It was my first gig with this new band. The band’s material is somewhat complex, so I really wanted all the little things to line up so I could feel as comfortable as possible at the start of the performance. But guess what? Pretty much the opposite happened. All the little things got completely screwed! I can laugh about it now. But on that particular evening I was sweating.
First, I’ll tell you what happened– what got me stressed. Then I’ll tell you what I did about it–how I pulled it together and got through the gig.
I believed that I had everything locked up. I’d thought about all the details of this particular gig in order to make sure I was comfortable with the gear. I wasn’t that excited about the house kit at the venue, and the booker told me I could bring my own gear. Check!
In preparation for the first gigs with this new band, I had been planning on getting myself a new drum kit anyway. So here was my reason to go get this kit and start using it. I got myself a beautiful looking and sounding Gretsch round badge red sparkle kit from the ’60s. Check!
I had chosen the right cymbals and my favorite bass drum pedal and placed them in my cymbal bag. Check!
My trusty Keith Carlock signature sticks were fully waxed with my stick wax and I had my trusty Pearl brass shell free-floating 6.5″ deep snare at the ready. PLUS, my brand new Shure SE 315’s were in my bag–I finally had in-ears! Check! Check! Check!
Great! I’m prepared.
Crap. Shit goes wrong. Here we go…
Incident #1: I can’t use my new Gretsch kit. An idiotic mistake on my end meant that the kit I brought could not be correctly set up. I missed checking one tiny detail. The kit did not come with a tom mount and I just brought an old Gretsch tom holder from my studio but it didn’t fit the tom!! OK, so I have to use the crappy house kit. Stress immediately added.
Incident #2: No good set up to use my in-ears. Crap! In this band, I have to play solos over the other guys vamping and I REALLY wanted to be able to use these new in-ears for that. Instead, a monitor gets rolled over to the left of my hi-hat and I pray that it will do the job. More stress.
Incident #3: I pull my bass drum pedal out of my bag and the little hook mechanism that attaches the spring to the beater handle mechanism is nowhere to be found. That one piece is critical. The pedal does not function without it. CRAP! Now I have NO BASS DRUM PEDAL! I start cursing. Oh, but wait…the house drum kit has a pedal. Yay! Not a very good pedal but at least I have a pedal. So, I have a pedal, but not my pedal (and I am very particular about my pedals as you can read HERE)** and that equals more stress.
Incident #4: My gorgeous Pearl free floating snare drum will not mount on the piece of crap snare stand at the venue. REALLY!? Will it never end? The house snare is swapped in. Oh God. Now, I’m kind of freaking out. Stress stress stress.
I adjust the kit here and there, getting it set up as comfortably for me as I can. I put some moon gels on the snare. I do at least have my very own cymbals, and I love them.
Now I start to pull myself together. I really have no choice but to do so, and I start to think it all through. We’ve got a short 45 minute set and it is well rehearsed. I really know this stuff. And this is the music I want to play. The musicians in the band are all great players and I personally like each of them very much. A good crowd of people are here. Some are friends and some are new fans and they’re excitedly awaiting the beginning of the set.
I take a deep breath. Then another. I close my eyes and I think: “Man, you know how to do this. You can really play the drums and this band is ready. Just play. It’s going to be great.”
That’s it. I realized the true reality and larger view of the situation really did outweigh all those little details that were making me freak out. So I forced myself to forget about all that little crap, told myself the bottom line was that we were prepared and that the band was good and that I was a good drummer. All true facts that evaded me as the stress took over. So, I calmed myself, told myself positive things (that were true) and then I was ready. And then I counted off the first tune.
And we had a great show.
**Footnote for those of you who read the pedal article linked to from this page: I am no longer playing the Jojo pedal for several reasons…I’ll have to write a new pedal article soon…..just FYI
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Michael McAloon says
One of my worst gigs I was on tour and our van’s brakes went out so we had to put it in a shop. We got a rental minivan and had to stuff all our gear for the gig in it. I grabbed my kick, snare, hi-hat and that was it. We drove into the gig in manhattan and when I was setting up with minutes to spare I realized I left my kick pedal in the tour van which was over in Long Island locked up for the night at the brake shop. I told my bass player what happened and told him to thump through the breaks. He nailed it, he totally picked up all my missing kick parts.
The funniest part is one of my old bass players from years back came out to the gig and I told him what happened and he said he didn’t even notice!
Ever since that gig I realized my job is to express the beat and I can do that on anything. I’ve played shows without cymbals, shows with just a snare, it hasn’t happened yet but I have said I will play on a table if I have to.