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My alarm went off but I ignored it.
20 minutes later my phone buzzed, but in a different way this time.
"Hey are you waking up!?" the text read.
It was 7 in the morning and my head hit the pillow around 3am - just 4 hours earlier.
We had played that night in a small town in Alberta, Canada to a sold out room. Some of my family and friends from the area attended so it was a long and fun night. The local newspaper had made a significant article about our band and so the room was PACKED - and besides we're pretty damn good - if I do say so myself, so people were inclined to come out.
Tired (as fuck!!) I slipped out of the bed, hit the washroom and then went down stairs to find my band mates kickin back in the kitchen ready to go - these fuckers are always on the ball, even if it means getting no sleep to get the next day going. But I can't complain because proactive band mates are hard to come by.
We strolled out of the house 5 minutes later, saying good-bye to my family that let us sleep the night, and hit the road headed back west.
Rewind a year previous - we headlined a summer festival in the same town so it was worth the 5 hour drive to return and play another killer show, but this time in a regular live music venue. Great crowd, great pay, great times all around.
We left early because we had another gig that night, back home in Calgary, Alberta at a local joint called Nite Owl. Since we were going to be tied down that night, we wanted to make sure we could spend the better part of the day with our fams and enjoying our Saturday afternoon.
We arrived into Calgary just after 12 (noon) and Mike (fiddle) had to run to a group school project for his fourth year university program. Jeff (drums) was going to see his gf and daughter, Mark (bass) was headed home to do whatever he does on the weekends, and I (frontman/rythmn guitar) promised my wife I'd spend the day with her and our daughter just relaxing and enjoying ourselves before the night got goin.
We had a baby sitter booked up for the evening and my old lady and a good group of our friends were all attending the gig.
I had actually set up this gig at the local venue. It was with 2 other roots/folk groups that we've played with extensively in the past. Since it had been awhile that we all shared a stage together, I thought I'd reach out to a venue to see if we could book a show. Historically, we've had great shows and our groups are talented, well liked in the scene and draw a decent crowd. For this reason we really wanted to make a night of it and get a good group of friends out to kick back together.
Nite Owl used to be a fairly respected joint in the city - for live music. The old booking guy/promoter had moved on and the place took a turn for the worst. But I was willing to take a bit of a risk and still book a gig with them. Besides, it was a pretty easy process because I had the new booking girls contact and we used to have really great gigs at the venue.
We also organized for our friend Mitch from "Crooked Cinema" come out to shoot some video for us (see video link below). We needed some new promo stuff and since the night would be heavily promoted it seemed ideal to bring him out.
Doors were at 9, first band was planned to be on around 10pm. My communication with the venue leading up to the night was pretty sparse. But I didn't mind - or have insecurities about it - because our band was the youngest of the three at just about 4 years old, and all the players were wildly experience beyond the years of our current projects. So showing up to a venue and just winging it was totally okay.
I walked into the venue just after 8:00pm and a cracked-out looking blonde blew past me as I walked up the stairs. She stopped turned around and back peddled to grab my ear. At first glance she could have been 24ish, but once I locked eyes with her and got a better look at her face it was apparent she had to be over 30. Could even be late 30s. She was wearing cut off jean shorts with black tights underneath - ankle high with ratty Chuck Taylors griping her feet. She had some sort of band tank top on, and her hair was about shoulder length - dirty blonde. Her face resembled a strung out Uma Thurman - who had little to no sleep the night before and was twitching out on some sort of substance.
"Are you in one of the bands?!" she said out of breath (literally) and looking kinda fucked up.
I was holding my guitar, a box of merch and my gear bag was slung over my shoulder. So... obviously I was in one of the bands. But I knew this was the booking girl - who I hadn't met in person until this moment - and I didn't want to get the night started on the wrong foot, so I simply answered politely.
"Yep, I'm Drew the guy you've been texting with about the gig - from The Frontiers".
"Holy shit, you're late! And where are the other groups? You guys were suppose to be here by 7 for set up and sound check! My people want to open doors at 10 and no one is even here yet!"
Rewind 10 minutes - As I walked up to the Nite Owl Rotary Park - the opening band - was there smoking outside the entrance and we all said hi and exchanged words about how excited we were for the night. These boys were all good friends so I was genuinely stoked to see them and asked if they had been in the venue yet. They said no but that once they were done smoking they'd head in for a sound check.
I was a little confused and put off. She never mentioned showing up at 7 for a sound check in our previous msgs - there was no contract or any of that BS; it was going to be a relaxed night at a pretty "cool" venue with three rowdy bands, usually we don't do contracts for these types of shows. Also, 2 hours for any reasonably talented sound person was enough to check 3 folk bands - especially because we all had similar, blue grass style line up of players. And lastly, I was really annoyed of her cracked-out approach to getting the night started. No one wants to walk into a venue, looking forward to a fun night and have to deal with this.
"Rotary Park is just outside, and my guys are msging me saying they'll be here in 10 minutes. Besides, like I said in the msgs, our line-ups are similar and your sound person should be find to lock us in, in about 30 minutes each. We've got plenty of time before 10." I stomached my longing to disrespect her because of her horrible social skills and continued to be polite.
It was evident we were on different pages with doors, start time, etc. But I just rolled with it.
"Okay well my sound person is ready to go, so AS SOON AS THEY COME IN (she leaned in and put a lot of emphasis on her voice) get them to the stage to set up!"
And she stormed off heading outside, pulling out a pack of fags and a lighter.
The next two hours was a fuckin gong show. And the Nite Owl was living up to its new reputation.
Her sound person was a girl that had only been hired a hand full of times in the past. And even though our groups are not difficult to work for, it was pretty obvious she had no clue what the fuck she was doing. And their system was fairly robust with a hefty digital board - that she seemed unfamiliar with.
It look her and hour to simply get the feedback out of the monitors while Rotary Park was sound checking, and another 30 minutes to get them sounding decent - no joke.
Since I was the guy setting up the gig, I was dealing with all the group's members as they started to ask, "WTF is this sound person's deal", and "Why the fuck would they hire this person" and "Who's the booking person? This doesn't seem right".
The booking girl eventually stormed up to me - frantic as fuck - and pleaded her case about the situation on stage.
"We're pushing doors back to 1030 because these bands are not sound checking quick enough!"
"Uhh, yah okay that seems fair" I didn't know how to respond to her without getting really angry and cussing her out. And I wanted to stay posi so that the night didn't fully derail. "Listen, the other groups require similar outputs on stage, so we can all line check between sets, it should be fine to get doors going and we can just roll with it".
Most joints work with our bands this way. Get a decent line check down for the 1st band and the rest settle in very easily because we all were similar groups. But unfortunately we were working with a total amateur. A full blown noob for fucks sake. And a cut from our door sales was going to pay for her.
Doors opened and show goers started to pour in. About 30 minutes later Rotary Park played and it sounded... okay - they played amazingly, as they always do, so the night had a pretty great start regardless of our issues with the venue.
So the night would continue and my stress about the situation started to decrease. I couldn't say the same for other band members in the room - from my group and the headliner.
Nite Owl is a double venue - a room upstairs and a room downstairs. By about 11 - right around the time Rotary Park started to play - an immense amount of noise erupted from the downstairs room. Apparently they had booked a drum and bass DJ show on the same night they booked a fuckin folk show. A number of our friends were laughing and joking about how rude and absurd it was... and I felt bad again.
It was our time to hit the stage and Rotary Park was pretty frustrated about their set. They're a good group of professional players, so they held it together pretty well with their concerns. But they warned us - as we switched on stage - that it was their worst on-stage sound they'd ever had.
"Did it sound okay out there at least!!?" Matt asked me, packing up his standup bass.
"You guys sounded decent out there. I'm not guna lie, its not the best I've heard it. But you guys played really well and at least there was no feedback".
"Good good...." Matt concluded with A LOT of apprehension in his voice.
I felt bad because I organized the gig... and we were all friends, and a bunch of people were paying to be there to party with us. Fuck. Nite Owl, you piece of shit.
Again, I stomached my concerns and we played a really tight set. And the onstage sound was horrible!
Mark leaned to me at one point between songs as we quickly soundchecked and whispered, "Drew, I cant hear a fuckin thing, can you ask the sound girl to turn up your guitar in the monitor and Mike's violin?!"
As I intro'd the next song, I also put in a request for those minor adjustments. They didn't seem to happen and as we continued to bleed into the next song, I leaned over and just told Mark to play through it and keep a smile on his face.
Regardless of venue/stage issues, we all knew it was very important to still perform well, stomach our concerns and still have fun. As our set progressed my onstage banter became pretty harsh, but I didn't care. Everyone was aware of the issues and the crowd was responding well to me blatantly bashing the venue. And usually we NEVER do this as a group, but it just seemed fitting that night.
"Let's all take a moment of silence and enjoy the music downstairs" I said at one point - the music was very loud in our room when we weren't playing - "Ya'll get two shows for the price of one!" And the crowd erupted into laughter.
When our set was all said and done, all our friends commented on how well we played and on how on point my banter was. My wife affirmed me that we sounded okay, and that we played really well. All our friends were still stoked on the gig and the fairly cheep booze.
The show must go on...
The headliner took the stage and started to play, feedback continued but they played through it and seemed to be having an okay night.
Rewind 3 hours - after parking downtown, and before hitting up Nite Owl, I stopped in another live music joint to see some friends that were playing there. The sound guy - Mike - was also a fairly good friend, and a respected player in town, and it was nice to see him there.
"Arn't you guys playing with Rotary Park and The Bitterweed Draw tonight?"
"Yah, we're just over at Nite Owl".
"Nice, I'll swing by when this is over".
Mike showed up about five minutes into Bitterweed's set...
"Dude, what's the sound person's problem?" he said with a laugh in his voice.
"Oh man, don't even get me started..."
"Hahah, does she even know how to work that board? It's a fuckin beast."
Mike is a really respected sound guy in the city and he is the token outspoken hard ass. He's a decent friend who's not afraid to speak his mind.
There was nothing I could do but laugh and joke along.
Finally the night started to conclude around 2am. The sound girl came up to me at one point, towards the end, and voiced her concerns and her (apologies?) sensitivity about the sound. She was honest and genuinely concerned - and she knew I knew she was a noob - so I had compassion on her and just said, something like "Ya win some ya lose some. Keep on keepin on and hopefully your next gig will start to smooth things out".
I went to settle up with the booking girl and she ignored most of the details of the night and simply allocated the cash that was due us from the door.
I paid the bands, apologized for the messy night and encouraged them about their future gigs. Because our three groups were friends we all just laughed and said we really didn't care and simply had fun playing another rowdy show. And this is one of the reasons why I booked these groups to begin with, because they all have a pure spirit of gigging and want to have fun while playing damn good music.
In the end, the show was a lot of fun. There were heaps of rad people attending and the energy was high. Yah, the venue details were messy but our insults and jokes between ourselves made it a comical part of the evening.
I got home by about 330am and hit the hay. All in all, it was an adventurous weekend for the band.
Live video link: