In my late teens and early twenties I was a roadie for several largely forgettable rock bands and, along the way, I had experiences that varied from the joyous to the pits but largely mundane, as with most jobs. This is one of the tales of that time.
This was a new band I was working for and I only vaguely knew one of the members. He’d phoned me and asked if I wanted to ‘audition’ as their full-time roadie. I was ‘between bands’ at the time, so I agreed.
A pub band doesn’t get to pick and choose their gigs but as I set up their gear on a Saturday afternoon in a sticky-carpeted outer suburban hotel, all my instincts were telling me this would not end well.
Obliged to play middle-of-the road instrumentals while the crowd was eating, the band played like a dog unchained as the afternoon wore on and the beer flowed. The punters were not overwhelmed but seemed resigned to the fact that this was the best the management could afford and begrudgingly clapped after most songs.
A group of young men walked in and stood at the side of the room, surveying the scene with cold eyes. The hairs on the back of my neck told me all I needed to know.
Their leader strode to the bar, ordered a round of beers and marched through the dancing crowd until he got the result he wanted, a collision with a dancing man.
The leader shouted in mock disgust ‘Look what you’ve done, fuckwit, you’ve spilled all me beer.’
The dancing man waved him off with ‘What are you talkin’ about, you walked straight into me. Piss off.’
The leader said ‘I wouldn’t talk to a dog like that’, dropped the beers and head-butted dancing man’s nose.
So the fully intended brawl began and chaos ensued. A chair sailed through the air and struck a heavily pregnant woman in the head. Her partner didn’t stay to attend to her needs but hurled himself into the melee to ‘avenge’ her.
The band fled to the back lane, leaving me to defend their gear as best I could by shoving people off the stage with a mike stand and threatening brain damage with it’s base to the chief aggressors.
Then, as suddenly as they came, the suburban barbarians left, laughing amongst themselves on their way out and proudly displaying their injuries.
The band returned cautiously and announced a break while I restored order on stage and then, as an afterthought, asked if I was OK.
I said, ‘Yeah, sure’ and as they headed to the bar, I exited to the back lane and drove away. The band had failed the audition.