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My Worst Nightmare Gig

Buckets of rain are crashing down on the windshield making it all but impossible to see anything. The wind is whipping my tiny car back and forth across the highway, at will. And there he is. Standing in front of me. He's awesome. He reminds me of the Amazing Colossal Man from that old grade B sci-fi flick, but this guy is holding what looks like a big basket full of – I'm not sure what. I'm afraid I'm going to crash into him, but wait.

Now a cop is pulling up next to my driver's side door. I'm glancing back and forth between the cop and the big guy in the middle of the road. Wait a minute. Think! This can't be happening. Am I losing my mind?

Total Disaster
I guess you could say that I was losing my mind, at least temporarily anyway. And it wasn't drug-induced either!

If you've been in the music business for even a few weeks, I'm sure you already have at least one disaster story to tell. You know, something awful that happened on a gig or on the way to a gig that wasn't funny then but seems hilarious now?

A while ago I asked you to send in "Your Worst Nightmare Gig" and many of you did. I thought it was only fair that I now share mine with you.

My worst nightmare gig actually began with the best drumming gig of my life.

Bright Light City
My band had just gotten a month long booking in Las Vegas at the then newly remodeled Stardust Hotel & Casino. It was to be my first time in Vegas. I had a few days to kill before the gig, so I decided to fly out to Los Angeles first. My cousin just moved back to New Jersey from there, so I asked him to recommend some of the LA hot spots.

Mistake #1
My first mistake was letting my cousin talk me into picking up his car, which he left in California, and driving it back to New Jersey for him. It sounded like a plan at the time. I'd have his car to get around LA and Vegas, and then I'd take my time driving home and see some of the countryside along the way. So I thought.

Great Gig
We were at the Stardust for the entire month of November. The gig was fantastic, although it took a while to get used to their union rules: Musicians aren't allowed to move their own gear on stage, and even our own light and sound man wasn't allowed to control the equipment. In Vegas, you have to give verbal instructions to union dudes to do everything.

Despite that, the gig was great and Vegas treated us like real stars. Every night we were invited to a party thrown by performers like Shirley MacLaine and Robert Goulet. Things couldn't be better. And then, the gig ended.

Mistake #2
The rest of my band headed back to New Jersey on a plane and I prepared for the drive home (remember, I had agreed to drive my cousin's car back to New Jersey).

Originally, I had planned a leisurely trip back to Jersey but our next gig (in Staten Island) was suddenly moved up to Wednesday. Today was Monday, which meant I had to drive the 2,586 miles to Jersey nonstop– except for an occasional pit stop for food.

Mistake #3
It was early December and because of the weather, I decided to take a southern route home. It didn't help. In every state I drove through - Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio - I either ran into snow, sleet, or rain. I was beginning to think the sun would never shine again.

Mistake #4
I had been awake and driving for about 40 hours when I entered the state of Pennsylvania on Route 80: The final leg of my trip. It was almost the final leg of my life!

Up to now I was in pretty good shape. But the lack of sleep combined with the torrential rain and the long length of the state, finally got to me. Every mile of road looked exactly like the one before it.

Then things got really weird. I started to hallucinate: Huge guys standing in the road, rabbits, bears, cops, and you name it. I kept telling myself to knock it off but it wasn't working. I felt like I was lost in a nightmare or on some drug induced bad trip.

It was a bad trip all right, but drugs had nothing to do with it. I guess you could call it a nightmare but I wasn't asleep. Maybe it was just my brain telling me, "Hey look, dummy, you've been up for over 40 hours straight and I need to dream. If you're too stupid to get some sleep, then I'll make you dream while you're awake." Sleep deprivation has to be the worst form of torture ever invented. And I did it to myself!

The Nightmare's Over?
I finally got through Pennsylvania and pulled into my apartment complex in Jersey. I made it. I opened the door to my apartment and fell asleep on the floor. The bed was just too far away. Then the phone rang and woke me up. The gig had been pushed back to Friday, the original opening date.

Mistake #5
I could have taken that leisurely trip across the country after all!

If you have a nightmare gig you'd like to share with us, post it on our Drum Forum. Lots of site members have already posted their nightmare gigs there, so you'll feel right at home!

Until next time: Stay loose.

Tiger Bill Meligari


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Shirley MacLaine
Robert Goulet