Sometimes a gig is simply cursed, and absolutely nothing you can do will make it better, or indeed remove the searing burn of it from your memory for the rest of your life. One such occasion was a show we played in Fulham, in the south west of London. We were pretty excited about the night as we jumped into the van and began the journey into the capital. We had a full coachload of people making the journey to see us, and the night was being filmed for live broadcast on some cable tv channel. Woo-hoo!
As we joined the M25 (which, for those of you not familiar with England, is an enormous car-park that encircles London and is used as a motorway at night) the singer Robbie called the booker to double-check what time we were playing. Only for the booker to tell us that we weren’t on the bill at all. What the fuck?
Dude, we’re halfway there and we’ve got a coach load of fans coming down!
Well you’re not playing, sorry, there must have been a mix up.
Man, you can’t do this to us!
Well… if you come down we might be able to fit you in at the end of the night, but it will mean going on stage at 1am.
Oh come on dude, we’ve got a bloody coach organised, we can’t do that!
Sorry guys, that’s just the way it is.
OK, listen, we need this gig to happen or we’re letting down a lot of people, what’s it going to take to get us playing before 11pm?
In the end, what it took was a gram of cocaine, the offer of which made the booker only too happy to screw over another unfortunate band instead of us. But that was just the beginning of the problems. After we’d loaded in we had some time to kill, so we went and sat in a café across the road from the venue. As we all sat there, despondently gazing out the window, with most of the earlier excitement drained away by the uncertainty of how things were now going to pan out, we watched a car plow straight into an old guy crossing the road, throwing the poor chap up in the air before he landed with a sickening thud right outside the window. The emergency services were on the scene in no time, but the poor chap had been killed instantly. This put paid to any remaining excitement we had for the night, and everyone was badly shaken up as we made our way back into the venue.
Only to find that someone (probably someone from the unfortunate other band that had been cancelled due to their inability to bribe the booker with sufficient cocaine) had stolen our drummer’s bag, complete with all his sticks, brushes, spare parts and drum stool. We desperately tried to rustle up replacement drum parts, but the band on before us didn’t have a drummer and the band on after us had yet to arrive. We attempted to get assistance from the booker, who was now so coked up that he didn’t give a flying fuck about it, and in the end the drummer was reduced to sitting on a plastic chair instead of his drum stool, using the only drum sticks available – two crappy old sticks well past their best and held together with gaffer tape that we found in a cupboard backstage. Well it could be worse, we could have no sticks at all.
Oh wait, it is worse. Where the hell are our coach load of fans? The coach, it turned out, had got lost on route. On we went and, after a few lacklustre songs with some very uncertain drumming, fate – clearly not happy with the miserable hand she’d dealt us thus far – decreed that Robbie’s acoustic guitar was about due to break down. Luckily this happened in a song that had a section in the middle where every thing stops playing for 8 bars except the acoustic guitar. Just as our coach turns up and our loyal fans walk in, we get to this part of the song, and everybody stops. And there’s no acoustic guitar. So we all stand there looking at each other waiting for someone to rescue the situation, but nobody is switched on enough to cover for the missing acoustic, so the song just… stopped.
So instead of getting the acoustic break, what we actually got was the drummer shouting “fuck this, I’ve had enough of this shit” and walking off. The rest of us just stood there – lest you forget, this show was being broadcast live on cable tv – looking like idiots, overwhelmed by all the events of the night thus far and totally incapable of rescuing the situation. Luckily our drummer sheepishly returned to his chair and we held it together long enough to complete a couple more songs – badly, but completed nonetheless – and that was the end of that.
Well, nearly. There was still time for Robbie to get in a fight with the booker who was demanding more cocaine before we left, but thankfully the only remaining bad luck for the evening was confined to our roadie Den, who was eating a bag of chips and accidentally ate one of those little paper packets of salt – which he mistook for a chip in the darkness of the van. Which at least cheered the rest of us up quite considerably.