There’s so much that can go wrong playing a live show that sometimes it’s amazing to me that people try to play them at all. They range from the moderately inconvenient to stuff that totally stops the show. I’ve had a good range of them.
I don’t really get nervous very much playing at shows, because truth is, I’ve had about everything go wrong that could. But I’ll start with the worst.
I wrote about playing a Halloween show in 2004 in Japan. I thought I had written about the following year, but it looks like I only sort of mentioned it here which was a follow up to here. Basically, I had played a Halloween show with a couple of bands. One of the bands was the opener, and the guy who was supposed to play guitar got too drunk and we sounded pretty crappy.
The following year my buddy says, “let’s do another band!”
I say, “sure, who’s going to play guitar?”
“Do you remember _____?”
“Oh yes I do, and no I don’t want to play with him.”
“Aw come on, I’ll make sure he doesn’t get drunk”
Long story short, I agree to play. We watch him like a hawk, but somehow, some way, he drank something and was PLASTERED. We start setting up and he can’t find an outlet for his amp. Which he had been twiddling nobs on for like 5 minutes before realizing it’s not even plugged in. So I set my guitar down in a very questionable stand and go to reach over to plug his amp in. In the process, I bump my guitar off the stand. CRASH. Broke the headstock right off.
Now I am standing there, with a drunk, barely standing idiot for a guitar player, a broken guitar and worst of all, I’m dressed like an angel with huge wings. I was mortified. I almost cried. Not joking.
But the show had to go on, so I borrowed a guitar and played for about three songs before I gave up because half the songs weren’t ones I could play and sing and the guitar player guy was worse than useless at that point. That was the worst I’ve had so far, but plenty of other things have gone wrong. Mostly equipment failures of some sort- guitar comes unplugged, guitar strings break. Sometimes the drummer’s bass drum will start moving away from the rest of the kit if it’s not properly anchored. These are all things that are pretty easily remedied.
Sometimes you’re just having an off night and the songs just sound bad. Sometimes the sound man is terrible and doesn’t mix the band properly. We once had a sound-man fall asleep and our mics were feeding back in the most painful way. I don’t even know how it was possible for him to sleep. But sometimes the band just sucks. I know people who beat themselves up for mistakes, even on good nights. Maybe it’s the fact that I don’t do that is part of why I still play music.