5 Things I’ve Learned From Playing In Bands

1. Secure the back doors of the van

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The gig was in North Wales. We hired a van. So far, so good.

I drove the equipment, bass player and singer in uneventful fashion using main roads. The gig went well, we slept over and headed off home the next morning. “Let’s take the scenic route home via the Snowdonia Mountains” suggested the bass player. Without thinking about the possible ramifications of driving a battered old Ford Transit through a mountain range, I agreed.

They say that the jagged peaks of Snowdonia afford stunning views of magical waterfalls, ancient villages and verdant valleys. I had (and still have) no idea, as I was trying to keep the fully packed, difficult to maneouver, rusting van from toppling over the edge of the narrow winding ‘roads’ that zig zag their way across the mountains. Just to add to the pressure, I had a half mile queue of impatient cars behind me, unable to pass.

It was on one of the many 1:3 scary inclines that I heard a noise from the back of the van that sounded a little like the back doors opening. I looked in the rear view mirror.

The back doors were open.

“Agghhh, the back doors are open!!” I screamed to the bass player and singer as the gear slowly slid towards oblivion like the scene at the end of The Italian Job. I have never seen two fully grown musicians move so fast as they clambered over the seats and just managed to stop our precious gear from hitting the tarmac.

The rest of the journey was conducted in stunned silence.

2. Try and keep a straight face when winding up the drummer

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The drummer got us a gig at his University Ball in London. Myself, the bass player and singer drove down (without losing any gear along the way…), found the venue and went looking for the drummer. The singer (who also played guitar in the band) went off for a kip somewhere to recover from the journey. Myself and the bass player then decided to hatch a plan to wind up the drummer (a national sport in some countries, I believe). The plan was to pretend that the singer was at the hospital having his arm cast after breaking it in a fall at the venue.

He bought it : hook, line and sinker.

We kept it up for a good couple of hours with the singer keeping his ‘broken’ arm hidden in his jacket while the drummer furiously wrote, and re-wrote the set list to try and account for the songs that needed two guitars, mumbling about all his hard work in getting the gig going down the drain.

The crowning glory was the ‘reveal’ during a pre-gig drink in a public house in the Square Mile of the City of London populated by blazer wearing financial types. The drummer was handed a pint by the singer using his ‘broken arm’. He accepted the pint, carried on chuntering for a bit longer, and then realised he’d been had. His shouted expletives earned us a request to leave by the landlord.

It was worth it.

3. Make sure the singer understands the concept of physics for his own safety

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Later that same night after the gig at City University we had a few beers and took in the sights, sounds and amusements of the ball. One of the attractions was a bucking bronco machine where the drunken punters would hang on for dear life for approximately 3 seconds before being thrown off onto the surrounding inflatable landing zone.

It was towards the end of the night when the singer decided he wanted a go. “Sorry mate, the generator has run out of fuel, it’s not safe to go on”, said the chap manning the bronco. These words were not going to deter the singer however. Despite the protestations of bronco man, the singer climbed on to the mechanical bull and pretended to be thrown about like the urban cowboy he thought he was. The performance was completed with a Nureyev-like flourish, as he threw himself off, head first, onto the soft, bouncy, inflatable below.

Only, the inflatable wasn’t soft and bouncy any more, was it? Now, when bronco man said that the generator had run out of fuel, it hadn’t occurred to our vocalist friend that the generator powered not only the bronco, but the pump for the inflatable. That seemingly fully pressurised inflatable was being held up by the minimum of pressure.

His head made a hollow cracking sound as it plunged through the resistance free inflatable and hit the hard floor below.

Once the tears of laughter had subsided and we could see properly again, there emerged the sight of a rather pale, stunned, skinny man, bleeding from a head wound.

He’s not been on a bucking bronco since.

4. Never let your pyromaniac mate be in charge of pyrotechnics for a gig

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“I’ve got this great idea for a finale for the set”, said Nick, our mate who sometimes did lights and some roadie work for the band. His plan was to set off a small pyrotechnic at the very end of our gig so we could ‘finish in style’.

“Have you done this sort of thing before?”, we asked, tentatively. “Nah. I’ve seen it done at loads of gigs though, it can’t be that difficult”. We tried to ignore the fact that he always used to wear an Iron Maiden T-shirt of some description and so the scale of the pyrotechnics he was used to seeing at gigs may not transfer to a sixth form building in rural Derbyshire…

The object itself seemed harmless enough: a small dark red, putty-like lump about the size of a tangerine orange. “Give me the nod so I know when to detonate it” he told the drummer. I suppose the word ‘detonate’ should have set some alarm bell ringing in our teenage brains, but no. We trusted him, he was our mate. He wouldn’t do anything to harm us, would he?

The gig went well, and as we approached the end of the final song (the rather fateful ‘Sympathy for the Devil’) I had completely forgotten about the impending pyrotechnic. As we hit the final chord there was an ear-shattering bang, closely followed by the feeling that the back of my neck was on fire. I turned round to be blinded by a cascade of dark red particles which rendered me unable to see and then breathe as the hot fragments lodged themselves in my eyes, nose and throat. We stumbled off the stage looking like victims of a mustard gas attack.

We decided not to use pyrotechnics in the future.

5. Do not joyride the car belonging to the singer’s mum

Errr, maybe another time….

Leon Wilson

Learn how this band thing all started in my previous blog https://leonwilson12.wordpress.com/2013/10/06/gaffa-tape-and-hernias-being-in-a-band/

Thanks for the WordPress Daily Post http://wordpress.com/read/post/id/489937/69704/ for the inspiration.

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