Mistress of Disaster
Did you know that the First Rule of Gig Calamity is the same as the First Rule of Parenting? It is this- Don’t panic - if you panic you’re sunk. The odds of dying from a gig related catastrophe are extremely low (though there are moments you may wish otherwise), and what does not kill me gives me stories.
Not every gig is perfect. In fact, it’s not really a gig unless some unexpected catastrophe occurs. Sometimes the disaster happens safely behind the curtain far away from the eyes of the audience, and other times it unfolds in full view under glaring lights.
I’ve gone onstage with my fly down, with colds and laryngytus and on one occasion, in the throes of a gall bladder attack. I’ve had pianists fall off the bench, things breaking on or off-stage, and the sound system crap out - sometimes all in the same gig.
Preparation helps. I can’t prepare for everything, but I certainly try. I’m a notorious over packer when it comes to gigs. I usually have at least one extra outfit. the one and only time I didn’t I ended up having to be sewn into my dress as they were announcing me onstage because the zipper broke. Then I was saved by my ever present gig emergency kit which contains a variety of sewing implements, spot removers and a giant economy size bottle of Tylenol. People may mock my hyper-prepardess but I’m their first stop when disaster strikes.
A few weeks ago I packed my car and headed out to a gig. Just as my tires hit the highway my phone rang. It was the producer informing me that our pianist had an emergency and wouldn’t be able to make it. This was not a small hiccup. I wanted to stop my car right there and throw myself on the pavement wailing and screaming, but there was no time. Besides, it would completely ruin my hair. I took a deep breath and flipped through my options. I could call another piano player, but it would be a risk as this particular gig involved dancers who were dancing a choregraphed piece while I sang. Throwing an unfamiliar piano player into the mix with virtually no rehearsal was not going to do anyone any good. I did have my iPad, and it contained rehearsal tracks for all the songs on the bill that night. It just might work.
And it did. It helps that I work with talented tech savvy piano players who always give me beautifully played, high quality tracks to work with. I don’t love singing to track in front of a live audience. I feel it takes spontaneity out of the gig, but it was better than telling a venue full of people who had come out in the pouring rain to be entertained that they had to go home unsatisfied. In the end there was singing and dancing and a happy audience, and I got a new story to tell.