Musical Performance Blunders

In music, major performance bloopers are usually caused by the most mundane details. Like realizing you forgot to plug your keyboard (or guitar, or microphone or any other electric musical appliance), right the second you hit the first key during a live act… Muting/enabling the wrong channel on your board by mistake and failing to realize how bad it sounds to the public because you got your headphones on… All typical stuff. Who never did it, never performed live.

Actually, the best one I have ever seen was not one of mine.

Back in London, some DJ-legend-I-shall-not-name-here was scheduled for a major 5-hour set at the club. Things were not looking pretty when he showed up 30 minutes late in a more than advanced state of chemically-induced mental regression.

When their headliner DJs are too wasted to perform, I’ve seen promoters use all kind of tricks to keep the show going… most often putting on a mix CD and regularly slapping the passed-out artiste out of his daze so he can wave at the crowd like he means it. Depending on where you are and who the DJ is, that usually works. But in this case, the club owner (a DJ himself) was quite adamant about having Mr. Drooling Superstar play his own set. Essentially basing his decision on the quite valid idea that such caliber of a DJ could play a set in his sleep… and that most of the assistance would be at least equally wasted anyway.

This, as it turned out, was not the best decision of the night…

It seemed like our friend had not gone lightly in terms of efficient brain cell frying for that evening (and I suspect he did not have that many remaining brain cells to fry, to begin with). For even his motor skills were quite seriously hindered… to say nothing of the numerous imaginary creatures he periodically brushed off his clothes…
The first hour of the set went relatively ok, if you except a few really nasty trainwreck and an overall complete lack of timing. It must be said that the guy was indeed nearly able to play with only 5% of his brain on…

I happened to be nearly behind him when things took a turn for the seriously worse: either the strobe light was not doing the poor man’s vision any good, or whatever high he was on, suddenly went up three notches… anyway, he made a mistake: he forgot which deck was currently live. Now, once again, we’ve all done that at least once (at least I know I have), and there’s no need to even be drunk to do it. You lift a needle and instantaneously realize your mistake (when 3000 thumping Watts drop to a resounding silence all of a sudden, believe me, you notice). If you are any good, you can usually catch yourself and make it sound like a lame attempt at some sort of effect (needless to say you drop back the needle within a few milliseconds no matter what). The problem with our man was a bit worse, though.

See, he did not lift the needle off the currently playing record. He forgot to remove the currently playing record, and tried to place a new one on top of it.

The first few seconds of shock quickly mutated into irrepressible laughter when, completely oblivious to the excruciating sound of a live turntable needle being crushed at 100 decibels, he started forcing down the second record on top of the first one, as if merely dealing with a slightly recalcitrant car trunk…

Comical as the situation was, something had to be done and the sound guy swiftly killed the channel to launch a filler mix CD, presumably saving a few hundred clubbers’ eardrums.

I can tell you that even my most embarrassing public leg-tripping have always seemed really tame to me, compared to that one.

And why am I narrating this anecdote of particularly little interest?

Well, because it all goes to show that sometimes, you should know when you are not on your best to fiddle with musical equipment. The fact it takes you half-an-hour to trace down the absence of sound output to an obvious bypass trigger should be a clear sign that you will end up recording the most sublimely perfect take of your master track, just to realize afterward that the Midi cable wasn’t properly plugged. Of course, it’s only 10 minutes of your time, but that usually is enough to kill the mood for a while.
And that is why there ain’t no new mix for today. I might just surrender and go for a mix without additional prod, but I really wanted to get that track in there… so we’ll see if I can manage to record a second master take without screwing up the recording part this time.

And for the layman who hasn’t a clue what that last paragraph (or the whole post for that matter) means: let’s just say it’d be the music-geek equivalent to the cat tripping on the computer power cable around the 30th page of that Word document your are writing. (and by the way: he did it on purpose, that psychotic bastard).

BUT I still love you.

And to prove it, I added a brand new listing of the Mini Mixes mp3s released to date. All of them, neatly sorted and labeled, a click away from your delighted ears, in the left-side “Online Empire” section (quick message to the user interface-impaired: click once on the title to expand the sections and see the links).

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