Naomi Hall Talks About Her Worst Gig Ever

Category: Songwriter Stories

Ever book a show at a place you never heard of just because you're excited you finally got a gig? And then once you get there, you see a teenager unloading an instrument out of a car with a dad in the driver's seat saying, "good luck at your first show, son!" Well, that didn't quite happen to me, but it came pretty close.

To begin with, let's be honest. What am I?

I am an avant-garde, weird, silly song girl
I don't write songs you're going to hear on the radio
I don't write songs that make sense to sing at a bar (unless it's an oxygen bar)
I write songs about fruit and pasta and enjoy covering Syd Barrett songs

Essentially, I write the kind of music that makes you want to laugh

So I had played live only a handful of times before one of my first shows in Seattle several years ago. I was pretty nervous because I was sure I had been booked with the wrong crowd -- hardcore punk and rock bands with 4-5 members. Then here I am -- the 3-piece piano songstress group with a guitarist, a MacBook, and a badass drum machine guy.

That's right -- drum machine, baby. No live drums here because that's how I rolled back then!

I am the first band to arrive to the venue, promptly 3 hours before my starting time. I inquire about being given the opportunity to sound check. I'm given the glance over and then asked where my drummer is. "I don't have one," I say, "I have a drum machine." The guy nods and says to hold on a bit. Then the other bands arrive. Immediately, the headlining band is starting their sound check and this goes on for 45 minutes. Then the opening band gets to sound check for 30 minutes. And whaddya know -- it's time for the show to start!

The opening band was loud and awesome yet I'm positive all 4 guitarists were plugged into chorus pedals to sound like 8 guitars instead. By the time I had to start, I was already "late" by 15 minutes because the opening band played extra but of course, I was told that I still only had until 10pm. This gave me 30 minutes total -- including setup and breaking down around everyone else's equipment. Gotta make it good...right?

Admittedly nervous and frustrated, I start the set with "Out of Me." Anyone who had moved closer to the stage to check me out had already disappeared back to the bar. This song is not popular live. We move onto "This Breath Breathed."Ho-hum, ho-hum. Then I sing "Until I Drown" and I guess the explicit lyrics caught people's attention. The crowd takes notice that someone is on-stage and isn't singing punk. I shouldn't be surprised that a song about drowning in *** is going to cause people to listen. In what felt like the longest 15 minutes ever, I forget what I opened up the set with. We proceed to end with "Out of Me."

Halfway through the song, I realize I am singing the same song twice. The same song that drove people to drink. At this point, my mind came up with the following solutions:

  • Finish the song at super high speed like a chipmunk and get off stage
  • Finish the song at the same speed I did 15 minutes ago and get off stage
  • Stop the song and get off stage

Which one did I go with? NATURALLY I WENT WITH OPTION 3. Did I learn anything from stopping mid-song in a panic and running off stage just because I sang the same song twice? Yes. I learned that:

  • Not all bands are entitled to sound checks, so if you don't get one, don't get all mongo-bumbly-brain-cray-cray over it
  • Repeating songs in 15 minutes can happen when you don't follow a playlist, so follow a playlist
  • Figure out similar sounding bands to perform with so you don't stick out like a sore something to the audience

I had very patient and accommodating band members back then.

I am going to start playing my music live again to help promote "Honeymoon On Neptune." In the meantime, I am happy filling the role of bassist and/or keyboardist in other bands and not being in charge of scheduling band practices...and booking shows.