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Top Ten Gigs from Hell
(hottest, coldest, wettest, etc.)

VOLUME 24                                       Shockoe Reader




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measuring up to the heat


...for Tom Knight

 Iíve told this story a hundred times always off the top of my head
 with no script in my hand, no pomp or circumstantial fifteen
 minutes of fame to make my celebrity moment any more what
 it is...

 than a lecture to the choir as other listeners go back to the bar
 for a refresher or go help themselves to that mountain of finger
 food in the reception room.
 It took me years to realize how unfunny and depressing this
 story is, especially when you try to tell it to party guests who
 came there to have fun and be entertained. But,
 color me stupid for not realizing that people have a different
 view of the fun life you must be having. Music is fun, isnít it?
 You love the music donít you?  No, just a job? 
 Asphalt parking lot, flatbed trailer, middle of a dog day, July
 afternoon, at Trundle Grate Pipe Works, Inc. founderís day
 office romp, pig fest pork pick, and beer keg party hoot.
 Some assembly required making a flatbed into a bandstand,
 monster speakers, amps and wired up mics. We roast, sweat
 buckets, perform our best until the cloudburst comes.

 You know somethingís up, doesnít feel quite right, that breeze
 out of nowhere on the back of the neck, and a rumble louder
 than you are gets all of your attention. Whoa!
 Turn everything off! Kill the power. Oh God, my drums, take your
 axe inside, donít touch anything with a wire on it, go inside and
 cool off. Weíll bail out the speakers later.
 Sometimes itís already bad, you just got there and itís a hundred
 yards through foot deep muddy ruts to the picnic shelter. You can
 tell the old hands from spiffed up novices accustomed to
 ballroom conditions.

 A little wind gives the barbecue crew the idea to put up
 some plastic to keep out the chill, until the smoke fills the
 place up.

 We have to ask each other, "hey, can you breathe smoke and
 still play?" "No." "I canít either." "OK, itís break time. Come back
 when you can see the band and still breathe."

 When itís over and everyone goes home and the lights go out
 you circle wagons, pack by headlights, and walk on the packing
 blankets to keep from slipping in deeper.
 That ill wind in late autumn can turn from Russia and change
 an idyllic Hawaiian shirt luau day into a shiver pimple nightmare.
 Soon youíre snug tight in the same packing blankets
  you walked on last week that no one thought to wash after the
  muddiest gig you thought youíd ever see. You may not be
  prepared but you learn to be very resourceful in an emergency.

  Itís half over when it happens, a string breaks, a unit conks out,
  or someone drunk falls up in the band and thereís
a bzzz thunk
  sound that makes the orchestra pit of your stomach go bad.

  Worse, thereís no replacement for it in your spare parts kit.
  So you must decide whether to apologize for the lack of
  something or just hope that the audience doesnít know the
 ĎNever ceases to amaze me just how little party guests know
 about band gigs and all the stuff that musicians depend on to go
 just right or this may be your last gig ever with these folks.

 Of course, that isnít the worst cause for alarm. Sometimes you
 can play the best you ever played in your whole career and
 youíre still not good enough, youíre pumped,
 and they say you stink!  The whole damn band stinks!      

  ...to be continued

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