My gig from H E double hockey sticks

Tell us about a gig that was disastrous, but that you can now laugh about!

Here’s just one of mine.

For many years I played with an awesome soul band in Pittsburgh called Johnny Angel and the Halos. We used to play several times per season at Heinz Field before the Pittsburgh Steelers games. At one such game it was about 10 degrees F (-12 C).

Johnny kicked off the first tune and I put my tenor sax to my lips to play. My metal mouthpiece promptly froze to my lips like the kid who licks the flagpole in the winter. My reaction was to pull the mouthpiece away from my face, and the skin from my lips went with it! Needless to say I played the gig in pain!

It was so cold that the keys on my sax gradually began to freeze in place. During one big sax solo, I kept losing notes a few at a time, starting from the bottom of the range and traveling upward. I ended the solo with just a couple of usable notes at the very top of the range. Hee hee, maybe I should have called this story “That time I invented avant garde soul saxophone”. 30 years later I haven’t played another outdoor gig in cold weather!

Similar situation - Marching Band at a playoff or championship game. -17F with the wind chill (in NJ!). We were the visitors so do our show before the game. Because it was so cold they had us do the Star Spangled Banner since we were out there anyway. We got though the SSB, but soon after we started the show, our director and drum majors were yelling at the brass and flutes to stop playing (metal mouthpieces). All we had left was drums, saxes, and maybe a couple clarinets. One person needed medical care, one person had a flute stuck to her lips. The rest of us took hours to defrost. The home team’s band did not play at half time after what happened to us.

I don’t know if these are disasters, and I may be a little sour about the first two, but a few come to mind.

  1. Trying to walk through State Fair crowds at peak time, with an alto, a bari, music stand, and heavy backpack full of gear. The stage was small and it was extra cramped putting my nice bari up there, which was only used for 2-3 tunes. That really put me in a mood, and I was not up for the dance moves.
  1. Subbing with a cover band for an X-mas party of some financial firm. At the end of the night, they (company owner) offers the band extra to play OT. It was midnight, checks were already handed out. I was told I’d get the OT, but I knew it wouldn’t happen.

  2. I loved this gig, but it certainly wasn’t easy. Japan tour of Blast II: MIX, I was the swing for the bari (and other, but mostly bari) position. The big saxophone number Blue Rondo was extremely difficult. There was a crazy flute to bari hand off backstage, some pogo balls, and an extremely difficult mini-trampoline part. While I did pull it off, there was one night where I fell (and busted the silver Yamaha!). I wasn’t the only cast member to fall during the tour, but it was still embarrassing. Below is from the 2006 tour they did (mostly same cast members), with the choreography done right.

Holy cow! As if playing sax wasn’t hard enough!

You have earned our respect ChrisKolClarinet!