Episode ten: Weird gigs
Every musician has had them... those situations where you have to stand back a hair and think “how the @!??!! did we end up here?” So here’s a few.....
You ever see The Who’s “Tommy” ? There’s a scene near the end with a bunch of hells angels...?
We played a gig for them in 1976!
Our erstwhile drummer at the time , Mike Kenworthy, was a little older than us and was a student at Newcastle University... he was friendly with a few of the angels and would often see them boozing in the Old George pub in Newcastle.. one of the rock bars.
So one day Mike tells us we have a gig playing at an angels “ meet” that’s happening in Wrekenton... a suburb about 5 mile south of Newcastle. When the day finally arrives, we sort out a van .. load up our equipment and sally forth to the venue...
Which turns out to be a .... field....in literally the middle of nowhere. As we open the fence to the field we see a number of tents and a conglomeration of extremely scruffy full on hells angels. There’s a large bonfire and a bunch of these guys are running through the fire .. playing chicken and laughing very loudly. This all ended rather quickly when one hapless soul fell face first into said fire... drunk off his face too which was probably just as well.
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The power for this extravaganza was provided by a petrol powered generator... I now know from experience that this was the smallest generator on the planet!
We set up our equipment under darkening skies... both due to the hour and the gathering rain clouds. Plastic sheets appeared which we preemptively used to cover our amps just in case... the “ audience “ gathered in front of us .. maybe 50-60 of them.. and off we went!
The first thing we noted that as soon as we all hit a power chord it sucked so much electricity that the volume would dip noticeably every time.. almost comically.
We play our set and then..as it’s our regular set closer... and it’s a hells Angel gig.. last song is “ born to be wild”
And they love it. So much in fact that we are growled at to “ play it again!”
So we do.
And then the rain starts.... and gets heavier & heavier.. we finish to another menacing exhortation to” play it again”...
We look at each other in dread and start up the song again.. almost immediately my brother Mark throws out his arms in convulsions and falls on the floor writhing.
I kick the guitar away from him as he’s obviously had a bad electric shock and bend over him trying to get him to consciousness. The audience are having none of it however “ play born to be wild”
is barked at us... I shout back over the mike.. “ sorry... shows over... he’s had an electric shock.. it’s too dangerous “
We pick Mark up and carry him to the van .. where his eyes open & dart from left to right....he then giggles “let’s get the FUCK out of here NOW!!!!”
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Fast forward to 2014.... we are on tour and our wonderful agent ( in this case...me.. I had booked this tour... no one to blame but myself!) had given us a very long drive between Portland OR down to Reno NV.... without a day off. So it was play the Portland gig, load up ASAP and drive all night... and all day. We arrived around 4.30 pm and crashed in the hotel for about 90 min then dragged ourselves up and off to the gig.
We arrive at the venue which is a hive of activity as they are literally still building the stage... as in construction! We nip off for a bite to eat and on our return things are looking considerably better... if not a little odd... white shag pile carpet on a stage?
The parking spot next to the stage door is marked off with road cones.. just for us right? Wrong . This biker style dude who is apparently the stage manager starts up..“ you can’t park there that’s for the boss etc etc” so after arguing the toss for ten min we just unload our gear and park in the back of the lot.... more on this later.
We soundcheck and it’s apparent this is going to be a difficult show as the monitors are pretty useless... but that’s the way it goes sometimes so we grin & bare it!
As the opening bands are playing it’s also apparent the main PA is just about as good as the monitors... not good at all!
Not to mention the “ lighting rig” which is not that bad except there is no lighting guy.. it’s being triggered by the music.. when there’s music the lights go on & off on a “ chaser” loop... then when the music stops & the place goes completely dark!
I’m definitely wanting to have words with the lunatic that booked this show ....
So.. showtime and on we bound... although the shag pile carpet is a major issue - unless you take steps like Gene Simmonds it’s kinda difficult to walk on this horror. Mark eventually bounds across the stage.. his boots catch on the carpet and like a guided missile he careens straight into the drum kit... knocking ALL the drums and our drummer Joe flying.
Hilarious and horrific all together.
Once we ascertain that said drummer and guitarist are not injured... we take 5 min to rebuild the drum kit and soldier on with the set. One of the audience decides he will climb up onto the stage which is about 5 foot high and pose for selfies with us as the backdrop... slightly annoying but hey.. he’s having fun. Later on during our final song “ break the chain” the same character goes one better and decides to get up and dance on stage with us! Again, all good fun in moderation and after a few minutes of this we give him the nod that his 5 min of fame is most definitely up.
He’s not having it.
Mark gives him a firm nudge in the direction of the edge of the stage and the guy takes major offense and pushes Mark back violently.... bad idea. The days frustration is finally released as down goes the guitar... fists fly ..and flying backwards off the stage goes the guy.. arms & legs akimbo.... BOOM flat on his back like a crushed bug... and I rub it in with “ keep the fuck off our stage!”
We finish the show... happy to have survived the days antics and get set to load out & leave. The aggrieved punter hobbles out backstage and say to my brother “ hey man... you could have killed me there!” Mark puts his arm around the guys shoulders and says “ hey, it’s all part of the show!”
We load out and as we finish we see that the “ boss’s parking spot” appears to have just been “ biker dude” holding the space for his bike.... so we “ parked” a few cans of coke over it on the way out.......