What to Do When Good Gigs Go Bad – Part II

PART II of a Two Part Mini Series

"I'm sorry, but you'll have to leave."

Welcome back to PART II of a short series involving the embarrassment involved in being sent home early from a gig. Last week in Part I I mainly covered what you can do if given the option to pack up and leave early due to the venue having no patrons left at the end of the night. This week however, I am going to go in depth into the reason behind the headline. The comment I have only ever heard once in my career, and wish to never hear again. “I’m sorry, but you’ll have to leave”.

When Your Performance Gets Cut Short

I had just started out doing live gigs around Sydney, and as my workload picked up I found myself in increasingly larger venues. And tonight, I was supposed to play at the very first venue that had requested I plug my gear through their in-house sound system.

First of all, I receive a call from my agent requesting I show up an hour earlier than I was booked for (these things happen too) and I was happy to oblige as I was already in the area. So I make my way inside, introduce myself to the staff and I was shown to my “stage”.

Major fail number one. I was first of all made to ask a table full of people to move as per the manager's request, as my set up area was in the middle of a flight of stairs and tables that needed to be moved. Already, I could tell – they hated me. This did not get any easier taking into account the amount of people using this staircase during the time I was setting up. I was absolutely dreading having to play here, getting into the music and maybe even whacking someone with my guitar.

Cue major fail number two. I plug in to the in-house system, only to be told there was no one there to use their mixer – that was locked up in a back room. They grab an unsuspecting staff member who happened to be at the venue partying with his friends. He was drunk, and couldn’t understand a word I was saying.

I asked to see the mixing table, knowing full well what I could have done to fix our problem of no sound. They said no, and let the guy who looked like he had been drinking for 2 days straight attend to the mixer. We managed to get sound, and I started my set for the evening. Not even 4 songs in the manager comes up to me and asks me to just stop. He said the sound was distorted throughout the venue and customers were moving away from the speakers. I again asked to see the mixer, mentioning to him that it is probably clipping due to the volume being too loud. Again, I was denied access to the sound system and the manager says with a frown on his perfectly powdered face, “listen girl, you – are amazing – but I’m losing money. So how about you just pack up your things. I’ll pay you for the hour and we try this some other time? I’m sorry, but you’ll have to leave”

There it was. The apology and words that cut like a thousand knives at that very moment. Scarred my ego and bruised my confidence. I thanked him for having me, and while choking back tears I packed up my gear in front of a full house that had only moments ago seen me set up. A crowd full of semi drunk people, who had already managed to verbally abuse me and accuse me of “ruining their party”.

But also a crowd of lovely, kind, happy, dancing people who were upset to see me leave. No one more upset however than me. I was disappointed; in myself, the venue manager, the patrons, my gear, the stupid staircase set up, even the cute bartender. This was the first time since I was a very young performer, thinking “wow, I really don’t want to do this.”

Now remember, I was brand new to the live music scene around Sydney. I had never before come across someone so rude, arrogant and downright nasty and I was very sad. The words of my mentor however rung through my head, as he had taught me very early on in my career that we get the job done – and cry in the car on the way home. So I waited until I got back in my car to let it out. Funny enough I didn’t shed a single tear. I instead cranked some tunes and let off a scream; “HE DOES NOT KNOW WHAT HE’S MISSING OUT ON” as I headed home.

Needless to say I contacted my agent about the venue manager and his high horse, stuck up attitude and have never been back to that place. Sure, humility goes a long way in this industry, but never, ever allow yourself to become someone else’s punching bag. NEVER do a gig that you’re not happy to, nor feel comfortable doing - because believe me – it will show through you performance.

I do understand where the venue manager was coming from. However, to not trust a professional musician to take care of the work they were hired to do, to not allow someone to finish what they have started, even if he could have waited until my set was over by having the staff member who “knew” the sound system turn it off in the meantime – it was a little like taking a cake out of the oven before it has been in for the time specified. What you are going to be left with is a gooey, ugly mess that no one wants to eat.

Point being, my musical brothers and sisters:

You will experience: empty venues, idiot managers, incompetent staff, downright rude people, technical difficulties, embarrassing moments ranging from being sent home to having drinks spilled on you, dropping your gear, ripping your pants during set up and so on. You will mess up lyrics for songs or even manage to verbally "burn" someone for being a pri*k.

But just like with anything else in life, you will grow from these experiences; you will flourish and become a master at handling stressful situations, better than you ever thought you would. You will gain momentum and experience "post gig highs" you never thought possible. You will achieve your dreams – if you just stick with it – and believe in yourself and your art!

We are musicians, we are paid to show up, set up, tune up and ROCK OUT!

Until next time, peace, practice and perform.

-Aliyah Marie - MU Columnist
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