At some point in a bands career, it’s almost a rite of passage to experience a sorted array of live show nightmares. The subject has even been immortalized to perfection in the cult classic movie “The Is Spinal Tap”, which offers an extremely accurate look into these familiar blunders. Needless to say, its part of the evolving process as a musician, and reminds us that there’s always a chance for something to go horribly wrong.
Ive been in several bands long ago, many of which have played live all around New England, but few ran into as many incidents as my time with an industrial metal band over a decade ago. Our gimmick was painting our faces in glow paint, and lighting the stage with black lights to give us a radioactive glowing effect. That piece of information alone should give you enough of an idea towards how hilarious it looked when things went wrong. These are just a couple specific incidents which humbled us as a band, and also made us look like absolute jackasses.
A Sea of Nobody
We were booked a show at a local town green, where apparently several bands were booked as some what of a local outdoor metal festival. The people involved with the show continued to promise a spectacular turnout, and kept reminding us of how “great” the show was going to be. As a group of ego driven musicians who barely knew anything about the business, we were eager to perform for what we believed would be a miniature Woodstock.
Upon arriving at an empty field, we noticed all the bands starting to load equipment on to a stage no bigger than a small bedroom. There was a merchandise table being setup, and the band members girlfriends were making the rounds greeting each other. At this point it was only a matter of time until the massive audience would swarm in like a metal hungry mob. After about an hour of waiting, the only noise you could hear was from kids playing frisbee in the same field, and maybe an elderly man walking his dog.
What we didn’t realize at the time, was that our audience was there the whole time. The band members girlfriends and staggered road crew were all we got, and every ounce of adrenaline pumping through our veins in hopes of playing for a sea of people was immediately extinguished. From that moment on, every show we played with the people involved in that mess continued with their “this show is gonna be great” attitude, only to experience yet another dead audience.
More Fog = More Falls
Every time we started a show, the crowd would be notified of our presence by the sound of Edward Scissorhands music blasting through the speakers. It’s a technique many bands use to get their audience pumped up before they start playing. Unfortunately our band decided it would be a good idea to bathe the stage in fog during our entrance, and at one occasion it proved to be quite a disaster.
The fog machine was controlled by an extension switch located backstage, and as we awaited our entrance we kept insisting “More fog! More fog!”. What we completely took for granted was our ability to actually see how much fog was being dispersed at that given moment. We finally got the cue to walk on stage, and upon our first few steps we noticed the front row was coughing uncontrollably. This was not a good sign for what was about to happen.
There were six of us all trying to rush towards our instruments at the same time on a tiny stage in a cramped night club. There was so much fog on stage you would have thought the entire place was on fire, but everyone knew it was fog because of that putrid yet sweet smell. I can only imagine being in the audience and seeing this group of buffoons with glowing faces falling over each other in an attempt to withhold any shred of dignity, and maintain a heavy metal “tough guy” image. Hopefully we made up for it with our performance, but that was only possible after the first few songs when our audience could actually see us.
If you’re just starting out in a band right now, I surely don’t envy what you’re about to go through. Just remember that every band goes through something similar, and there are going to be times when eyebrows will raise in confusion, and laughs will fall at your expense. This is why it’s extremely important to stay humble, and never take yourself too seriously.