August 1, 2013 Patrick DeCoste

When Art Precedes Sound

On May 17th, a well-known, highly respected musician decided not to take the stage at a venue in San Antonio due to problems with the venue. I was shocked – or was I? Here’s my take on artists choosing not to perform when certain things are out of their control.

The Fan’s Perspective

Imagine this: it’s a Friday night and you’re one of 250 who paid $35 to see a rock show in the city. A member from one of your favorite bands has gone solo and is riding the success of a 30+ year run in the music business. Of course this artist could reunite with the band and sell more tickets in bigger venues – but this is THEIR time.

Your excitement has been building since getting tickets: the babysitter’s booked, pre-show dinner reservations made and your night will end with great music. Sadly, by the time you reach the front doors of the venue, your night is over. The artist showed but left hours ago with no word on why there would be no performance that night.

The Musician’s Perspective

Another town, another gig. After loading in, your sound check hasn’t been going right. Is it you – or the venue? You tweak things a bit but still can’t get your tone right but also know it’s not the first time sound has been an issue at this particular club.

The situation is addressed with the venue, the promoter and everyone involved. You use different mic-ing techniques, going “direct” (bypassing any microphones and plugging directly into the venue’s mixing board) and explore all options. Still, something isn’t right.

Then what? What happens next?

The Reality Of It All

If you’re DUg Pinnick of King’s X, you call it all off. His show was over well before it began (read about it HERE). When first sing this, I was floored – what a ballsy move! I know of musicians simply not showing to gigs or leaving the stage due to poor security but never due to sound. Pinnick’s support was overwhelming with assumedly most fans far removed from the situation making it easier to comment in approval.

But what if it wasn’t a well-known musician? What if you planned for it months ago and traveled a ways to see? As a fan, would you still have unwavering support for the artist?

One Person’s Perspective

His decision made me think about my situation. The tones I get out of my guitar are everything to me. If my tones are off, I’m off. I’ve never blamed anyone but myself if I can’t get it right. But what if I just knew it wasn’t my fault? What if a venue’s speaker(s) was blown, or poor cables were used or they cut corners on equipment?

Am I in a position to walk away from a gig? I know I can – but actually doing it becomes complicated. Every gig is an opportunity, regardless of where it is and who’s there. Someone’s always ready/ willing to take your spot. Having the benefit of gigging around Boston also means more friends and family attending shows for support. Can I leave them out to dry?

I’ve met DUg at the NAMM show. He’s one of the nicest people I’ve met and it’s obvious music is his life. For him to walk away, I can’t imagine how difficult of a decision it was – but for me, it’s not something I can do… unless of cousre I was gigging with DUg Pinnick.

Ed. Note: with at least 2 sides to every story, I found the club’s response HERE. The other bands, including guitar god Yngwie Malmsteen, played the show without incident (full review HERE). Requests for refunds from the club were honored.

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Comments (2)

  1. John MacFee

    Tough call at best and there is always going to be at least two sides to the story. I’m no where near Dug’s league and never will be. Loved Kings X for years. Even though I’m no star, I’ve been performing for over forty years and have had my share of gigs I probably shouldn’t have played. Truth is, fans don’t know diddly about sound systems, monitors, or stage lighting etc. They’re not supposed to. They’re there to enjoy the night. I’ve played and been to many gigs where the “engineer” only knew how to turn up the “suck” button. Fans don’t know it’s the sound guy’s fault. They just know the show sucked! I would be hard pressed to blame an artist without hearing that person’s side of the story. Recently I was performing at a magazine competition where Mr DeCoste was scheduled to perform. VERY shortly before his scheduled performance, Mr DeCoste was informed his bass player was involved in an auto accident and wouldn’t be able to make the show. Mr DeCoste admirably took the “show must go on” attitude and performed his set. In all honesty, I was blown away by his performance, but would be completely understanding if he had chosen not to perform. We not only try to meet our own expectations and hopes when we take the stage, but the fans are expecting us to meet their expectations as well. I don’t think there is a set answer to this dilemma unless we’re talking about Guns’n’Roses.

    • Good stuff, John! Thanks for your comment. You bring up a good point about the fact that if you don’t go on, you may not only lose your audience but you definitely won’t gain any fans. If I didn’t play the competition (for whatever reason), I probably would’ve burned a few bridges and definitely not have gotten my music out there to those in attendance. I think my issue with the particular situation in the blog is the band decided to walk due to sound issues – yet all the other bands played. For all the Yngwie stories out there, even he went on without incident. Like you said, fans are paying money to hear horror stories, they’re there to be entertained.

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