proportions upon even the slightest glimmer of attention from anyone outside the band.

Every other band is dying to get to the point where they can be the assholes with the good gigs and for most it’s a pipe dream because A) they suck B) they’re on the verge of breaking up whether they know it or not and C) they’re not friends with the people who book the clubs (how else do you think the shitty bands you are forced to listen to on a Saturday night get the good gigs in the first place?)Being that musicians can talk themselves into anything to avoid the reality that no one gives a flying fuck about their band there is a pattern of behavior that leads up to the shitty gig and the inevitable hellishness of the performance.

I call this the Seven Stages of the Bad Gig.

Stage 1 - The book:
Part of the band awesomeness formation process is the singer telling all his new best friends about his amazing connections and how they will be totally hooked up with awesome shows once the band has written their (the singer’s) awesome songs. After the band has written a few of these magnum opuses and declared themselves primed to unleash themselves on a breathlessly waiting world the singer starts making phone calls to his guaranteed hook-ups. Twenty minutes later after getting completely rebuffed by every one of his “totally good buds” he starts calling the clubs to book his own goddamn shows what the fuck does he need those asshole’s shitty bands for anyway goddamit!!!! Upon getting ignored by the better clubs, the not-so-good clubs, and the “promoters” that promote wikkid rawk showz when they are off-duty from being line cooks at the Golden Corral buffet the singer calls every restaurant in town that is, for whatever reason, willing to move a table out of the way to allow bands to play. The restaurants, almost always pizza parlors, usually have bands play on Tuesdays and Thursdays as weekends are prime soccer party time for the pizza industry. They might support the rock but they ain’t crazy enough to miss the soccer crowd!!!! The singer asks for a Thursday (just as good as a weekend really) and is told he can have a Tuesday five weeks from now. He takes it.

Stage 2 – The layout:
The singer calls the rest of the band with the good news about the show. It will be awesome. He gets pissed when the band is mysteriously wondering how the promised Saturday night headlining show at Club Bass Player Is Sure To Get His Dick Sucked has morphed into a set on a Tuesday at Joe’s Suds and Pies. The singer is understandably miffed by this obvious attempt to take away the credit he is due by jealous dicks that don’t know shit about the music industry and he starts to pout really really hard. The rest of the band feels his pain and talks themselves into the fact that this is the gig they wanted all along and all their friends totally like to drink up and party like freaks on Tuesdays instead of the weekend anyway and boy howdy Joe’s is going to get rocked to the ground. The singer, now justified in his excellence, takes this as a mandate to boss everyone around and assigns tasks for promoting the fuck out of this rock and roll event.

Stage 3 – Developing the marketing strategy:

When throwing down at a major rock event it is imperative that the masses who will drop everything including giving birth to be there know what the dillio is. This being the case upon directive from the singer the marketing machine gets gassed up and ready to roll. While the band surely deserves to get on the radio, TV, porn soundtrack, etc., promotion activities that do not involve harassing friends, co-workers, causal acquaintances, employees at the mall and the band’s parents are zilch. It’s common fact that bands as awesome as every band on earth playing on Tuesdays should not be required to proactively contact the media in any way shape or form to promote their kickass shows and it is squarely the fault of Clear Channel and those corporate whores at the local record store that don’t support the scene that there isn’t the justifiably deserved story with picture on the front page of the paper for this major rock event. It’s tough, you can’t fight the man, especially when he doesn’t even know you exist so the band turns to their fanbase…mom dad and anyone unlucky enough to have given a member their phone number or email address. The strategy is clear, you just gotta keep on telling your fans just how bad they want to rock……no matter how much they might protest otherwise.

Stage 4 – The ‘sup doode?:
As spam filters become more advanced and thus band mailing lists culled from casual encounters and stealing the contents of the “win a free meal” goldfish bowl at the local Pizza Hut are rendered more and more worthless it is the direct contact that the “fans” get from the band. This happens by a series of communiqués starting with email, then instant messenger, then the phone call.

Email from band member to fan
Hey man, wanted to give you and the crew a heads up that we’re jamming out on (date) at (place). This show is going to kick MAJOR ASS!!! Would be fucking KICK FUCKING ASS for you to come out and rock out with your cock out!!!! ROFLMFAO!!!! THERE WILL BE TONS OF PUSSY THERE BRO!!!!!

Email reply
Shaun, this is my work address man, thanks a lot for getting me chewed out by my boss for writing that dumb stuff about your stupid band you retard.

IM exchange from band member to fan –
BassPlayaz2112: doode, sorry about that shit with your work addy man.
BassPlayaz2112 – seriously bro, this shit is going to rock
(1234kittyface is typing)
BassPlayaz2112 – you’re going to be there right?
BassPlayaz2112 – I’ll see if I can get you on the guestlist…..
BassPlayaz2112 – the place is cool man
(1234kittyface is typing)
BassPlayaz2112 –
I can see you typing bro….you writing a book or something. BassPlayaz2112 – So can we meet up so I can give you some flyers to hand
1234kittyface has signed off

Phone Message from band member to fan – “Hey doode, I tried to call you 8 or 9 times but you never answer your damn phone!!!! Anyway bro, see you at the show man, call me back and I’ll give you the deetz!!! PEACE!!!!!!”

At this point this string of contact has taken place with approximately 158 people. Of the 158, four have committed to being there and the other two band member’s parents are either playing bridge or will be out of town but really wish they could come!!!


Stage 5 – The prep and primp:
It is the day of the gig and the harassing has hit maximum overdrive. Cell phones across the region are being turned off, scads of terrible flyers are in a big stack being ignored at Tower records and the band members are performing their pre-gig rituals.

Singer – Has trekked to Marshall’s to buy a new gig shirt. This is very important to the success of the rockfest as we all know that no one has ever made it big in rock and roll in an old t-shirt. The singer is very conscious of his diet all day and spends a lot of time sucking his stomach in and out to harden it up. He considers going for a run to open up the pipes but talks himself out of it. He is nervous and irritable all day and guilt trips everyone he knows about coming to the show. He is a basket case in six dollar sunglasses.

Guitarist(s) – Doesn’t bother to change the strings on his guitar or clean the electrical connections on his amp but does go to CVS to buy some new SuperSpike hair gel. The six-string slinger(s) spends an inordinate amount of time walking back and forth between his gig bag and his amp doing nothing but touching the amp lightly and picking up and putting down the gig bag while zipping and unzipping it about 723 times.

Seven hours before load-in time for the gig he puts his gear in the ride and goes to Target to get a gig shirt of his own. The rock garment will be of the shiny polyester bowling shirt variety, usually black with a flame design or skull or some such nonsense on it, (the design signifies to anyone and everyone that this hombre’ is not to be messed with and is no doubt part of a forceful and dangerous rock and roll outfit).

After leaving Target he makes the holy trek to Guitar Center where he futzes about, tries to engage the counter clerk in conversation about his “gig” later that night and buys the following

45 guitar picks
New strap with badass design on it
Tuning fork
Guitar pick holder for mike stand
Two guitar stands
New cable

What he does not buy –9 volt battery.

This will come back to bite him in the ass. After leaving Guitar Center he goes through the McDonald’s drive-thru and buys a super size value meal. The butterflies in his stomach go to work and by gig time el Mariachi will have a volcanic case of the shits complete with paint-peeling farts.

Upon arriving home he gets in the shower where he washes his hair three to six times, gets out and cleans up his goatee and starts to go to work on his hair. As there is rock to be brought at a level of ten he uses ten times the regular and required amount of hair gel to work on his rock ‘do. The results leave him with a goopy mop on top of his head that will just not spike correctly no matter what twists and hand machinations he tries. Sensing disaster and with a tweak of panic he rubs a towel all over his head to straighten things out. This has the effect of making him look like Bozo so he starts matting down the bombsite with handfuls of water. In the end he looks about as rock and roll as the red stapler guy from Office Space on bowling night and his hair looks like someone poured a bucket of Elmer’s glue on it.

The bassist – Gets home from work, goes to his room, masturbates and goes to sleep. After he wakes up he slips on his Tevas and heads out to the gig. He has never broken a string on his bass before and sees no reason to put new ones on for the show, really what are the chances that a string would break for the first time EVER during this excellent rock event? More future ass biting will happen based on this foolish faith in a kind and merciful God. God hates delusional musicians; everyone should know that by now.

The drummer – Can barely function on a normal day and this one has him especially keyed up and irritated. A flare-up at the work has caused him to not only not eat all day but to stay late. He gets stuck in traffic and does not have time to change or shower before the show. This sucks. The lord of Rhythm Nation heads to the big gig in a polo shirt and Savane Active slacks with uncomfortable shoes on. He was born to rock but tonight feels like an abortion. Pounding as hard as he can on the steering wheel he gets angrier and angrier when the singer calls every three minutes asking him where the fuck he is. By the time he hits the pizza parlor parking lot he is ready to chew nails, breathe fire and shit mountain lions.

The band has arrived and now the shit is on.

Stage Six – The final countdown and who has a magic marker:
The band has arrived at the pizza parlor and has a hasty and edgy conversation in the parking lot about the gig. The singer is pissed because the drummer was supposed to be at the show for load-in at 6:00 for the show that starts at 10:00. Being that it is now almost 7:00 things are off schedule and the strain of the unknown is starting to crack the cool demeanor of the band of rock badasses. Following a stern admonishment about “focus” and “getting our shit together” from the singer the band shuffles into the pizza parlor and are greeted with the same words Bono probably gets when arriving at the venues U2 plays –“Table for four?”

The singer is suddenly gripped by a wave of panic that coalesces in a tight ball of heat that centers at the top of the back of his thighs and radiates up through his balls and into the pit of his stomach.

How can they not know we’re the band?” And then the crack in the façade is born, the first focused look at the slob in the Tevas and the dork in slacks and especially the glue-headed feeb in the bowling shirt. “What have I gotten myself into? What the fuck is the matter with these assholes….they’re going to ruin my career!!!!”

He stands silently while the bass player tells the maitre’d that they are indeed there to rock and asks where they should set up. Obviously the place is psyched for the rock but you wouldn’t know it by the look of puzzlement on the face of the menu distributor who yells to his boss, “HEY JOE ARE WE HAVING A BAND TONIGHT?????” With an affirmation from afar he nods at the band and points towards the west end of the dining room, “That’s where you play but you can’t bring anything in until we stop serving dinner.”Uh-oh

Total and absolute panic envelops the singer. The rest of the band however feels a sense of relief and goes to the bar where they are treated to half price draft beers. They start drinking….and drinking….and drinking. Beer quickly turns to manly drinks like Appletinis and rum and cokes and time and sobriety start to slip away from the minstrels.

The singer sitting glumly by himself watching TV gets up and frets….”we’re never going to get set up in time, what the fuck…..look at these jerkoffs….I have to do everything…….”

Deciding to take what matters he can into his own hands he walks out to the parking lot and looks at the cars. Then he opens his trunk, unzips his gig bag, fumbles around in it for a bit and comes back inside.

He asks the guitarist, “can I take a look at the setlists?” and gets a blank drunken stare in return.

Uh-oh numero dos.

Singer - “Dude….I specifically asked you to print off four copies of the set-list that we worked up at practice the other night….did you forget to print them or forget to bring them?”
Guitarist – “uhhhhhhh……….what difference does it make? “
Singer – “IT MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD. IF YOU FORGOT TO BRING THEM YOU’RE JUST STUPID IF YOU DIDN’T PRINT THEM WE HAVE A MAJOR COMMITMENT TO THIS BAND PROBLEM…
Guitarist (lying) – “Chill dude…..I uh, man I forgot them on the counter. But I totally printed them man. Look, I’ll write up new ones while we’re waiting.”
Singer – “This is fucked man….really fucked…”

Exit singer to the other side of the bar to huff impressively.

So the guitarist bereft of any writing utensil or parchment upon which to scrawl asks the barkeep for what he needs. The bartender, reluctant to turn over his only pen to a sticky headed tenpin refugee gives old six-strings a couple of unused dinner checks and the grease pencil the restaurant uses to figure out table assignments for the waiters. The band minus the singer put their heads together desperately trying to remember not only the order but what songs they were going to play.

“dude we were going to open with ‘Rain Falls’….what does he call the dunt da dunt dunt da song…..uhhh, I think ‘Plush’ was supposed to go fourth….I know we close with “Foolish Hearts”….”

Twenty minutes later there are four setlists written in smudged and barely legilble black grease, all four are different.At 9:15 the final pie has been served and the last spumonti delivered and it is time to load-in and get the rock on the road. The band carries in their stuff bumbling drunkenly to and fro and sets things down in exactly the opposite order of what makes the most sense for getting ready in a timely manner.

As this is going on several co-workers of the singers have come in and he sets out to do his #1 job, schmoozing the crowd. This irks the band who is carrying in the equipment and trying to figure out how to hook up the antiquated and woefully underpowered P.A. system that the busboy pulled out from behind the wetmop in the dish room. There is one P.A. speaker and no monitors, two radio shack microphones, three microphone stands in various states of bustedness, one very dirty and beaten power-strip and no extension cords. The area where the band is to rock the fuck out is in front of a window, on the way to the bathroom and has a single electrical outlet in the corner.

At 9:55 the singer has come over to ascertain what the hell is going on with the band. He turns on the P.A. and a horrific buzzing sound comes through the single speaker. Everyone stands around looking at each other. The singer unplugs the speaker cable and plugs it back in, recreating the noise. He goes through this exercise several times. The busboy comes over and sets the P.A. up correctly and walks off muttering in Spanish, most likely about how he wishes it was he who was about to take the stage (floor) and live the dream….the ROCK!!!!

The singer runs over to hi co-workers who are putting their jackets on and assures them that the show is going to start. He skips back over to the band and glares at them really, really, really hard and says
“WE NEED TO PLAY….NOW!!!!!.”

The band, drunk and woefully unprepared to start playing scurry to and fro and trip over their guitar cases and microphone cables. Somehow, someway they have their guitars on and plugged in. The amps are on and the guitarist says, “just one sec and let me tune up,” He steps on his tuner to turn it on and……………Nothing happens.

The battery is dead and while he is flush with guitar picks, guitar magazines, bandanas for wiping off his axe and other unnecessary accoutrements neither he nor his band of fellows have the one thing that can make more difference in the shitty show than anything else, a functioning tuner. He decides to use his awesome ear and sense of internal pitch to tune up the old fashioned way and plink-plunks his way up and down the neck. Satisfied…..the bass player tunes to him string by string. The drummer is thudding away on his snare drum and the singer is gripping his mic stand. The band has arrived, they are plugged in and ready to go.

Oh God.

Stage Seven – this is the end, my non-existent friends:
And with a One…Two…Three….Four….from the drummer shaky hands grip guitar picks in a Kung-Fu death pinch, knees knock and hearts palpitate. There is a micro-second of peace in the air and then
BYWHONNNNNGGGGGG!!!!!!

A dissonant rattle comprised of vibrations from a snare drum and cymbals and severely out of tune and way too loud guitar and bass notes bouncing off the highly sheened wood paneling on the other side of the room fills the room. The few people in attendance are stunned, they don’t know what to do so they look at the floor, the ceiling, the cigarette machine, their beers…….anywhere but at the band. Should it sound like this? Shouldn’t the band stop and fix whatever the fuck is going on in the name of sweet baby Jesus before we all go deaf?!?!?!?!

To the credit of P.T. Barnum’s eternally damned soul stopping would not be an option even if the band had any idea how insane and horridly atrocious they sounded. The show, no matter how retarded, must go on. This is why musicians drink so much, alcohol helps them cope with facts by enveloping their brains and auditory senses in a haze of thickly applied bullshit. It’s not that they don’t care that it doesn’t sound good; they have no idea that it doesn’t so they keep pounding away.

The band has been playing for six seconds before the guitarist turns up his amp.

Now it is time for the star of the show, the VOICE of the band to be introduced to the “fans” that are blinking uncontrollably with every hit of the snare drum and trying desperately to avoid eye contact with any of the band. The singer’s stomach is squarely in his soft palette as he steps up to the mic, closes his eyes, accidentally lets loose a fart and zaps the fucking shit out of himself when he opens his mouth and his spittle hitting the ungrounded microphones completes a circuit that sends electrical current across his lips and into his metal dental fillings.“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAGHHHHHHHHH……fuck…..”Plunk.

Enter the feedback…….

Being out of tune and microphone feedback truly comprises the soundtrack of our lives for the shitty gig musician. It doesn’t matter what the band’s style or makeup it always sounds the same….the same cacophonous death rattle of the patron saint of melody and goodness. It happens all the time but the look of panic, of guilt and of utter and complete lack of control dawns anew on the faces of the bands that it happens to. The band chugs on for a full minute and seems to be getting things under control until.....

CLAAAAAAAAAAAANNGGGGGGGGGGGGGg………..

Someone dropped a tray in the dishroom. People laugh. This can’t be happening.So the singer decides to make up for the hiccups with severe rocking out. There are several variations of the shitty gig rock move but all pretty much make the mover look like a guy having a seizure and dropping a big load in his drawers at the same time. He shimmies, he shakes, he finger points and he makes little kissy faces at the microphone to avoid touching it and electrocuting himself.

Mercifully the first song ends and the spirit of Diamond David Lee Roth is invoked by for the bazillionth time by the bazillionth unimaginative and wholly unprepared front-man. In response to the half-hearted and almost frightened clapping and the single “whoo” mercifully uttered by the bass players cousin the singer replies –

“WELL ALRIGHT…..HELLO (town)….YOU READY TO ROCK TONIGHT…YOU KNOW (band) IS!!!! AIN’T THAT RIGHT???? (band looks up in confusion. Guitarist smiles like a village idiot and hoists his cup for a toast, catches it on his guitar strap and spills beer all over his gig shirt. Shit.)

The band tries in vain to tune their instruments for three of the longest minutes of the singer’s life. He glares, he shrugs playfully at the 12 people left in attendance, he tells jokes, and eventually he starts to mumble. Finally with a painfully loud DUNT DWANT DUNT from the guitarist’s guitar the band is ready to re-launch into the rock universe.

Song number two, just as out-of-tune as song number 1. The band plays on and the singer pussyfoots around and things are getting better all the time. Three people sneak out with a half-hearted wave while pointing at their watches. This is a classic shitty gig maneuver that seems to be part of the human genetic imprint as it is replicated in every town in the civilized world where assholes can buy guitars and someone sells pizza.

Songs three – six are terrible but unremarkable. Average time between the start and stop of a song is 93 seconds. Nothing happens during these horrendous soul-destroying lapses in the rocking except a lot of foot shuffling and staring.

Song seven – Rocking away..in the groove….DUN DA DUN DA DUN POINK!!! da diddle diddle poot poot poot….. Something has gone wrong. Houston, we have a problem! There is a hole in the sound and the singer has the look of a crazed animal. He glares at the guitarist and the drummer but they look dopily confused and innocent and then he turns to the bass player. Mouth agape he is looking at his axe and the limp string hanging off of it. He has broken his A-String, he is butt confused and has tried to transpose what he plays on the broken string and move over to non-broken ones. He has failed miserably. The song limps to a merciful end.

Singer - “We’re gonna take a quick break (four people bolt for the door) so we can take care of an equipment issue…be right back…..”

The drummer and guitarist sprint to the bar. There are five people looking miserable and the night is a disaster. The singer is pissed, pissed at his band, pissed at the P.A., pissed at the inventor of the calendar system that made Tuesday’s suck and pissed at God. The one person he is not pissed at is himself because after all, he’s awesome. The bass playr is kneeling by his amp but not changing the string, ten minutes has passed and the night is going downhill. The owner of the pizza parlor is resigned to this shittiness and grumbles in the background.

The singer asks the bass player “what the fuck is going on man…?”“ don’t have any extra strings.”

Poof goes the last vestiges of coherence for the frontman. This is the last straw. He storms out of the pizza parlor and starts dialing people on his cell phone to vent his outrage and frustration. Of course they are all avoiding him as it is gig day so he leaves a lot of …”sup dude, just wondering if you’re coming by….” guilt trips on people who don’t even like him that much anyway.

Going back inside he finds the band huddled by the drumkit. The bass player assures him that the gig can go on. He can manage, he is a pro. They shuffle back to the mics and start playing songs with no emotion, energy or thought. It is the march of the damned and blissfully no one is left to hear it that isn’t on the Joe’s Pizza payroll.

The band plays on…and on and on and on and on until 12:15. The owner says, “you can wrap it up whenever” and they do.

The amps are turned off, the cords wrapped up, the band is drunk, the singer is heartbroken.The tab is rung up and the cover charge is added. For the privilege of rocking to 12 people for 76 minutes the band owes the pizza parlor $83.55. The singer pays it on his debit card and the band promises to settle up with him at practice. This will never…EVER…happen.

The band loads their gear, smokes cigarettes in the parking lot and talks about how it wasn’t that bad and this song and that song sounded kick-ass and “practice on Thursday??? Yeah, yeah, sure…” and the cycle repeats itself.

For there is as much hope and ego as there are Tuesdays in the future and the idiocy is as thick in the music world as the sheen of grease on the pizza parlor bar.Yeah, they’re retards but they’re retards with purpose and guitars. So check your caller ID and watch the fuck out because like the Stone Temple Pilots said, "HERE THEY COME THEY COME THEY COME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

4 Comments:

  • Ha ha ha! Brilliant!

    Quick question though - "The band chugs on for a FULL MINUTE and seems to be getting things under control until....."

    Was this a cleverly disguised insult or happenstance? J/K.

    Great read.

    ChrisFMHg

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:41 PM  

  • DAMN!!!

    I wish I was clever enough to claim that insult but it was totally accidental. Too bad too bad...

    Hey I saw a band at Iota that I think would be a good fit for sharing gigs with you guys. They're called the Argument, I think they're from Morgantown.

    By Blogger Castor OiL, at 4:47 PM  

  • that was fucking hilarious. and very true.

    jeffc

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:20 PM  

  • from: bt-bounces@boogie-talk.com; on behalf of; Benjamin Duffy [BDuffy@1800contacts.com]

    Here’s a story that those of you who run sound might find amusing, or even just those of you who are used to playing venues with sound systems.

    My band’s drummer, John, is also a sound guy; for several years before we hooked up musically, he had been doing sound for other bands I was in, as well as for touring acts I booked shows for. He’s very good at what he does, and has a pretty massive rig. Anyway, he’s the nicest guy in the world at band practice, at Burger King, or at a gig we’re playing, but when he’s running sound for other bands, he can be pretty crabby. Very little patience for bands who start late or end late. Even less patience for bands who take an encore when they’re the second band playing out of five. Very little patience for singers who ask for more vocals in the monitor while cupping the microphone ball in both hands (feedback, anyone?) In general, just an altogether grouchy sound man. For example, he ran sound once for this seven- or eight piece ska band. One of the trombone players said he needed two mics: one for his horn and one for his backup vocals. Normally at this venue (a 120-seater), John didn’t bother to mic horns at all. Rolling his eyes, John put up a Shure Beta 58 and some AKG condenser mic. “This Shure is for your vocals, and this AKG is for your horn, OK?” he said. “Don’t blow your horn into the vocal mic, because your horn is about 30db louder than your voice and I’m going to have everything mixed properly.” Horn player nods his head. During the second song of the set, apparently this trombonist was set to get a solo. Right before his solo starts, he grabs both mics and pushes them close together, so that the capsules are actually touching. He then blows this fortissimo opening note into BOTH mics. I was sitting at a table in back, by the sound board, at the time. John’s limiters caught most of it, and I STILL had ringing in my ears for two days. At the end of the song, John mutes both of the guy’s mics (and leaves them mute), and basically threatens to ream out the guy’s plumbing with his own horn if he ever pulls that shit again. John does this through his talkback mic, which is clearly audible over the monitors. The crowd bursts into laughter, and the horn player goes bright red in the face.

    At any rate, for years I had heard John threaten bands with the “suck button.” Bands who were taking too long to set up, or whose members repeatedly refused to follow reasonable directions (please keep that vocal mic away from the monitors!), would be threatened. “Pull that shit again, and I’m gonna hit the suck button on you guys!” I took it to mean that he would intentionally make them sound bad, but he never followed through on the threat, so I took it as a vague general warning.

    So anyway, a little while back he’s running sound on a four band show. The second band, a Matchbox 20/Train kind of band, has him running 20 minutes behind before they even play a note because their lead guitarist was late. Their allotted set time is 40 minutes, but their last song runs over and by the time it’s done, they’ve played for almost 45 minutes. John says quietly over the talkback mic, “Hey guys, you’re done.” The lead singer says loudly over the vocal mic “Sound man says we gotta get off the stage. We got one more song for you!” as they kick into another soupy jangle-rock tune. John shakes his head at me. Then, the most amazing thing happened. After their “encore,” this band kicks straight into ANOTHER song without announcing it, apparently in the hope that John wouldn’t notice it was a different song.

    John leans over to me to be heard over the PA and asks, “Hey, wanna see the suck button?”

    “Sure,” I replied. I figured he was going to muck with the levels or just turn them off or something. Instead, he reaches to one of his racks and starts scrolling through patches on his trusty DigiTech unit. Sure enough, he gets to a patch titled SUCK BUTTON. He engages it, and all hell breaks loose onstage. The lead singer and the lead guitarist (who was singing backup), immediately start to sing WAY off key. They try to get back in tune, fail, trail off in mid-line, try again, and start glaring at each other. The guitarist is so distracted by this that he starts muffing the chord progression. If not for the drummer, I think the whole song would have derailed. For the entire four minute duration of the song, I was treated to this asshole band sounding like crap and getting madder and madder at each other. John explained the patch to me; basically it pitch shifts all tracks from the vocal submix up one step, BUT ONLY IN THE MONITORS. So the audience, out in front of the mains, was treated to the sound of two guys trying to sing in tune, only to be utterly confused. If they got it sounding right in the monitors, they could tell that something was grossly wrong in the mains. And each of the singers thought it was the other guy who was singing out of tune. I just about died laughing.

    Anyway, that’s it. Funny, huh?

    By Blogger notionsUnlimited, at 1:18 PM  

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