Peter Heyneman has been writing for BYT forever and we love him and he was in bands people loved and other bands no one loved. -ed.
Let’s see, my nightmare gig starts with a singer in a smokey room. There’s the smell of wine and cheap perfume. Ha ha. Just kidding. Anyway, nightmare gigs come in two varieties or maybe three. 1. You suck bad. 2. The place suck bad. Maybe 3. You suck bad for that specific place. I’ve played garage pop in a skinheads basement to 80 increasingly drunk and rambunctious skinheads who we placated by playing “Louie, Louie” at double time for 10 minutes straight [Type 2]. I’ve told degenerate gambling stories at a storytelling show to a room of horrified couples while the story proctor rang the “Times Up” bell about 3 minutes in after I said the N word (Uh, it was a quote lady! Come on!) and then kept ringing it continually until I left the stage [Type 1]. I’ve recited formal rhyming poems about winter at black poetry slams, which obviously was a totally fine cool experience but it certainly seemed intimidating when one is a white 22-years-old and pretentious AF [Type 3 maybe]. I’ve played at 4 different Houses of Blues (all of the above). But probably the worst show in terms of not only the performance but the audience reaction and the likelihood of being actually murdered while onstage is the show I played with my college band the Iran-Contas at a Navy bar in Annapolis called Armadillos (representative quote from Yelp: “Seriously, the owner must’ve woken up one day said “hmmm, what is the absolute bare minimum I can put forth and still turn a profit???””).
The Iran Contras were a band only in the coolest sense of that term as in the phrases “Band of Brothers” “Band of Outsiders” or “Band of Seagulls”. We wrote songs by hitting record on a 4track and drinking a 30 case of Steel Reserve Malt Liquor and then we released the results on cassette (only extant footage). We were made up of one rhythm guitar, one unplugged guitar because the guy playing that guitar didn’t know how to play guitar, two Moogs, me playing marching band drums with flyswatters, one toy accordion, and two lead singers making up words on the fly as the band banged out various primitive tunes. We had the bar that we were a classic rock cover band.
They paid us in free pitchers of Coors Lite. We accidentally drank all of them before the show. What happened in order:
A) I forgot to unplug the bad guitarist.
B) I forgot most of the “rhythms”.
C) Navy men from the Naval Academy nearby got madder and madder and then madder.
D) We play Victory Day, a ballad in which we take credit for winning the war in Vietnam.
E) The stage was in the window of the bar and during a particularly spirited version of “Don’t Stop Believin'” (the only cover song we knew) one of the singers broke a pane with her butt.
F) We are kicked out and told never to return unless we pay for the window which ain’t gonna happen so fuck you Armadillos.
Of course in retrospect that all sounds great, but we were all super embarrassed about it for some reason at the time. 14 years later it’s gone from Nightmare to Amazing Thing I want to Do Again Tomorrow. My point is, quit whinin’, there are no real nightmare gigs, when you’re livin’ the Dream. It just goes on and on and on and we are the champions, my friends, of Vietnam.