As the world begins to open up again, there’s a fair chance you’ll have found yourself back behind your kit performing in front of an audience. Whether it’s a boozy night of covers in your local, a slick function band, or the chance to get back out there with your originals project, we’ve all missed gigging.
But it’s not just the time spent on stage that makes gigs so memorable, it’s the characters you’ll inevitably meet along the way and the situations ranging from triumphant, to desperate, to downright surreal that help make playing live gigs so much fun.
Here, we’re examining just 10 of the most commonly-spotted personalities that you’re likely to come across on any given weekend. Some of them welcome, some of them less-so, but regardless, without them it’d be way less fun!
1. The Stand Up
First, this is a complete misnomer, as The Stand Up is exclusively sat on a bar stool apart from when they walk to the bog. They’ve got you covered with well-rehearsed gags, though, kicking-off with “What’ve you got in there, a body?” upon watching you struggle up the steps to the stage with your hardware bag.
But it’s soundcheck where this joker really comes alive. “There’s somebody at the door!”, they’ll yell as you follow the engineer’s instructions to hit the bass drum, before hilariously clapping immediately after every hit and shouting "Ouch!" as you get the level for the snare.
Just be thankful you’re not the vocalist, as the closing line of The Stand Up’s bit relies on a perfectly-timed “3…4, 5, 6!”. Silence them with a rimshot that could shatter glass.
2. The Have-a-go Hero
Look out! A stag-do has just arrived and soon-to-be Best Man, Johno thinks it would be ‘mad bants’ if you’d be so kind as to allow the man of the hour and all-round Absolute Lad, Gaz, a go on your Collectors Series during the break.
"He's “S**t hot” you're told, and - confusing his brief stint in a covers band with the career trajectory of a Premier League footballer - “nearly turned pro once”. Think fast, mumble something about public liability and noise limiters, and hope that the bar runs out of Jäegerbombs before the end of your first 45 minutes.
3. The Record Collector
This punter doesn’t play, but is a student of music listening, and they’d like you to know. From the ’78 Queen tour t-shirt that used to fit, to the story about the time they met Jools Holland in their mate’s pub, this cat has decided that them having been born at the right time to see all your favourite bands for £2.50 before they were famous means you’re an idiot.
Despite there being 30 songs in your set, they’ve homed-in with laser focus on the fact that Bonham “Didn’t play it like that on the BBC Sessions version”.
4. The Borrower
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When you took this gig, you were over the moon at being confirmed headliners. The best slot, the longest set, guaranteed adoration. But you’re also now responsible for providing the kit for the night.
The promoter promises you that they contacted every band on the bill informing them to bring a nondescript selection of ‘breakables’, but clearly the empty handed drummer walking this way with their eyes fixed on your cymbal bag didn’t get the memo.
Give them a chance to explain how they’ve come straight from work/couldn’t get into the practice place/dog ate their Iron Cobra, then wait for the inevitable request to use not only your shells, but snare, cymbals, pedal and stool too. Count to 10 and refrain from sarcastically asking “Do you need my sticks too?”, because you already know that the answer is ‘Yes’.
5. The Enthusiast
Seemingly basing themselves on The League Of Gentlemen’s Les McQueen, you’ll be able to spot this one early. That’s because they’ve heard there’s a band on tonight, dug-out their Premier bomber jacket, and got to the venue early so as not to miss an opportunity to talk shop.
From the moment the cases leave your car, to the point of soundcheck, your new best friend will be on hand to make the time setting-up those cymbal stands fly by, with questions about your tuning, pointers on kit placement and facts about why they prefer their cymbal brand to yours.
Get ready to hear some tales of the road that don’t go anywhere, and prepare a safe word with your bandmates before your break.
6. The Local Legend
A distant relative of The Enthusiast, this active-yet-slightly-insecure musician projects themselves as ‘the guy’ around your town thanks to their band once achieving a support slot with Toploader, and has graced you with their presence during a rare night off from gigging.
By playing on their turf, you’ve entered the arena, and now the gauntlet has been thrown down, at least that’s how they see it. You can spot them, arms folded watching your technique as you play, waiting to see if you play the hi-hat on Superstition with one hand or two, and air-drumming along to let everyone around them know that they also play.
Stick with it, because at the end of the night they’ll present you with their evaluation. What's the verdict? You couldn’t care less, because you have 30 minutes to pack up, leave and get to the garage while they still have a Ginsters.
7. The Quiet One
Let’s face it, drums are loud. But if there’s one environment where being loud is allowed, it’s at a gig. Wrong! So says The Quiet One, who helpfully interrupts between songs to tell the rest of your band that the drums are too loud.
Even though you’ve done everything you can with tuning, muffling, resorting to playing with rods, this punter refuses to accept that your light feathering of the bass drum is anything other than ‘Boom, boom, boom!” And that they “Can’t hear the words!”.
Fear not, as during the break this human noise-limiter will treat you to the revelation that a band played last week with a drum machine and a cajon, and they "Could barely hear the difference”.
8. The Requester
You’ve worked hard, spent countless hours in the practice room perfecting the nuances of the Herta, getting your head around polyrhythms and nailing double-time ride patterns in 5/4.
But even though the poster clearly states that you’ll be presenting an evening of jazz-fusion, one audience member has decided they want to hear not but Bloke-oke. With a Spotify account quite literally littered with landfill indie, the only Weather Report they're interested in hearing is Why Does It Always Rain On Me?
To ignore them is to encourage them, as now they've found an audience of their own, waiting in anticipation for the shout of “Coldplay!” between every song. You’d laugh, but this clown is getting more applause than the band, and more fool you for not insisting on that modal version of Seven Nation Army.
9. The Surly Engineer
Let's be clear, the engineer is a friend to the band in the live battleground, you need to keep the engineer on-side. After all, they’re ultimately responsible for whether or not you sound good, and if you really upset them they have the power to beam feedback directly into your in-ears.
Except tonight, the engineer isn’t happy. Someone brought a glass of water on stage, your floor tom is growling like a dog and they're the only person in the world you haven’t told about that hybrid setup you spent six hundred quid on, while simultaneously overlooking the need for jack leads.
To make matters worse the guitarist has just asked if there’s any way of recording the set, and the engineer's face has turned redder than your Evans Hydraulics. But be nice. They'll get their revenge later by refusing to let you leave until you demonstrate the correct way to coil an XLR cable in front of your bandmates.
10. The One-Man Moshpit
This crowd member is a loveable ally, and will remain lurking tentatively until the convergence of two key factors: 1. exactly the right amount of booze and, 2. Mr Brightside.
Watch them run to the dancefloor shouting “F**k yeah!” upon hearing the opening notes, bellow their way through the wrong lyrics of the verses, before raising one finger in the air for the chorus.
The One-Man Moshpit won’t normally dance for love nor money, but now, he will take control of the room for you and ensure that the dance floor is full, gathering his clan with locked arms to jump up and down with him.
From here on out, he’ll get your attention between songs by pointing and shouting ‘Drummer!’ at random, while instructing you to get funky like he’s James Brown after 100 bench presses and 8 pints. Just don’t expect to leave without playing at least three more songs than you intended now that the beast has been awoken.