In which James Jackson
Toth regales us with the story of a gig gone bad.
BY JAMES JACKSON TOTH
“The Show From Hell”
In the old days, Wooden Wand & The Vanishing Voice were
largely improv-based. In addition to keeping things fresh for us while we
crawled across the United
States on poorly routed, endless, 60-date
tours, this also allowed us a certain flexibility. No P.A.? No problem. Play on
the stairwell leading to the venue? Fine.
We’d gotten very good at adapting to weird situations, so
when we descended upon DeKalb,
IL with our touring partners and
friends Castanets a few years ago, rather than get bummed out at the 10×10
glorified janitor’s closet we were scheduled to play in, we decided to make the
best of it by trying something a little different. Make lemonade, as it were.
We decided to all set up on different sides of the room, playing toward the
center. Sort of an interactive quadraphonic experience. Or whatever.
This might have worked and made for a memorable gig for
everyone involved, but the ratio of assholes to non-assholes in DeKalb on this
particular evening was roughly 5:1. While we played, people talked. Loudly.
That’s not unusual, so it didn’t bug me. What did bug me was that someone
handed a live microphone to a small child, who began screaming about Spider-Man
and cookies during our set. It sounds funny, but it wasn’t. It was
disrespectful and rude, given that we traveled thirteen hours to be there and
were doing our best to make a good impression. Across the room, some locals
took it upon themselves to heckle the female members of our band. They stood
above them while they played and made unfriendly, sexist remarks. Being across
the room, I was unaware of this at the time, or I’d have taken some teeth back
from DeKalb with me as a souvenir.
We finished our full set and began wrapping cables and
packing up. It was then that we noticed that the very same chatters, hecklers
and instigators who vexed us during our set were setting up to play next-the
“local band.” I don’t remember their name, or I’d have no problem
calling them out here.
I’d toured enough by this point to have realized that
pacifism is usually the best policy in these situations. Throwing down is
usually a last resort, especially when you’ve got gear all over the venue,
vulnerable to theft or destruction at the hands of spiteful, insecure dickbags.
Because of this, I went outside to cool off. The rest of our extended touring
band, however, decided to exact revenge. They stood in front of the local band
as they played and called each other on their cell phones, engaging in loud
conversations with each other mere feet from where the band sang their stupid
townie hearts out. One member of our band decided to ‘loudly eat chicken’ in front
of the band, which is exactly what he did, discarding the bones by hurling them
at the band onstage.
The band stopped and we all ‘stepped outside.’ The resulting
fracas involved a broken beer bottle, some light pushing and shoving, and a lot
of macho horseshit on the part of the promoter and local band. While several of
us, err, discussed the situation with these assholes outside, the asshole
contingent inside the venue began turning off the lights while members of our
band went in to try to retrieve our gear.
Needless to say, we didn’t even get paid.
Here you can read the other side of this story at an
Amazon.com blog post.
Wooden Wand’s new
album Death Seat is issued Oct. 26 on
Young God Records.