A bit of last-minute wisdom from my friend Big Dave, the World’s Oldest Roadie (he’s not), the Guy Who Threw Up on Hendrix’s Shoes (he didn’t), a fellow who, despite his often-overblown rep, actually knows a thing about tough jobs.
It started when Dave asked me why I never say, “Fine” or “Okay” or “Pretty good” when someone asks how it’s going. I explained my Theory of Guardian Angels: Yes, everyone has one, and they are as lazy, lying and buck-passing as the humans they oversee. The last thing you ever want to say is that things are going great, because your guardian angel will instantly wander off and forget about you.
He nodded. “This gig sucks,” he declared.
To my raised eyebrow, he said, “The minute you say, ‘This will do, I guess,’ they start taking stuff away. The gig sucks. Always. Especially when it’s getting good.”
I learned the nuances of Dave’s understanding of sucking gigs over time. Sometimes, as when we pulled up to the stripper convention on Padre to find the stage already set up and the generators humming, I understood, “This gig sucks” to mean, “This could be really good, but don’t jinx it.”
Other times, times when there proved to be no circuits hotter than 15 amps in a hall seating thousands or no sign of anyone’s name on the hotel reservation, “This gig sucks” was a warning signal.
It means, “Do we have iso transformers? Surge protectors? The company credit card?”
”This gig sucks” can mean anything from, “If this gets any better, I don’t know what I’ll do” to “Heads up, shit’s hovering and not afraid to come down, soon and hard.”
Tonight, tomorrow, it’s show time. No matter how good or bad it looks, that’s not our business. Our job is to check every list, check in with everyone on the crew, remember what we know and run the set.
Maybe, if we’re lucky, afterwards we can sit back and think about a show perfectly timed and executed, an audience heading home amazed and utterly ignorant of what went into what they just saw, and then we might pop open a cold beverage and reflect, “Totally sucked.”
If we’re lucky. This gig sucks, friends.