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Gheorghe

Gigs in unusual or even scary surroundings.

15 posts in this topic

I´m sure some of you, during their playing career had to play gigs that are memorable not necessarly for the music, but for strange cirumstances and I invite you to share those stories here.

I want to tell you a true story, the people involved are quite famous, though sorry to say the two musicians who played that gig are no longer among us.

In the early 80s I knew a guy who was the brother of the remarkable Austrian author and journalist Conrad Seidl (best known as „Beer Pope“ since he wrote a book about beer). That guy who was the younger brother of Conrad told me that his brother will marry soon and thinking about the music for the wedding party he thought that some jazz would be cool, and if I could get a small group together and play, it would be some good money.

So I asked him where the event will take place and he said at the Theater of the Otto Wagner Hospital (psychiatric hospital in Viena, better known as „Steinhof“).

I said „you kiddin´“ , we are supposed to play on the grounds of the nuthouse ????

He told me that it is because his brother Conrad is a fan of the Art Nuveau Style and the hospital grounds are famous for their art nuveau church and theater building.

Do they have a piano I asked and learned that there is no piano. Shit….. because at that time I didn´t own a portable keyboard. But I wanted the gig because money was cool, so I told him „look, I also play the bass fiddle, so fix it and I´ll get the other musicians so you will have your band.

During that time if you wanted to meet musicians to fix a gig you just had to found them at two jazz bars in the 6th district „Café Einhorn“ (run by former saxophonist Uzzi Förster) or on the other side of the street „Jazz Spelunke“.

So when I came in, the great late trumpet player Karl „Bumi“ Fian (best known for his tenure with the „Vienna Art Orchestra) was sittin at the bar and greeted me and I said „look, Bumi, I have that gig, it´s the wedding of Conrad Seidl but there´s no piano so I must play the bass fiddle“. He said sure let´s do it. And we get Walter Grossrubatscher (former with Woody Shaw, Conte Candoli, Junior Mance) on drums.

„You want to play just with trumpet, bass and drums?“ Quite a thin instrumentation really, but anyway…..

We didn´t need to rehearse, since we would play standards only.

So the gig was fixed and we were told to get early enough to the theater to set the drums, check the sound and start to play when the party gets inside. And we should wear dark suits and white shirts.

Okay, the day of the event arrived and I was supposed to be the first there to check how the surroundings are.

So I drove to the place with my old Citroen 2CV (popular name: „duck“), with the neck of the bass fiddle stickin out of the roll-off mobile roof of the car.

From the parking area to the theater there was a few steps and since it was a hot day in July I had taken off my jacket and wore only the trousers and the white shirt.

Strange feeling steppin on the grounds of a nuthouse I thought, and above all, the door of the theater was locked. I banged at the door and the windows ….. no reaction.

Then two muscular guys with shaved heads and white hospital clothes came torwards me, started grinnin´ and sayin „hey nuts what you doin´, move on! “

I answerd „no no, I´m a musician and have to play here“

The two guys from the staff (mental nurses you say ?) started to laugh in an ugly manner and said „Gee, you a musician, that´s mighty fine, you got some other stories too ?

I tried to tell them „But I´m not kiddin´, I´m really a musician and have to play here !“

It didn´t help, they really thought I´m nuts and started to grab me.

I yelled „I can proove it, come along with me up to the parking area, you see my Citroen with the bass fiddle stickin´ out of the roof !“

They laughed and really thought I´m one of the insanes of the hospital, they grabbed me and I´m sure they wanted to bring me back to some closed ward.

Thanks God, at that moment the guy who had booked us came down and saw what happend and explained that I´m one of there musicians for the wedding party.

The two guardians let me go, but not without shoutin at me why I didn´t say that earlier….(I really did , but maybe if you are at a nuthouse and tell somebody from the staff that you are a musician and have a bass fiddle in the car, it sounds weird….).

Finally my two fellow musicians arrived and we played the gig. I don´t remember much, but Bumi and Walter were great as ever and I had a hard job to cover the lack of a chord instrument, especially on ballads I got a lot to do and I mean I´m a piano player and just had picked up the bass fiddle in 1978 when I bought one for rehearsals at home until I started to practise and after one, two years I had mastered it well enough to fill in on bass if somebody called for a bass player…..

I still have the bass fiddle at home but haven´t touched it for decades, concentrating on piano only, but it is a very good instrument (someone who didn´t know better and sold it from about 550 Euro (7500 austrian shillings then) but it´s really an old and wonderful sounding instrument and about the same time I got an offer from the great austrian bassist Johannes Strasser (former with Art Farmer, Chet Baker) , but didn´t want to sell it. Maybe when I´ll be retired I might try it again. You don´t forget to play an instrument, you only have to build up some chops and will have blisters at the beginning…..

I hope you like my story and will contribute some other stories about „strange or even scary gigs“…...

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A piano player friend of mine got us a duo gig at a large restaurant in NY. I won't even mention the borough, because I don't want to go into specifics for reasons that will be apparent as you read. I found out at some point that the owner was very 'connected'. I just hoped that the guy wasn't going to be there that night.

We played for a while when all of a sudden I looked up, and there was a guy sitting at a table with a sick looking smile on his face, and the words L-O-V-E and H-A-T-E written on his fingers, staring at us. I knew that had to be the owner, but I asked my friend anyway. "Yup" was all my friend said. I had seen Cape Fear recently, either the Mitchum or De Niro version, and I knew this was not a good sign.

We were towards the end of the gig, when all of a sudden, the owner was chasing after his girlfriend, smacking the crap out of her each time he caught her. My friend said pack up, and wait for me in the car while i get paid. I told him, "Forget about the money, let's just get out of here". I didn't wait for an answer, I just packed up as fast as humanly possible, and ran out of the place.

Somehow, my friend got paid and met me in the car. I told him I was never going to play at that place again. Unfortunately, he got a call for that gig again, and he had to turn it down because he had a gig playing for someone who was even more 'connected' than the owner was. He had to turn the owner down, and got a threat from the owner that used language I can't use here. He was so afraid of the owner, he wound up not leaving his house for a month.

He finally came out of his house when he heard that the owner was going away for a long, long time in a case that was so famous, that I can't even mention it here, so don't ask me.

I might have posted this here before, but I hate to see a thread without any posts.

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4 hours ago, sgcim said:

 

 

 

I might have posted this here before, but I hate to see a thread without any posts.

@sgcim  Thank you so much for that story, which is really a scary thing. You say a duo gig with a piano player.... what instrument you playing, bass ? 

 I really enjoyed reading it and hope you did like my story too. And I want to thank you not only for your great story, but also that you decided to write it. And I also hate to see a thread without any posts. 
I was really confused, when I didn´t see any post after almost a week. 

I had thought it is best placed in the musicians forum, but would be interesting for non musicians too,  since many of them like "jazz stories". I could write dozens of them (with the limitations of my knowledge of english, which I mostly learned from reading liner notes and jazz books) . Maybe we can invite others to post here too, and so our efforts to write more stuff will not be in vein. 

 

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In the 1990s, my wife's band played a nudist/swingers party.

She said the experience reinforced the axiom that the people most willing to disrobe in public are the people you least want to see unclothed.  

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I had a summer gig playing The Men's Club for afternoon pool parties. The food was great, but the dancers were, with one exception, depressing. and the audience, the paying male customers, were pathetic.

I've played gigs in joints that were fronts for fences, crack dealers, pimps, you name it. Biker bars. Ramshackle roadhouses literally in the middle of nowhere. Clubs inside houses deep in the hood. A gig's a gig. As long as you get paid...

Played a gig in an Ethiopian restaurant that stopped us before the first set was over. Apparently they did not understand that a R&B band was going to play R&B. They paid, though, so I got my $30.00.

Played a wedding at a Czech dance hall in central Texas with a band leader who knew a few polkas, but not enough to last the night, or even the first set. The father of the groom had to take to the stage to attempt to soothe the restless crowd by telling them that this was a "city band", the type that we don't often get to hear in these parts, the finest musicians around, this is a treat, etc. It worked for a bit, but finally we had to resort to that old standby - inviting people up to sit in and sing their favorite songs. Everybody sang polkas, and since they're all more or less the same in terms of changes, a splendid time was eventually had by all, and I got my $300.00, even if it was via check. It cleared with no problem.

Loaded in through the backroom of a bar that was hosting a high stakes cash poker game with loaded guns on the table. Nobody looked at the anybody, although of course everybody was looking at everybody, if you know what I mean. I got paid my $50.00 and fortunately was not invited to sit at the table.

Another place, I had to wait to get paid while the leader pulled a gun on the owner who claimed to be short on cash. There was cash on hand after all! So I got my $65.00.

Many times, the life experience of the gig is more interesting than the music that gets played. I feel sorry for the people who only play the union gigs where it's just a clock-in/work/clock-out job, although, you know, you used to be able to be a respectable citizen doing that type of thing.

 

Oh, AFM Trust Fund gigs...omg, some of the places they get a band into...the worst one was a "hospital" for really severe alcoholics who had been brain-damaged beyond repair, in the deeply rural area outside of Fort Worth. Wasn't on any map, one of those truly hidden joints surrounded by high weeds. The few people who came into listen (in the courtyard!!!!!) were zombies, so I took it upon myself to MC the gig. Did you know that you can get by with saying damn near any words in any sequence as long as you don't include profanity's, or make reference to alcohol, and say "thank you" a lot? AND still get $100.00 for an hour's work, straight from the Union?

 

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Posted (edited)

in college I was playing bass in a country/rock band, and we had a gig at a biker bar. Sure enough a fight broke out one night; fortunately it went toward and out the door instead of toward the band stand. Fortunately, no one had guns in those days (maybe 1973) -

Edited by AllenLowe

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Posted (edited)

18 hours ago, Gheorghe said:

@sgcim  Thank you so much for that story, which is really a scary thing. You say a duo gig with a piano player.... what instrument you playing, bass ? 

 I really enjoyed reading it and hope you did like my story too. And I want to thank you not only for your great story, but also that you decided to write it. And I also hate to see a thread without any posts. 
I was really confused, when I didn´t see any post after almost a week. 

I had thought it is best placed in the musicians forum, but would be interesting for non musicians too,  since many of them like "jazz stories". I could write dozens of them (with the limitations of my knowledge of english, which I mostly learned from reading liner notes and jazz books) . Maybe we can invite others to post here too, and so our efforts to write more stuff will not be in vein. 

 

I play guitar. Your English writing is great, considering how you learned it. The last word in your post should have been vain instead of vein.

A former student of mine played alto sax in a Meringue Typico band, and he said the Dominican Republic audience usually gets so juiced towards the end of a gig, fights break out almost every time. One gig, so many of them got juiced they were randomly picking fights with anyone. Then, a group of them decided to go after the band, for no freaking reason!

Something like 20 people charged the stage, and my student with sax in hand, and his brother carrying his accordion with no case, went tearing out of the back exit to the hall. They thought they were alright when they hit the city streets, but the MFs chased them for blocks outside till the crowd of drunks just ran out of steam and gave up. Sounded like a scene from a zombie movie.

I played an Irish-American wedding where a the groom and the Best Man started beating the schist out of each other, because the bride was already fecking around with the BM during the wedding party. There was blood all over the floor.

Then, there's the whole other topic of musicians getting into fights with each other on the stand during the gig. I've probably told some of those stories here before, so I'll leave them for another time.

Edited by sgcim

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21 minutes ago, sgcim said:

I play guitar. Your English writing is great, considering how you learned it. The last word in your post should have been vane instead of vein.

A former student of mine played alto sax in a Meringue Typico band, and he said the Dominican Republic audience usually gets so juiced towards the end of a gig, fights break out almost every time. One gig, so many of them got juiced they were randomly picking fights with anyone. Then, a group of them decided to go after the band, for no freaking reason!

Something like 20 people charged the stage, and my student with sax in hand, and his brother carrying his accordion with no case, went tearing out of the back exit to the hall. They thought they were alright when they hit the city streets, but the MFs chased them for blocks outside till the crowd of drunks just ran out of steam and gave up. Sounded like a scene from a zombie movie.

I played an Irish-American wedding where a the groom and the Best Man started beating the schist out of each other, because the bride was already fecking around with the BM during the wedding party. There was blood all over the floor.

Then, there's the whole other topic of musicians getting into fights with each other on the stand during the gig. I've probably told some of those stories here before, so I'll leave them for another time.

Oops -- it should have been "in vain."

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Not a frightening gig at all but odd in one respect, at least in my experience. A wedding anniversary celebration IIRC for which a topnotch band had been hired -- Don Patterson, Von Freeman (first time I heard him; I was bowled over; Von had recently returned to Chicago after a long sojourn in Las Vegas with the Treniers), guitarist Bebop Sam Thomas, and Wilbur Campbell. The strange part, at least to me, was that Patterson played several solos using not his fingers but his tongue to actuate the keys while he made dramatized slurping sounds in a clear attempt to evoke cunnilingus.

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22 minutes ago, Larry Kart said:

Oops -- it should have been "in vain."

Uh, yeah uh that's what I wrote.:g

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The strangest music venue I've ever attended was to see Fela Kuti back in the 1980s. Of all places, he was booked to play in the Sportatorium, no longer standing, but at the time the center of professional wrestling in Texas, and home base of the legendary and doomed Von Erichs. The building appeared to be constructed out of some sort of metallic substance, with no insulation, the same substance the U.S. army used to use to construct temporary barracks. It was not only a sonic nightmare, but as a bonus the power kept failing.

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So many great answers :D

@sgcim: Dominican Republic.... My wife and me have been there many many times, but didn´t know that they get so heavy drunk to live music. We liked the music, but maybe because we both have to avoid stress and not want anything other than relax and enjoy the beachs, the palms and the water, the warm weather, for the last 10 or more  years we never went outside the huge hotel complexes were we have everything, good food, swimming, sunbath, and from evening on dancing and so on...


Irish weddings.....I didn´t get so much in contact with irish people, most of them in Dominican Republic, where many tourists did "St. Patrick´s Day", most of the tourists from Canada, with all of  ´em dressed in green and drinkin ´ too much. 
Strict catolics I heard....., well I only one time played at a confessional weddings and to my astonishment it was Baptists, heard that they are in the States but didn´t even know they are here in Europe too, but it was a smooth thing, playing standards, good food, peaceful atmosphere, good payment so why not. 
I must admit I don´t really know much about religions. Over here, during my kid years and my teenie and twen years  in big cities with leftie government  it was not a point. But I think there might be some God since when my wife got ill and needed operation  I said to God just in my mind  "please help my wife" and after she recovered I said "if you the one who made her healthy again , I  wanna  thank you".... but I never understood why people should tell me when to eat meat  or what meat is okay and what is "forbidden", or if I´m not allowed to sleep with a girl  before gettin ´ married and so on...., 

@JSngry : Wedding Parties, yeah. I did that for one or two years, but it was not my best time. Divorce after the first short marriage, money was short, career was just starting to get settled, some jazz clubs closed and less audience than in the 70´s /early 80´s ....

We mostly tried to make a compromis playing easy listening standards, stuff like "Someday Your Prince Will Come" "There will never be another you" "Your´s my heart only" and so on and the money would be okay.
But I have three occasions with a lot of stress:

a) Playing a wedding where the female singer got drunk (will tell the story later)

b) Playing a wedding where we had to stay over night at the hotel and had a verbal fight who will share the room with the only lady (a stunning slim and tall blonde)...

c) Playing my only non-jazz gig of shlagers, waltzes, polkas and been forced by the "bandleader" to sing a song.....

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thank to you all for your stories! just a side note, I recently read Low Life, the autobiography of pianist turned boxing promotor Charles Farrell (link), at some point, it becomes a book about boxing but the first 90 pages or so have plenty of stories that sound like sgcim's post above (and even later in the book, when the music is gone, the mob stories continue)

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9 hours ago, Gheorghe said:

So many great answers :D

@sgcim: Dominican Republic.... My wife and me have been there many many times, but didn´t know that they get so heavy drunk to live music. We liked the music, but maybe because we both have to avoid stress and not want anything other than relax and enjoy the beachs, the palms and the water, the warm weather, for the last 10 or more  years we never went outside the huge hotel complexes were we have everything, good food, swimming, sunbath, and from evening on dancing and so on...


Irish weddings.....I didn´t get so much in contact with irish people, most of them in Dominican Republic, where many tourists did "St. Patrick´s Day", most of the tourists from Canada, with all of  ´em dressed in green and drinkin ´ too much. 
Strict catolics I heard....., well I only one time played at a confessional weddings and to my astonishment it was Baptists, heard that they are in the States but didn´t even know they are here in Europe too, but it was a smooth thing, playing standards, good food, peaceful atmosphere, good payment so why not. 
I must admit I don´t really know much about religions. Over here, during my kid years and my teenie and twen years  in big cities with leftie government  it was not a point. But I think there might be some God since when my wife got ill and needed operation  I said to God just in my mind  "please help my wife" and after she recovered I said "if you the one who made her healthy again , I  wanna  thank you".... but I never understood why people should tell me when to eat meat  or what meat is okay and what is "forbidden", or if I´m not allowed to sleep with a girl  before gettin ´ married and so on...., 

@JSngry : Wedding Parties, yeah. I did that for one or two years, but it was not my best time. Divorce after the first short marriage, money was short, career was just starting to get settled, some jazz clubs closed and less audience than in the 70´s /early 80´s ....

We mostly tried to make a compromis playing easy listening standards, stuff like "Someday Your Prince Will Come" "There will never be another you" "Your´s my heart only" and so on and the money would be okay.
But I have three occasions with a lot of stress:

a) Playing a wedding where the female singer got drunk (will tell the story later)

b) Playing a wedding where we had to stay over night at the hotel and had a verbal fight who will share the room with the only lady (a stunning slim and tall blonde)...

c) Playing my only non-jazz gig of shlagers, waltzes, polkas and been forced by the "bandleader" to sing a song.....

The Dominican Republic story took place in Queens NY, and the Irish one took place in Brooklyn NY. The only time I've been out of the US was when I went to Expo'67 with the Boy Scouts, where some French speaking Canadians tried to buy my Boy Scout uniform from me.

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