It seems as though every musician, band, and general artist has an unending supply of stories concerning the trials and tribulations of pursuing their craft. Most of these tend to be horror stories, usually taking place while on the road. The problem with these tales is that they usually end up falling under the category of “cliché”. Because of the reoccurring and tired themes, they end up sounding like some sort of Spinal Tap sub plot; but there is a very good reason why these tired stories get retold again and again: because the really do happen... all the time.
I speak from firsthand experience, having personally dealt with many “rock n roll clichés”, time and time again. Vans breaking down; promoters screwing you out of money; showing up to shows that end up not actually existing; stolen gear, and my personal favourite, bandmates getting too drunk to perform. That last one, while being something that always infuriates me when it happens, is a cliché I've been guilty of on more than one occasion.
When I was 19, my band BONGJOVI had our first show, an all-ages show, at a local firehall. I was the only one who was of age and didn't have to be in school all day beforehand, so I bought myself a quart of Jack Daniels and waited. By the time the guys showed up to bring me to load-in, I was sitting on the couch with my head in a bucket. Understandably enough, the band was pretty pissed, but performed instrumentally that evening, telling the crowd that I had come down with food poisoning.
Other occurrences can end up being more out of the control of band members. In the summer of 2014, my band, The Human Comedy, was heading towards the Confederation Bridge at 3 a.m., on the way home from a fairly successful weekend playing on Prince Edward Island. About 20 minutes away from the bridge, the hood of the van began spouting thick smoke. Of course, the van broke down and we ended up having to use nearly all the money we had just made to remedy the situation the best we could.
We spent the night in a hotel and probably nearly 13 hours of the next day sitting in the hotel parking lot trying to track down a mechanic who was open on both a Sunday and a holiday. It was our last show of the summer before I moved away to Ottawa, and it almost felt fitting that we would be met with the mother of all band clichés: van troubles. It almost felt like “making it”.
And that's pretty much the only way you can look at situations like that. You have to laugh and think “I can't believe this is happening, but of course it's happening." Honestly, if your band isn't running into a series of tired old clichés, maybe you aren't doing it right. These stories are essentially rites of passage and should be collected and worn like twisted, whiskey-soaked merit badges from the loudest, shittiest scout troop.
David Haddad is an aspiring writer and musician who has been playing in bands since the age of fifteen. As a second year Professional Writing student at Algonquin College, David attempts to balance school while maintaining his band, The Human Comedy, in Moncton, NB.