Every band has one: the story of a completely disastrous train wreck of a show. And how the band chooses to handle such a catastro-gig can reveal a lot about them as people and musicians.
This week, Zack Lopez of Sacramento guitar/drums hard rock duo Middle Class Rut reflects on one such gig that took place almost exactly one year ago, at SXSW, where short sets, limited sound checks and battered PA’s can make every band’s set a bit of a high-wire act.
The train wreck shows are the ones you remember the most. Tours get so monotonous that without ’em you get too comfortable in whatever routine you have and things gets stale.
The most recent show like that was probably last year when we played a rooftop show at Maggie Mae’s during SXSW. They were trying to fit as many bands as they could into a tiny space and gave you no time between bands to set up and get things working. Which is fine, because anyone who’s ever been to SXSW knows that’s essentially what it is. But what happened is that it became more important that they stuck to their time schedule than it was to provide a legit place for bands to be heard.
We had left a headline tour that we were on to go play at SXSW, which already took a lot of excitement out of the situation. We loaded up and half my guitar rig decided to stop working, which is a problem for us because we’re a two-piece. None of their monitors were working and the PA was screaming with feedback yet you couldn’t hear anything that was coming out of it.
It was the kind of show that makes you feel like you just left your garage to play your first show. Between that and the concrete slab they called a stage, there was nowhere to pull inspiration from except anger. All you can do is play harder and scream louder and try and sound even shittier than they’re already making you sound.
Show ends, you walk off and meet and talk to people who were really into whatever just happened up there despite everything you knew was wrong. It fucks with you. Whatever show you’re playing in your head is usually completely different than someone else’s perception.
You’ll always play these kinds of shows; that’s just how it goes. But sitting in a van for 12 hours to go do something like that makes you wonder where it all went wrong (ha).
Either way, I’d rather play a show like that than one that made me feel nothing. At least when things are that shitty, it pulls a reaction out of you. You should be more worried when you walk off stage completely unaffected.
Middle Class Rut are currently wrapping up some tour dates opening for Chevelle, then will begin their own headlining U.S. tour on April 14th. Their debut full-length album, No Name No Color, is out now on Bright Antenna Records. They are not appearing this year at SXSW.