I’ve been in a band since I was fifteen. That’s over ten years of anecdotes about playing shows. Luckily for me, some of these stories are happy ones – proud moments like when we successfully launched an EP at the Rosemount Hotel in Perth, or when we shared the Hyde Park stage (ie. the floor) with an incognito Gyroscope (an ultra-popular Perth band) playing a secret show under the name Experimental Drug Sex.
But luckily for you, most of these stories are embarrassing or just plain painful. They are tales of kids desperately wanting to be taken seriously, but behaving badly and playing their instruments even worse. So without further ado, here are the most cringe worthy memories I have of shows we’ve played …
First gig. This was at our first bass players’ house for his birthday or his sisters’ (I can’t remember which). We didn’t have a singer at the time but our drummer loved hitting the skins as hard as he could, perhaps as a way to make up for it. Naturally we turned up our guitar amps to compete and before long we were playing so loud that no one dared stand outside to listen to us for fear of their eardrums being destroyed (and also probably because we weren’t very good). It didn’t faze us much though – we quickly became too drunk to care. After that I don’t remember much except apologising profusely to our bass players’ Mum for breaking a photo frame, and lying on the floor a lot “because it was comfortable”.
The park gig. My Aunty heard I was in a band and asked us to play at a lunch in the park she’d organised for the elderly (at least we thought they were elderly at the time). Strangely, those present didn’t show much appreciation for a bunch of bratty teenagers acting like distortion was a universal language. A strict isolation zone of 20 metres was kept around us at all times.
Roley Rock Out 2000. This was our first gig with a singer – a guy we’d recruited about a week before through a newspaper ad. Unfortunately he was a little too fond of confrontation – shouting “Skaters are gay!” into the microphone before we’d even started playing (not a wise move considering a big part of the “festival” was a large skate park set up behind us). Our set included the Smashing Pumpkins song, Zero (with the lyric “God is empty”), and a terrible original song with the shouted chorus “please God kill me”). All this at a show that was set up by the school chaplaincy.
The school gig. Hoping to impress the other students, we signed up to play at a year 12 assembly, but there was a problem – we’d just kicked out our singer. So again, a new recruit had less than a week to learn our songs. With him reading lyrics off a sheet of paper and the rest of us struggling to stay in time, it was less than successful. Then to rub salt into the wound, the other school band played a note perfect cover of Metallica’s Fade to Black to rapturous applause.
Skatefest 2001. Having fired our second singer, the band managed to convince me to take lead vocal duties, and things got off to a very bad start. We’d also lost our second bass player, so we had just two guitars playing through tiny lunchbox amps and an un-mic’d drumkit (on the back of a truck facing the Roleystone skate park). Unfortunately my microphone (and my microphone alone) was plugged into a powerful PA system, so although our amps were too small to hear unless you were standing directly in front, my off-tune bleating could be heard kilometres away. This was a particularly bad combination when we unwisely played the heaviest song we’d written – my poor attempts at sounding like the guy from Sepultura prompting one kid to leave the park after announcing “I can’t skate with that guy shouting at me”.
Avon Rock. Gigs have never been very forthcoming for us, especially in the early days. That’s probably way we ventured all the way out to Northam (almost 2 hours from our home town) to play a band competition. Despite there being only one other band in our category (original music, under-18) we lost convincingly. Still we were gluttons for punishment and returned twice more. On our last visit we were quite confident, but the judges hated us – one of them simply leaving the bizarre comment, “No sound. No solo. No style. Sloppy. Sloppy. Sloppy. Na na na. Doo doo doo.”
Bayswater Football Club. We played here three weekends in a row. The first two shows went fine, although one punter shouted “do a flip!” at me a couple of times to my great confusion. (It took me years to figure that one out but I think I’ve got it now. There’s a Futurama episode where Bender shouts “do a flip!” to Hermes when he threatens to jump off a ledge. I guess the guy thought I was a sulky teen making terribly depressing music, which I kind of was). Then on our third visit, we played after midnight to a grand total of three people – our guitarists’ Dad, his sister and the bartender.
Kelmscott Football Club. For a couple of songs we tried an instrument swap (myself on drums and our drummer on vocals). We screwed up completely and I was pissed off enough to throw the drumsticks into the “crowd”. It was partly an act of genuine frustration, but I suppose I also thought it was very “rock’n’roll”. However, when the sticks bounced off a couple of empty tables in front of the stage and almost hit someone in the face it became clear that we just looked like idiots. Again.
That was one of the last shows I played before we “started over” (different name, different songs, somewhat different line-up). It didn’t mark the end of the embarrassing gigs but they thankfully became much less frequent.
Anyone else have a ‘gig gone wrong’ story they want to share?