Gigging: Back Then and Now

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Gigging, it’s not as easy as you think. Sure it comes natural for a lot of us and to this day you hear about artists that do the same little ritual before a gig for good luck or good vibes, karma whatever works for them. Me? Well before I used to psyche myself out by going on how we would suck as a band up against the other bands also on the bill after hearing them and seeing their stage presence and how they gel as a band on stage. It drove my former band members up the wall and absolutely to the point of telling me to shut up give or take a few expletives thrown in for good measure. But that’s what I did, I’d panic and pace the room or outside or bounce my foot till the floor cracked saying how we’re not even in their league to play with them blah blah blah kinda crap. That was my way to psyche myself out till I got on stage and just backed the dump truck to the lip of the stage and poured everything I had in to it giving it a bazillion percent every show. Now the first band I played in we only played six shows altogether. The Elmocambo Club four times, The 360 Club and The Opera House once each between 2000-2002. The four years we were a band we spent the first two in the drummers basement rehearsing and going through bassists and singers like free cocktails at the resort swimming pool.

It was finally and the last bassist we had at the time, Joe who went and booked us in at the Elmocambo in a battle of the bands without asking any of us if we wanted to do that or not to which I flipped my lid at the time because I didn’t feel like we had enough songs or time spent rehearsing our material to a finite point where we could debut it but hindsight is 20/20 and it was for the better that he did because I would have vetoed the hell out of it had he said something to us at rehearsal. Now he did it albeit because he was growing bored and wanted to play live which was funny as he was quite nervous on stage the first few gigs and just stood cemented in one spot but good on him he didn’t freeze up entirely and stop playing! We had good stage presence and played our asses off and guts out to a packed house upstairs which was the first time I had played live in a band situation on stage myself. School plays didn’t count here but were definitely a good preparation for what was coming right? Thank you Pat Cash and Carolyn Rogers for having me in your plays and Operettas in public school, it came in good use years later! So we manage to win some studio time from playing the battle of the bands and made a half-assed demo CD that we could have done much better with someone else recording it AND we could have done every song we had by that time which was about 13 to make a full blown album if we had taken the money but we thought that the studio they dealt with was credible….. ummmmm yeah ok but that’s another story for another time.

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So three gigs at the Elmo we managed to get a chance to get an actual paying gig at the now long gone 360 Club which was the old Ukrainian Drinking Hall turned live music venue on Queen Street in downtown Toronto where it was a small venue and probably our best gig to date and out of all six I feel it was our best or at least in the top two! Funny thing though, the drummer and bassist were under the legal drinking age and when the waitress found out she was about to have them ejected from the club when the show promoter jumped in at the last second seeing something going down and said they were in one of the bands on the bill and that people had paid to see them play which brought out the bar manager who wasn’t impressed nor chuffed at the fact that two “kids” were in his establishment without his knowledge but they manage to smooth things over and they were allowed to stay inside as I believe it was February or March still at the time and some bloody cold out! They were made to sit at the very front of the club at a table dead centre to the stage and immediately after we performed they had to leave without question or loitering. Fair enough. We got paid a percentage of the people who came to see us and said they were here for us at the entrance as the numbers were tallied up accordingly so bands got paid the proper amount for those who said they were there for them, you know what I mean lol. We had five people come see us, my best friends, my neighbour and his friend and my friend from across the street that I know of because we each got $8.35 a piece, I remember that because we hit Burger King on the way home! Hey $8.35 went farther back then what can I say?! lol       (The 360 Club pictured below)

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The Opera House gig…. Now lemme tell you, I LOVE the Opera House at Queen and Broadview downtown. The atmosphere there is so nostalgic and so many great bands played there, the acoustics are great and you can really slam out your sounds to the audience. I saw many concerts there from the age of 16-20something and it was THE only place I would mosh pit because if you even remotely looked like you were about to go down to the floor a million hands reached out and grabbed you making sure you didn’t fall. Great respect was held among the moshers unlike now where it’s a violent pit of just brutality hitting and beating in to people, that’s not what moshing is all about. I stopped moshing at the age of 19 because of that and that I saw too many bloody noses and teeth in hands coming out of them so I called it off and turned in my mosh card right there. I had always said that one day I would play the Opera House and at the end of January 2001, the 20 I think it was we did to about 20 people. We always said that we’d take the month of December off because of the holiday season and trying to get everything done for the holidays etc etc then New Years you don’t wanna jam or play gigs then unless you’re one of those bands who can do the whole New years show thing which we weren’t so it was good for us to take that break. This wasn’t our best gig nor was it the best sound either. Bill’s vocals were wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy off, the bass was almost non-existent sounding, the drums poorly mic’d and the guitar sound was low and not mid or bassy enough and when I sang Black Sabbath’s “Electric Funeral”, I killed that too. Why? I’m not a singer by any stretch of the imagination and have no push as I have mentioned in previous blogs. Plus one of our signature songs, “Coldwar Aftermath” was cut short by an entire verse! Not sure how they forgot to do that because in the video you can see me telling them we had one more verse to go to which I got that dumbfounded deer in the headlight look for. The picture below is one of the are pictures that got all four of us in it. That guitar I still have and play, it was the very first one my parents got me when I was 16.                                      (See blog about My Guitarsenal)                            (Below The Opera House)

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Well once again our fearless bass player Joe booked us in to this show because there were four bands playing and one of them backed out and they wouldn’t be allowed to play the show if there wasn’t four bands on the bill. So without asking us he just threw us in the mix which we all flipped out wigs on him because it was six weeks  since we last played and were all recovering from Xmas and New Years! PLUS to add insult to injury, no one could come see us as they were all broke too and recovering form the holiday season paying off bills etc so the only people who came to see us were the drummers parents and our resident photographer, an ex of the drummer who was cool enough to take pictures at five of our six shows. The bassist brought his cousins too actually because they sat up in the balcony and videotaped a practically empty hall to us playing for an hour which most of songs were short enough to just fill a half hour let alone a full blown hour! So I managed to get in a spot where I could exercise my Progginess a bit and perform for the one and only time during that band’s tenure the complete intro to a song we had called Nightmare. It was a conceptual song that was highly influenced by me watching old Twilight Zone episodes with Rod Serling. Well any other time it was a very truncated version of it to segue in to the song but this time I got free reign to do the whole thing, all five parts live. It could’ve been better but because it was January the owner of the Opera House had left the front doors open to try and attract people from outside to come in and pay to see bands they didn’t know and with only the other bands and a couple parents etc in attendance made it very cold to play! Nonetheless I pulled it off quite nicely to A. fill in time to stretch our set out and B. Got to strut my Proggier side in a hard rock/metal band that sounded more like the bastard child of Motorhead and Black Sabbath! I do still have both the audio and video of that show to which only a select few people have seen it! Kept safely away until one of those rare moments when it gets shown on some music interview piece you’re in and they embarrass you with it to show your fans and people in the studio audience much to your blushing red face! S’all good. ; )

 

Our final gig in that band came a short time later back at The Elmocambo and it was springtime by now or maybe even summer, can’t remember, I’d have to look that up but regardless, by this time people grew tired of our shtick and no one really bought tickets to our show as that’s what determined where in the lineup you landed. So we actually were the second poorest band for ticket sales and went on at 4:20pm on a Saturday whereas before we went on second last to a packed house and blew people away so needless to say spending our unknown at the time last show as the second band to go on stage was not my idea of fun as you could imagine. When you got on stage after you were introduced your 30minutes began right then and how you spent it was up to you. I was ready to go as was the rest of the band but the drummer had to take his shoes and socks off and roll up his pants so the pant leg didn’t get caught on the bass drum pedal. Why the hell didn’t you do that before we went on? So almost ten minutes of our time was wasted on “setting up” basically and I still have the cassette tape of that show where you can hear me in a strained pissed off voice telling them to play. It was not our best performance either. We had rehearsal tapes that went over better than this gig. As soon as we were done I packed up my gear and left the venue. Didn’t bother to stay and watch any of the other bands I was selfish and just left with the girl who took our pictures for us as she wasn’t interested in staying around either. I knew if I had stayed a fight would have broke out between the drummer and I over that display of time wasting and it was just better to leave and say goodbye to it.Yep I was pissed. At myself, the band, everything because around this time we weren’t all one big happy family at rehearsals anymore either and the bassist and drummer were jamming with other bands and playing our material much to my chagrin because I always felt that some other band would steal out material and go big with it so I had this ridiculous rule that our stuff stays with us, kinda like the Vegas rule, you know what happens in Vegas blah blah blah…. So yeah we began to argue, almost come to fists a couple of times and one day I was literally sitting on a stool just playing through the motions when the drummer finally pushed the cheese off his cracker and yelled at me that if I wasn’t in to it then just go home. So I did. I pulled the plug out of my guitar without turning off the amp first and shut it down and walked out of his house without a word spoken. Two weeks later I showed up while he was at work and collected my gear and just left it all. I was done. Took my gear back around the corner to my folks house and went home. (Final gig at The Elmocambo below)

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Now all this aside for a second, I was going through my own personal hell at home with my partner who was no longer working and we would be very static towards each other and she wasn’t exactly trying to find another job at the time so going into a depression didn’t help matters at all. So it was an accumulation of many things but also I wasn’t happy musically playing the hard rock/metal stuff and constantly trying to incorporate the Prog side of things into it because the rest of the band wasn’t into Prog at all except for the singer a bit so that didn’t help that we weren’t on the same page there either. I grew very tired of drowning in a sea of unhappiness with my music and all but stopped playing for a while to take a mental break from it.

I didn’t play another gig until August 19th 2016 after joining a group for musicians on meetup.com and decided what the hell. I’m in charge now and I can do this. Well….. the very first gig I did it again, started panicking and psyching myself out by saying it was a bad idea and that I shouldn’t do it and pacing the parking lot behind the venue while I left mum inside to watch my gear and listen to the band that was playing at the time which I found out later was a great bunch of guys who usually do that to just get things started. But still….. shittin’ me-self before this gig! I had my support there and I got up and on an Open mic night where everyone else was doing covers of popular artists I walk in and set up this display of pedals and a guitar with no designs on it nor a fretboard which is a major component to playing for the most part with guitars!

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Armed with my little wooden mallet I proceeded to play and make people literally stop what they were doing and just stare. Either in awe, amazement or stunned by the fact that someone had the balls to get up and do something this experimental in front of a very contemporary crowd or was a complete lunatic who had just escaped and thought he was some 1920’s comedic reincarnate with his suit jacket and bowler hat we don’t know but I did it! It was certainly an amazing feeling afterwards because it was the first gig in 15 years for me. The bands I played in between never made it out of the basement so they weren’t gigs but just holiday and BBQ jam sessions mostly.

I was able to play a gig downtown at a place called The Cavern in Toronto at the Hi Toronto Hostel in the basement. It was an interesting gig as the crowd there was open but not open minded. They are used to and accustomed to a lot of the same people coming out to play and do a lot of the same songs so when I showed up and played first it was surely an eye-opener and not what they were expecting at all. It was a decent gig except for right in the middle of the first song I hit the mic stand and stopped but recovered by saying that i meant to do that. It was clearly something that no one could have gotten up on stage and have joined me on which is fine and it gave people a chance to hear something that they have never heard before but I felt an air of snootiness in the room to a degree as although it was applauded it was a general feeling of God I hope this guy doesn’t come back too often or ever again to play. Maybe it was just me and the fact that I was playing this particular place I don’t know. I did get some admirable comments form one girl in the audience who thought what I was doing was pretty “sick” sounding to which you hear me reply in a surprised tone thank you. Another comment was that my music is “atmospheric” which is also very true and appreciated as it does tend to stretch one’s imagination and imagery does happen when listening to what I do musically. But still, I felt an air of you’re not wanted here from some of the other players and people in attendance which is fine and again, I could be wrong about that too.

So now I am in control, not just with my music but with performing live. I survived the first gig and felt great afterwards and knew that I could do this with confidence and never go back to that old way of psyching myself out because it’s all new and my music, my sounds and I have full creative control over how the songs get played out. I’m no control freak and anticipate having other members join and play with me to form a full band and it becomes a band decision what we do but for now I am chuffed about being able to do MY thing ya know? Free expansion sound that I have created and am doing the way I want to do music now, outside the box, hell outside the park even but I am beyond happy about it and will continue to create the OddsFiche sound even passed the point where people may no longer listen to it, matters not to me, I love what I do and regret nothing about it. Once I play my 7th gig I will have personally surpassed my previous number of gigs from my first band which will be an achievement to myself and that I can perform with continued confidence. I still get that slight jittery feeling at first but the first song I play of mine, “Subtle Grenade Cereal and Oyster Velocity” is pretty much my signature song to open up a show with and eventually will be the encore song that has people screaming their heads off to hear because it’s the most avant-garde song I have ever written and it has such leeway live to go on for as long as I choose it to so it’s soon to be a crowd favourite as it is one of mine to hear and play. Enjoy

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCS5RAH2urrwZ72edQwToFYg

https://oddsfiche.bandcamp.com/

~fin

Published by OddsFiche, A Canadian Perspective