Monday, July 24, 2006

Artists and beggars can't be choosers

This story was sent to us by musician / rarefishie / Spinal Tap veteran Thomas Bartosik

I don't mind chaotic DIY shows but, alas, sometimes there's just too much tapness involved.

Each year in March, the student body of an academy in Antwerp organises a little festival in a local squat with lots of bands, dj's, performances, poets, etc. Until last year I was a student at this school, so they asked me to perform with one of my bands, Haachtse Witte. Given the low entrance fee, all the artists were 'paid' with 3 beers, a bottle of water and a lasagna. The previous year the festival wasn't really well organised, so I kind of interfered with the whole thing on the night itself; providing a second stage so all the bands could play, making sure everybody had juice for the amps as well as improvising a new schedule on the spot. This year, I did not have the time to help them out. Nor did anyone else, apparently...

Because I had to do some stuff for work, I arrived just in time for the soundcheck. We were scheduled as the fifth band on the indoor stage. I had to get up early the next day so I was hoping to go home as fast as possible. When I arrived, the second band was playing and I was told there was -obviously- a huge delay. First of all, there was a guy who played in two bands. Both bands were re-scheduled on the night itself to play on two different stages at the same time. Great thinking. Secondly, they forgot something very important: a PA doesn’t work really well without a sound engineer, especially when the mixing desk is up on a balcony at the other side of the room. As you can imagine, that makes it rather hard for a band to play on stage and do your own mix at the same time.

Noticing nobody really seemed to bother and seeing time go by, my band mates of Haachtse Witte had already volunteered to help out so we all ended up behind the mixing desk. Suddenly, somebody came to us and said we had to tell the band to stop. So we did. The third band was I Love Sarah, good friends of us. We had a hard time doing their amplification because there was no time for a soundcheck and we didn't really know which mics were plugged in and which weren't. During the set we also found out that the mic for the guitar amp and the monitors were not working, so we had to improvise with other mics while I Love Sarah was playing.

one half of I Love Sarah

After a while, Ken (SimpleSongs) -also a member of Haachtse Witte- went backstage to prepare his own set. There, he asked for some help with the PA. He also needed a hand to haul all his gear to the stage but nobody seemed to know who was responsible. But they did have a good excuse: they were all very busy making hamburgers. Wandering around, Ken ended up at the entrance where someone told him: "Just ask the guys from Haachtse Witte. They'll help you out." OK...

While I was still on the balcony with Freek (the third Haachtse Witte member) the girl who was responsible (yep) for the indoor stage came to us. Not to take over, you see, but to make sure we were doing it right. At this point, I started to realise that my band would not be on stage any time soon, so I mentally prepared to go to work in the morning without getting any sleep. I wanted to know what the plan was -if any- so I went backstage where everybody was still making hamburgers. There, a guy from the organisation was moaning about the fact that they weren't on schedule anymore. I suggested that having a sound engineer would be a good start to avoid losing time. To which he replied: "The bands are all playing for free, so they mustn't complain about anything".

Haachtse Witte, excellent stuff

Normally, Haachtse Witte was scheduled to play after SimpleSongs but the festival crew decided on the spot to add one more band called Schidzoïde. Meanwhile, we could set up our gear on stage, so we started to put up the drumkit they arranged for us. It turned out the kit was not complete and the kick was broken, so we had to borrow some material from the nice guys of tRAM. I plugged in my effect pedals and waited for Schidzoïde to finish. But, suddenly, while Freek was getting us more beer, some drunk guy stumbled onto stage to drum along to the music. I didn't mind him drumming, but I don't like people to stand on my effect pedals, but there was little I could do about it. Five minutes later the girl (the “responsible” one) comes up and complains to us that the drunkard is playing on tRAM’s drumkit. Maybe she should have been there herself to keep people away from the stage, and maybe she could have told him not to step on my pedals as well.

Anyway, Schidzoïde went on for quite a bit, trashing his guitar and all that, and when he was finally finished (it was 3 AM at this time) Responsible Girl came back and told us tRAM had to play now. Our show was cancelled and we had to get off the stage as fast as possible. I packed my stuff, went home, drank coffee for an hour and went to work.


Blogger Cbastian said...

i feel sorry for you guys . . . but i kinda laughed my arse off while reading . . . how recognisable ;) . . .
keep up the altruistic work!
. . .

8:31 PM  

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