Tag Archives: gig stories

Even More Awful Gigs AFM Members Have Experienced


Some members shared their awful experiences while on the job. You can read them below, and make sure you tell us about any bad experiences you’ve had at a gig as well.

From Carey Domb (Local 149, Toronto, ON)

My awful gig was about twenty years ago and it still bothers me!  I was playing a week as an extra cellist with the Toronto Symphony. I was at the back of the section, just in front of the basses.  We were rehearsing Cavaleria Rusticana when it happened. The principal bassist fell like a tree onto me, bass and all of about 250 pounds of him.  I passed out from the fall, and came to with a whale of a man on top of me, his bass to one side and my beautiful 1870 cello to the other, the neck completely severed.

Someone lent me a cello and I came back after the break. I was young and worried that if I made a fuss, they would never hire me again. The management never contacted me in any way.about the accident.  What is clear now is that I was continuing to work with a concussion and they could have at least taken me to a doctor or even asked about my health in the ensuing weeks. There was no attempt to help me get my cello repaired or pay the expenses. No mention of anything!
I found out later that this man had fallen on stage before, during a concert. It seems that most people knew about his problems but nothing was ever done. I was so worried about getting more work that I didn’t raise any issues with the management. If only I could go back in time and stand up for myself!

From Bob Patterson (Local 60-471, Pittsburgh, PA)

I was playing a wedding reception for an elderly couple.  I believe they were both in their 80s.  During the party, they requested that the maid of honor, who was probably also an octogenarian, sit in and sing with the band.  We said sure thing, and she chose to sing Bill Bailey.  She was rather overweight, and was huffing pretty good by the time she climbed a few short steps to get on stage.
She kicked us off and started singing.  At the end of the first chorus, she collapsed and died of a massive heart attack on stage.  To make matters worse, our keyboard player, who was rather deaf didn’t notice and kept on playing.  I had to kick him to get him to stop.  We were playing in Oakland where the world renowned University of Pittsburgh medical center had at least three hospitals within a mile.  It took 20 minutes to get an ambulance.  I think I could have wheeled her on my dolly faster.  They revived her, however she died later at the hospital.  Needless to say, they ended the party. To this day, I think of that gig every time someone calls Bill Bailey.
Ed Weiss, Local 47 (Los Angeles)  
A number of years ago, I was hired to play trombone with a brass quintet for a wedding ceremony right on the beach in Malibu. It was a stunningly beautiful day, a postcard-perfect scene, with a mild breeze in the palm trees as the mid-afternoon sun’s rays glinted off the ocean to the west. Despite the hip setting, the ceremony itself was very conventional, and by and by the man presiding over it got to a point where he said, “And if anyone feels that this union should not take place, let them speak now or forever hold their peace…”
There was a long pause as everyone savored the moment, with no sound but the water gently lapping at the sand on the shoreline. And then a cellphone began to ring. Believe it or not, it was the old-fashioned “Ma Bell” kind of ringtone. I was pretty sure that the offending cellphone belonged to someone in our group, as the ringing was close to me, and we were situated a little off to the side. Everyone turned to look at us. One by one the guests started to titter and then to laugh uproariously. The phone rang and rang. Finally the second trumpet player, no doubt wishing he could crawl under a rock, bent over from his seat, pulled the phone out of his gigbag, and turned it off.
Let this be a cautionary tale to all those who routinely carry their cellphones into situations where a ringing phone might be a bad thing!