Worst Gig Ever

The time was somewhere in the early 2000s, I'm not sure exactly when, but my band, Collective Unconscious, had a gig at the Norshor Theatre in Duluth, MN. We were led to believe that we would be playing as a part of a big, multi-band music event in the main theater, when we got there we found that was not the case.

We wound up in the middle of a community art jamboree that was going on all over the building, there were bands in the main theater, but we weren't one of them. Instead we wound up in the upstairs lobby sharing the stage with several smaller groups, right before us was a blues band. We also got exposed to what I call "teenage girl poetry:"

My love is like dry, blowing leaves...


The blues band got done playing and moved their instruments and amps out of the way, fortunately a sound system was provided. Unfortunately it was out of phase with the outlets we had our amps plugged into.

Old buildings, like the Norshor, have old wiring and sometimes that wiring is either poorly grounded or not grounded at all. Unscrupulous people will put 3-prong (grounded) power outlets into non-grounded holes in the wall, or if they don't you need to use a ground-lift -- one of those things that turns a 3-prong plug into a 2-prong plug. Anyway, if the grounding isn't solid the electricity flows around until it finds one. If you get close to the mic, your lips act as the ground and you get zapped. It's not enough to kill you, but it's pretty unpleasant. If everything is on the same circuit, you're fine, but if you're out of phase you're not.

The way I had things set up in those days was to have my electric guitar plugged through my distortion pedals, etc. and into my amp, and my mandolin plugged directly into the sound system. As a result, I was in-phase with the sound system when I played my mando and could approach the mic without fear, but was out of phase when I played my Strat and would get zapped.

Throughout the course of the evening I got zapped in the lips, through my toes when I was playing the mando, but brushed one of my guitar foot pedals with my foot, through the elbow when I accidentally brushed up against our bass player and finally at the end of the night when I went to turn off my guitar amp while holding onto my mando and I got zapped through the hands.

I'd had it. I threw my mandolin to the ground (secretly hoping it would break, piece of shit that it was) and yelled, "Get me the fuck out of here!"

Funny, we didn't get paid for the gig that night (I think they promised us all of $100) and they never asked us back.


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