A Guitarist Guide To Surviving The Gig From Hell

A Guitarist Guide To Surviving The Gig From Hell

A guitarist guide to​ surviving the​ gig from Hell!
Joe is​ a​ lead guitarist in​ a​ covers / remake band .​
He is​ a​ good guitarist and​ cool under pressure .​
He plays for​ a​ band called the​ Psycho Nymphos .​
They are a​ five piece band with two guitarist, keys, bass and​ drums .​
The other guitarist also doubles as​ the​ singer .​
Yet this is​ Joe’s nightmare .​
As a​ guitarist, this scenario should induce uncontrollable trembling of​ all body parts and​ have you soiling your underwear .​
This, is​ the​ gig from hell.
Thinking that he starts at​ 10:00, Joe shows up at​ the​ venue with two hours to​ spare .​
Well, it​ would be two hours to​ spare, but Joe got given the​ wrong information .​
The Band is​ due to​ start at​ 8:30 and​ Joe hasn’t even unpacked his gear yet, let alone set up .​
They had been trying to​ call Joe on his phone, but it​ was switched off .​
Joe, keeping cool, unpacks his car in​ a​ hurry and​ somehow manages to​ get everything set up only 10 minutes late .​
The crowd is​ getting restless and​ the​ bar manager is​ furious .​
Joe is​ keeping his cool.
No sooner than finishing his finally tune up, the​ Nymphos start .​
After another minute of​ working out what song to​ play, the​ Nymphos kick off their first song .​
It sounds terrible, with Joe’s guitar to​ quiet and​ bass guitar too loud .​
The band plays the​ song half heartedly while they adjust levels and​ try to​ get things right .​
The crowd is​ wondering what the​ hell is​ going on, and​ the​ bar manager is​ wondering who the​ hell he hired and​ why .​
Joe is​ a​ little frustrated.
After standing around working out what to​ play next, the​ band begins the​ second song as​ suggested by the​ drummer .​
This one sounds better until the​ first chorus .​
Half way through the​ first chorus… TWANG… .​
Joe busts a​ string .​
Joe makes do for​ the​ time being until the​ solo, when he realizes that the​ guitar solo is​ going to​ be somewhat difficult with only 5 strings .​
Joe fumbles his way through until the​ end of​ the​ song .​
Joe is​ very embarrassed.
The band stands around for​ a​ minute or​ two while Joe replaces the​ broken string .​
Once that is​ done they kick off into the​ next song .​
This one goes OK, and​ the​ crowd seems to​ be getting into it​ a​ little bit more .​
The bar manager is​ starting to​ relax, and​ Joe is​ starting to​ enjoy himself.
In fact, everyone is​ enjoying themselves .​
And their beers .​
a​ little too much .​
The Nymphos are starting to​ get a​ little sloppy and​ starting to​ miss cues .​
Especially the​ singer .​
He is​ starting to​ miss when he is​ supposed to​ be coming in, and​ slurring words .​
While the​ boys in​ the​ band are finding it​ hilarious, the​ crowd are not .​
Joe is​ starting to​ get tipsy.
The next song Joe’s guitar starts making funny noises, and​ the​ sound starts cutting out .​
Eventually Joe’s guitar disappears .​
He randomly stomps on some pedals and​ realizes that there is​ no power .​
He was sure those 9 volt batteries were still good .​
Joe unplugs his guitar lead from the​ pedal board and​ plugs it​ straight into his amp .​
Joe is​ getting angry, just like the​ crowd and​ the​ bar manager.
Two songs from the​ end, the​ stage goes black .​
All the​ amps turn off and​ all that can be heard is​ the​ drummer pounding away .​
After a​ few seconds all of​ the​ Nymphos are standing around, looking stupid wondering what is​ going on .​
About 30 seconds later, the​ power returns .​
The band chats quickly and​ decides to​ start the​ song again .​
This time they get through it​ all .​
They play there last song the​ few remaining patrons, pack up, pick up their cheque and​ leave the​ bar, never to​ return.
Could it​ get any worse for​ Joe and​ his band, the​ Psycho Nymphos? I​ doubt it .​
But they could have survived all of​ these problems by being prepared .​
It may seem insurmountable, but I​ have played a​ gig where nearly all of​ this happened in​ one night, and​ we survived .​
It’s all preparation .​
This is​ what you need to​ do to​ survive this nightmare.
There is​ no excuse to​ be late to​ a​ gig .​
With today’s modern communications technology, everyone has the​ potential to​ be contactable all of​ the​ time .​
Even if​ Joe got the​ time wrong, a​ simple phone call would have solved all the​ problems .​
However, it​ is​ always a​ great idea for​ a​ band to​ meet at​ a​ central location at​ some point before a​ show, and​ travel together convoy style if​ possible .​
This is​ a​ sure fire way to​ make sure everyone arrives on time, doesn’t get lost, or​ can get assistance if​ something does go wrong.
The spill over effect of​ this is​ that when you arrive on time, you can take your time and​ set up properly, sound check, as​ well as​ check your equipment for​ problems and​ in​ general, relax before the​ show starts.
Unless you are some freeform jam rock improv jazz type thing, you need to​ know what you are going to​ play .​
Every member of​ the​ band should know what song is​ coming next so they can prepare for​ it​ without having to​ debate first what song to​ play in​ the​ first place .​
Have a​ set list in​ sight for​ every member of​ the​ band .​
Know in​ advance what songs may require guitar changes or​ change of​ tuning so that you don’t kick off the​ tune until everyone is​ ready .​
Moments like that are easily filled with some banter, usually between the​ singer and​ the​ audience.
It’s not always possible, but you should aim to​ have a​ backup guitar ready to​ go at​ all times .​
This is​ especially true for​ a​ band with two guitarists like the​ Nymphos .​
With the​ second guitarist still playing, and​ your backup guitar primed for​ playing, it​ is​ more than feasible to​ switch guitars mid song .​
It takes about 10 seconds and​ looks very professional .​
Even if​ you are the​ only guitarist, depending on the​ song you can sometimes get away with it​ as​ well .​
However sometimes you just have to​ grit your teeth and​ get through it .​
Once the​ song is​ over you can grab you backup guitar and​ play the​ rest of​ the​ set without keeping everyone hanging around while you change a​ string .​
Change it​ between sets or​ if​ you only have one set then don’t bother.
If you can’t keep a​ spare guitar handy and​ need to​ change strings, have some backup material .​
This applies to​ all band members .​
You should have a​ song that can be played when any member of​ the​ band is​ incapacitated .​
Then any running repairs can be made while the​ rest of​ the​ band covers.
It doesn’t matter what you think, you do not sound better when you are smashed .​
Sure, maybe to​ your ears, but not to​ mine or​ anyone else’s .​
a​ few years ago, I​ remember playing a​ huge New Years Eve show where there were two bands .​
There was us playing inside, and​ the​ main band playing on the​ outside stage .​
The other band I​ had seen many times before and​ they were great .​
In fact they were one of​ the​ most popular bands to​ play this particular venue .​
In between sets, they were heading up to​ their rooms, getting stoned and​ drunk, then coming back down to​ play their set is​ a​ semi comatose state .​
We were inside, enjoying a​ few drinks between sets and​ keeping it​ together .​
Our sets overlapped slightly and​ by the​ end of​ the​ night, whenever both bands were playing, inside was packed and​ outside the​ other band was ignored .​
The following year, we were asked back to​ play New Years again as​ the​ only band .​
In fact after that New Years gig we were booked regularly to​ play both nights of​ the​ weekend every month (think about that for​ a​ second, we were booked for​ 25% of​ that venues available shows) .​
It may be fun to​ get tanked and​ play, but it​ won’t get you anywhere.
To this day I​ still cannot believe people run their effects off batteries .​
It is​ just a​ disaster waiting to​ happen .​
Sure, I​ have batteries in​ my pedals that I​ swap out every few months .​
But they are the​ BACKUP for​ when some drunken idiot in​ the​ crowd falls onto the​ stage and​ pulls out a​ power lead or​ something similar .​
Or perhaps you accidentally leave a​ cable plugged in​ between sets and​ the​ battery drains on you .​
If you do need to​ run off battery, work out how long they last and​ change the​ battery in​ half that time .​
This should help avoid unwanted failures at​ critical times, and​ make sure you have extra batteries.
By the​ way, have you ever heard the​ sound a​ Tube Screamer makes when it’s failing? It’s awful.
There is​ not a​ lot you can do about this but ride it​ out .​
Although it’s not as​ bad as​ it​ sounds .​
When a​ venue looses power, you can be sure it​ will be up in​ less than minute unless something MAJOR has gone wrong, in​ which case the​ venue will normally shut if​ it​ is​ a​ building wide blackout .​
So for​ the​ next 60 seconds, what do you do? It’s easy .​
Nobody stops .​
The entire band keeps playing .​
The singer goes to​ the​ front of​ the​ stage and​ starts yelling the​ lyrics at​ the​ crowd .​
I​ am yet to​ see this not work .​
The crowd will start singing back .​
When the​ power kicks back in​ the​ band hasn’t missed a​ beat and​ the​ crowd will go crazy .​
It is​ slick and​ professional and​ will fire up the​ crowd for​ the​ rest of​ the​ night.
If it​ goes over the​ 60 seconds just finish the​ song and​ wait .​
Not much more you can do, but at​ least you tried.
If you are prepared and​ use common sense, you can cope with any disaster .​
I​ personally have had all these issues, besides the​ drunken stupidity, happen in​ one night, and​ we survived by having an​ escape plan and​ sticking to​ it .​
It’s not that hard to​ come up with your own emergency escape route, and​ I​ hope these examples can inspire you to​ be even more gig ready.

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