Bunch Of Fives: Waste Of Space | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Sunderland’s energetic punk-rockers, Waste of Space are set to release their fourth record on 18th October. To celebrate their two-track release entitled, You’re all so ignorant to the love I’ve got, and their time as a band, they’ve prepared a retrospective of horrible gigs where they unwittingly architected their own downfall, in an effort to prevent emerging bands from making the same mistakes. 

Every band has horror stories, but in the early days you have to accept that things will go wrong. It gives you an opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them before you start getting high-profile gigs where a lot of eyes are on you. By that point, you’re experienced enough to deal with the common pitfalls of being in a band, or at least you hope you are. 

Here are five gigs where things went horribly wrong and it was all our fault:

Our equipment turned on us
There are provisions you can make to prevent having equipment nightmares at gigs. As a guitarist, you should practise quick string changes to mitigate the awkwardness between songs when you inevitably snap one on stage. I’m all fingers and thumbs though, so I’ve always been a fan of bringing along a backup guitar just to speed up the process. Fool-proof, right?

When we supported Goy Boy Mcilroy at Pop Recs in Sunderland, technology conspired against us to ruin our performance from the first song. A snapped string put a dent in our opening tune, while a slick guitar change revealed major intonation issues during the second. It sounded dreadful. Two songs down and the audience had already stopped clapping. 

While the lovely fellas at Pop Recs were kind enough to offer up one of their guitars for the rest of our set, the remaining songs were marred by a clicky bass and a perforated snare drum skin to ensure a humiliating climax. It was excruciating, but a reminder to always keep your kit maintained and to wear in your new strings before a gig. At least we turned up with the right equipment though…

No kit, no gig
As well as being for a good cause, all-day charity gigs can be a brilliant way to discover other local bands outside your genre, as they tend to be quite eclectic. They also tend to be quite chaotic. While all done in good faith, we’ve played so many charity gigs organised by someone who’s never put on a gig before, and the organisation tends to reflect that.

When we arrived in Durham to rock the 4.30pm slot in a venue not designed or set up for live music, the absence of a house drum kit was an unwelcome surprise. There were 12 bands booked to play over the course of 8 hours, so changeovers would need to be pretty sharp. Fortunately, we were wedged between two acoustic artists, so it seemed pretty painless. Unfortunately, we hadn’t brought any drum equipment aside from cymbals and breakables.

While the tech spec ahead of the event clearly stated there would be a house kit available all day, an updated tech spec sent on the morning of the gig would reveal there was in fact no house kit available and bands would be expected to bring their own. We had to leave the venue with our tails between our legs, shimmying our equipment between tables of people eating their tea in an otherwise lovely bar/restaurant. 

What’s more, with load-in leading onto a busy shopping street, we ended up scraping the car against a lamp post trying to get out of there with our dignity still in tact. Needless to say, no dignity was retained that day. Always read the tech spec, and always check your emails in the hours leading up to a gig.

A moderately attended gig in PURE, Sunderland got a whole lot more interesting when a group of around 15 drunk women in their mid-thirties piled in while we were setting up. They immediately got involved, asking us to do Bryan Adams songs and offering to play the triangle in our percussion section. You know, the type of stuff you really enjoy as a live band.

When one of them tried to get on stage to strum along with us, I knew I had to try to manage their behaviour a little bit, but unfortunately resorted to playground insults. The ring leader, Jo Strummer herself, was wearing a red tartan skirt that fit her like a glove. When I told her that she ‘looked like a shortbread’, she was so offended that she quickly left the bar with her shoes in her hands, her squad following shortly after.

The idea of playing live is to play to an audience. Not only did we drive away the crowd, but probably cost the bar hundreds of pounds in the process. Fortunately, the manager saw the funny side, but then he doesn’t manage a bar anymore these days. It should be a given, but don’t insult the audience, even if you are just comparing their aesthetic to a delicious buttery Scottish biscuit.

Business casual
We used to have a song called ‘Business Casual’, which gave birth to an ongoing joke that we’d eventually do a gig in business casual attire. Business up top, with a smart shirt and tie ensemble. Casual down below, with a pair of floral/Hawaiian-pattern swim shorts and flip flops. It seemed like a really good idea until we actually did it.

We were playing at The Corner Flag in Sunderland, at a gig where two adjoining rooms hosted a number of bands throughout the evening, staggered so the crowd would get to see both with virtually no waiting around for changeovers. It was great until things started overrunning, meaning we were going on just as the headliners of the other room were setting up.

If our dodgy uniform wasn’t enough to drive away the punters, the devastatingly heavy riffs from the fantastic Ashes of Iron in the other room made it a simple decision. If you’re already up against it, don’t give the audience a good reason to think you’re a bunch of jokers; at least not one as clear and tangible as a pair of Hawaiian shorts.

Definitely maybe not
We secured a gig supporting a Sunderland band whose songs sounded like Oasis songs played backwards. Naturally, they were really popular in Sunderland. After we sound checked, a few of the lads from that band approached us to ask if we’d mind going on a little earlier than advertised so they could have a longer set. This wouldn’t have been a problem, they were the headline band after all and the crowd would be there to see them, only the time they were asking us to go on was before doors even opened.

They must have misinterpreted our confusion as a sign of arrogance or ungratefulness, as when we refused to go on before the gig had even officially started, they took the huff with us. When we did go on stage to a reasonably full room of their mates, we saw them have quiet words with their pals before leading them all out of the gig room to a different bar. Astonishingly petty. 

There isn’t a lesson to learn from this one really, just be wary of which bands out there are only in it for themselves and don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and others when you feel all is not right. It’s the difference between playing to an empty room and playing to an empty room that used to be full of bad haircuts. The latter is far more satisfying.

Waste of Space’s new record, You’re all so ignorant to the love I’ve got is available from Friday 18 October on all platforms.

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