Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Gigs From Hell by Melanie Tushmore (GUEST POST)

We've all been there. The gig from hell. Maybe you've only been attending: your car broke down or public transport failed. You forgot your ticket, you couldn't find the venue, some twat spilt beer all over you, ruined your hair, and you can't even see the stage.

Now take all that, times it by a hundred, and imagine you're the band playing.

Now take it all, times it by a thousand, and imagine you're in charge of this catastrophe.

Yep, you're in hell. Being a promoter and a manager was easily the most stressful time of my life, not least because I had van-loads of grown men complaining or panicking about things I had no power over, but also because my income would be decided on how many people could be bothered to turn up for a show.

Sometimes, not many at all. Yep, the music biz can suck. I think the gig we turned up for where literally no one else was there was one of the worst. The gig had been cancelled, except no one bothered to tell us. The only fan who turned up was a really cute Finnish groupie, and at least she enjoyed herself.

The venue was run by this weird little guy we ended up calling 'the rock hobbit', whose politic opinions were just plain scary, and whose chat-up lines were even worse.


Rock Hobbit: Want to come upstairs and play video games?
Finnish groupie: Er...
Rock Hobbit: Go on. I'll let you win.
(The rest of us try not to laugh.)

The other gig that sticks out in my mind as the most comical, was that gig at The Underworld. The promoter must have closed his eyes and gone 'eeny meeny miny mo' when picking the bands, because it was a right old mish mash. We turned up; my then-boyfriend's band was a three piece of fast and loud punk rock. The other bands were a new wave band, a ska band (complete with full brass section), and the headliners were a cyber-pop goth outfit.

It was utterly ridiculous, and yet the show was pretty packed.

The cyber-goths were four men who were easily pushing forty, chubby around the edges, and shoe-horned into tight PVC. It wasn't a pretty sight. These guys spent nearly an hour sound-checking, and yet they weren't even playing their instruments; they played to a backing track. It was comical.

The pièce de résistance was their groupie / go-go dancer.

At the time, my band consisted of Chris, Sparky, and the bassist we called Zoolander (because he really was that much of an idiot). I was out in the venue with Zoolander's girlfriend. The boys had gone backstage only minutes before, and then all suddenly came hurrying back out, looking shocked.

"There's a girl getting naked backstage," Sparky announced.

Surprised, I asked, "And you're not there because...?"

Chris explained, "Because she has a face like a squashed potato, and I thought I was going to catch a venereal disease just from being in the same room as her."

Chris was always colourful with his language, so I assumed he'd been exaggerating. Lo and behold, when this girl came onstage with the goth band, I could see what he meant. She was a bit skanky, yes, and she did rather resemble a pale, dumpy potato. (Her head was mostly shaved, which probably didn't help matters.) She gyrated around as they mimed their songs, and then she got her floppy tits out and wibbled them around, much to the audience's shock.

It was one of the rare times the boys didn't want to see a pair of boobs.

Combined with the band's bizarre songs about 'date-rape lovers', suicide bombers (their political message) and cyber sluts, it was comedy of epic proportions. We hid at the back of the venue with the ska band, and tried not to piss ourselves laughing.

Apparently the goth singer was a pro-wrestler in his spare time. He told the boys so. (Why they believed him, I don't know.)

Another colourful jaunt we had was at one of the many Purple Turtle gigs we did in Camden. It was around 2005, and the lads kept getting lumped into this neo-glam genre which was doing the rounds, even though their band was punkier and more aggressive. The bikers loved them, the posers in leopard print did not.

At one of these neo-glam-fests, the lads abandoned backstage because they said the other bands were being annoying. Even Sparky'd had enough. Apparently, conversation between 'musicians' that night went like this:

"I prefer leopard print tights, but the zebra print ones are thinner so I don't get as hot onstage," said the knob-end guitarist, while other men stared at him in horror.

So the lads stayed out in the venue with us, while we watched some singer wiggle his leopard-clad arse onstage, and a pitful of bikers look on in distaste. Then local legend and entertainer, Captain Howdy, gets up to do some flesh hanging installation. Sparky, who was barely twenty at the time, couldn't stand to watch, and had to brave the backstage again.

Between flesh hanging and discussions on tights, the tights won, hands down.

I can't remember if it was that same gig, or another one, where the girly wet t-shirt competition was cancelled because health and safety said 'no'. So instead, Captain Howdy gets up again, and lets band members throw darts at his bare back. He held a poster tube over his spine to protect the vital parts.

Why this went on at a rock show, I don't know. I was squirming whilst watching from the balcony. Luckily for him, most people were drunk and couldn't aim that well. I believe we braved the British weather outside, and hung out with the older, hairier bands who weren't talking about tights, but were talking about Twisted Sister.

(See, everyone loves Twisted Sister!)

Speaking of British weather, outside venues are even worse. The last tour I sent the boys on in Scotland, I telephoned them to find they were stuck in a water-logged field somewhere, unable to move. (My poor van!) Once the rain had stopped enough, the lads had to move their heavy equipment to the band site. Across fields, fences, and car parks. They said it was "like an episode of The Krypton Factor."

[Krypton Factor: UK game show where contestants face gruelling physical ordeals.]

Well, that'll teach 'em to play electrical instruments, won't it. They even had Gaz with them, who can usually lift one bass cab with his little finger, but in that environment, he kept sinking into the mud.

I'm still not sure if Gaz has forgiven me for sending him on that tour. The Zoolander bassist couldn't go (but no one liked him anyway), so I took matters into my own hands and hired Gaz instead. He learned the set in two days, and went on the road on day three.

One day, Gaz and I are going to write down his memoirs. For now, the stories in Crucifox are my homage to this era. [Chuckle.]

Crucifox #1: The Green-Eyed Monster is now available from Storm Moon Press for just $7.99 (ebook)! Go get your copy for some true rockstar fiction!

Sky Somers is an ex-traveller; the son of a folk musician and a new age hippy. Sky's form of rebellion is electric guitars, and he wants his own band. His desire is to set the world to rights through music. Brandon Cruikshank is new to London, recently arrived from Glasgow. Charismatic, charming; a natural born performer. Brandon is openly bisexual, with a penchant for dressing in women's clothes. His desire is to be adored.

From the moment Sky meets Brandon, he knows he has to have him. Brandon, in turn, wants Sky. But that's when it becomes clear they both have very different desires in mind. Brandon wants Sky as a lover, yet Sky only wants Brandon as a singer in his band. Misunderstanding set aside—or apparently so—Brandon and Sky become firm friends. To escape equally troubled pasts and families, they change their names. Now, Brandon Fox and Sky St. Clair are ready to take over the world.

As the years roll on, Brandon's desire for Sky still simmers, waiting. Then a chance night sharing a hotel room sparks the desire between them, and this time, Brandon wants it all. Sky has never explored his desires before. Now, the passion and jealousy Brandon has unleashed in him threatens to shake the whole band apart.

Author links

Twitter: @melanietushmore

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