Standout flops

Some of Sacramento’s best artists share their worst gigs

Lillian Frances

Lillian Frances

Photo by maria ratinova

As a musician, you learn a lot of from bad shows. Not to drink too much before playing. How to react to a tough crowd, or no crowd at all. The worst gigs sweeten the great shows, when the venues are packed and the love is plentiful.

This year, nearly 100 SAMMIES nominees shared their stories. Here are some for the books:

Lillian Frances

Nominee: New Artist; Electronica/Experimental

LOL. I performed at a radio station once and didn’t realize the entire hour was going be aired unedited, so between songs, there were just minutes of silence, me boop-beeping different instruments, stopping songs halfway and going, “DANG, I just butchered that one, can I start over?” and saying stuff like, “WOW, I am slobbering all over this microphone.” Listening to it later on air was pretty painful. Hilarious, but painful.

Michael Ray

Nominee: Blues

There are no shortage of contenders for this one. I won’t name venues or dates, but there was one time we just knew no one would be there, and the sound was going to suck. On top of that, I can’t stand the opening band. Long story short, some of us (mainly me) got way too drunk before the set and just sucked. It was so bad, my girlfriend left mid-set. You learn a lot from things like that if they don’t happen too often.

House of Mary

Nominee: Indie

We played a gig in San Jose, and on the way there, our van was broken into, and our gear got stolen. Then we only got to play a 20-minute set, and on the way home, we ran out of gas in the pouring rain. A really cool tweaker appeared out of nowhere and helped us push the van off the freeway, and we all became temporary friends.

Vinnie Guidera

Nominee: Indie

Michael Ray (far right)

Photo by Maria Ratinova

Way back in the day, our old band played at a teen center in the middle of nowhere, and as soon as we started playing, the crowd flocked to the computers in the back of the room. We could literally see that they were all on Myspace.

Yolo Mambo

Nominee: World Music

It’s hard to call a gig at a winery the worst, but one in Loomis was having a crush day. We were set up in a room very close to some rowdy barefoot folks stomping on a big tub of grapes. The wine kept creeping toward our electrical cables. We were sure we were going home dripping red.

Banjo Bones

Nominee: Country/Alt-Country/Americana

I played a gig up in Nevada City that was scheduled in conflict with a huge free concert event of a Grateful Dead cover band. There was no turnout to my gig. Only the staff was there, and a dog that sat in front of the stage and watched us play. It was really pathetic. But the venue’s booker made up for it by booking us as an opener for a touring band from Alabama, and we played to a sold-out crowd, and our show was broadcast over the radio. So all was good.

The Herald

Nominee: Folk/Bluegrass

We’re a folk band. We found ourselves performing in the middle of two indie punk bands. I swear we put that crowd to sleep! They didn’t boo us off, and they sat through our set—mad respect. But that was the longest 35 minutes of our lives.

The Cripple Creek Band

Nominee: Country/Alt-Country/Americana

A truck stop in Oregon. Ultimately, we played for three hours, and the most people in the room was seven (counting the staff). The truck stop was also a sandwich shop, liquor store, ice cream shop, small movie theater, motel, bar and restaurant, and of course, a live venue.

Cities You Wish You Were From

Nominee: Release of the year; music video; rock

Eli plugs his rig in, starts to tune, and the entire place loses power. Pitch. Friggin'. Black. So everyone pulls out their lighters, and the bartender rushes to the breaker box to figure it out. About a minute after the power turned on, a particularly intoxicated patron bumped into one of the speaker stands, and it fell on Tyler’s drum kit and grazed his head. Luckily, it didn’t hit him square in the dome, or this would be a story about a hospital visit. At this point, we were about ready to say, “You know what? We tried, but obviously the universe doesn’t want us to play tonight.” But no. We don’t give up. Ever. We ended up playing to a packed room, which was awesome.