Wednesday, December 3, 2008

First Gig Horror Stories

I love hearing people's first gig stories. horror shows usually. depending on who i talk to i had several 'first gigs' - the first time i played guitar in front of people was - wait for it - at a 'chess club Christmas party at the malden Y' i played the central riff to "Switch 625" by def leppard a few times through. not auspicious.

the next time was a loosely organized 'band' put together for the sophomore talent show at savio. I honestly don't even remember who was in the band - other than that the kid who was going to sing for us didn't show up or backed out -leaving us to replace him with 10 minutes to go with this kid who was there to see one of the other bands. (years later while talking with my then-new friend and james brown meeting partner - Joe, we realized it had been him that day!) We did "crazy train" and "rock and roll". unrehearsed. not so good. but there we were.

knowing that i couldn't have this 'throw together band' thing anymore i got some friends together and formed my first band - stationary front. it featured marc serra, john kratman and dave addleman. we weren't that good. we practiced in my very non-soundproof basement playing all manner of zepplin, floyd, ozzy, and stones covers. and a ritual of practice was to take a break - head over to the convenience store next to my house. get sodas and snacks - and inevitably marvel at how many drakes coffee cakes addleman could fit into his mouth at once before he started to inhale the crumb topping and choke. We terrorized poor Andy - the owner of the store. not that we were bad- just a bunch of obnoxious stoner 16 year olds popping into his store every day. plus on summer days there's no doubt our racket filled his store.

well after a few months of this - he apparently decided to take his good natured revenge.

one day upon our store visit he said - hey, you guys are sounding good lately - i could get you a gig! You know i'm big at the Beachmont Yacht club, i can get you in there net friday.

we were astounded and completely thrilled. a gig! at a "club"

{a note on the beachmont yacht club. its a "yacht club" in the way that Paris Hilton is a 'lady' - it is located on a tidal creek in a marsh cut off from access to the ocean for all but the smallest kayaks and canoes by a bridge - and if one can get their boat under the bridge you are left with access to the backside of logan airport's harbor. so - yeah. neighborhood social club - yes. yacht club - no. }
anyhow we were psyched - we told everyone. practiced extra hard. got ready and counted the days.

we show up that friday night early to set up. bad sign #1 is that Andy is neither there, nor expected. bad sign #1.1 is that no one who is there knew we were coming or cared that we did.

they had us set up off in a corner while the 9 patrons in their 50s continued their argument about Dukakis vs Gephart over miller lites.

once set up we launched into "Rock and Roll" by zeppelin. i think we made it to the first verse before they waved us silent. explaining that they didn't want Loud Rock Music interrupting their friday night bliss.

We, having not much more than rock music in our repertoire, then got trapped into a cycle of turning down. trying to start again. being told to stop and turn down more, etc.

i think we made it through rock and roll, Pink Floyd's "Mother", and maybe one more before our first 'draw' of the evening showed up. my parents. with my dad in. a. suit. and my mom a fancy dress. oh. man.

Meanwhie, the 9 people at the bar were now being openly disdainful of us and gesturing wildly while holding their ears etc. (we were being quiet!) every time we started a song. wild horses was too loud for them - we knew we were in trouble. We were starting to think we'd need chicken wire.

finally (mercifully) the last straw came for the band - we were starting a quiet toned down version of Dazed and Confused (yes. i did have a violin bow with me) when all of a sudden - a chick from the bar walked toward us, passed by us, went to the Jukebox, put in money and returned to her seat - while we (loud as we were accused of being) were suddenly COMPLETELY drowned out by the sound of "Take my Breath Away" (from the top gun soundtrack).

While i wanted to salvage the gig and offered to play jazzy chords on the piano for the rest of the night - addleman and kratman had enough self respect to realize that when led zep loses to the top gun soundtrack on a jukebox that the gig is over.

we packed up. cursed andy for 'setting us up'. and headed for the car.

the final insult to injury moment came as we finished packing up - about 30 kids from our high school showed up looking for the gig. when your set can't last long enough to make it to your crowd showing up ... well. i can honestly say - its all been uphill from there.

IF anyone actually reads this and has tales of your own - leave em in the comments - i love bad gig stories!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This has just been an amazing and wonderful/blissful read. I do know that our first gig was just an awful horrific display. I too have had a few 1st shows....but the one I'll report on is the first official "jake and the jakes" when it was just me and jim and both of us played guitars...I can't recall recall all the details or what songs we played - but lets just say that it was like I had never played guitar before - and I think everyone was happy when our set was was at The Kirkland and we happened to play with Pony, OneBigMess and I forget the other band...I was extremely drunk - in any event it was a typical bad..very bad first smoothed out a little bit since but it just goes to show you that you've always got to be on your toes cause you never know what the hell is going to happen from one damn second to the other once you're up there...

Dave - you're a phenominal writer and I dig this topic...I hope more people put in some really juicey tales better than what I have outlined here...


Sean (Jake and the Jakes)