The disastrous Greenville gig
A debacle was visited upon my world music band Mappamundi due to my utter distraction in the spring of 1999. My dad was going downhill fast - he died of leukemia a couple months later - and I was at wits' end.
As mentioned yesterday, we were hired to play at a birthday celebration for Max Heller, the ex-mayor of Greenville.
So here's the thing: I sent out a contract which said the gig was on (say) Saturday the 28th. However, Saturday was actually going to be the 27th. Error.
Now I had it in my head we were due to arrive on a Saturday. But Max's son, knowing the event was taking place on the 28th, didn't notice that I'd written Saturday instead of Sunday, and signed and returned the contract without noticing my error.
It's a five-hour drive to Greenville, SC. So that Saturday we were up very early, loading the WHOLE DARN SOUND SYSTEM into the van. We made the drive, got to the Hyatt Regency, unloaded the WHOLE DARN SOUND SYSTEM onto a dolly, and wheeled it into the huge lobby.
We looked for the usual signs, you know: "... Event in the ... Room." In this case, we were awed to note, the birthday boy happened to have his very own eponymous room, the "Max Heller Conference Center." But his name was not out front on the blackboard.
We wandered with increasing queasiness and finally found an unctuous manager who told us what was going on - the event was the next day.
??? So here's the thing. All three of us had other gigs the next day! Robbie had an opera, and Ken and I had a wedding in town.
We made a frantic call and Max's son came right over. We all paced around trying to figure this out. He generously offered to send us back home in a private jet after the party on Sunday, so we could skittle on over to the wedding, but the timing was too tight.
So we said: "We'll make it work." We loaded the WHOLE DARN SOUND SYSTEM back into the car and headed back to Durham. Along the way, this being before any of us had cellphones, we stopped to call our other bandmates: since we couldn't be in two places at once, we needed musicians to do the wedding in town on Sunday so Ken and I could go back to Greenville and do the Heller birthday!
Beth was free. Jim wasn't, but said he'd try to find us a warm body. We stopped several more times on the way back to call him, and at last he found us a guitarist, whom none of the rest of us knew or had ever even seen before.
When we got back, Robbie and Ken left. I call Beth and the guitarist, hmm, what was his name, let's say Lyle, and find they are not free to rehearse together in the brief time remaining. This is a problem, because there are quite a few "special requests" from the mother of the bride, who even at her best is a very tense person.
So, having driven five hours to Greenville and five hours back, I now drive to Beth's house, teach her the special requests, and later go to Lyle's house, and teach HIM the special requests. And it's night, and then it's the next day.
We do it all again except this time there are only two of us, Ken and me, loading the W.D.S.S. and driving and then unloading the W.D.S.S. in Greenville. Meanwhile, Beth and Lyle meet for the first time at the in-town wedding.
Our event is loads of fun, the food is good and plentiful, everybody is happy and nice, Max Heller and his wife are sweet and charismatic, a fine time is had by all. We leave exhausted but satisfied.
Beth and Lyle have a nightmare of a time. The mother of the bride acts like a witch (to be fair, she had family tragedy of her own to deal with), yells at Beth for not being me, yells at Lyle for eating an hors d'oeuvre, treats them like incompetent minions, and makes their afternoon hellish. Beth, upon her return, says: "I want to quit music now." Lyle and I never discuss this and I've never seen him since.
I was so traumatized by this mistake that I announced to the band: "I can't be manager any more. One of you do it." But nary a one ever actually did.
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