Here’s a painfully great gig story from Brayden Wise, the bassist for the Central Band of the Canadian Forces. It’s the first submission I’m putting out in conjunction with the raffle for a free Upton bass pickup. If you’d like to be a contestant in the raffle, just email me your worst gig story (personal or heard second-hand) by March 15. You can send them to jasonheath -at- doublebassblog.org.
Gig Story from Brayden Wise
When I lived in Vancouver, I played with the Pacific Symphonic Wind Ensemble (http://www.pswe.ca) under the direction of Marc Crompton. One of the things I loved about playing with PSWE was that we always got to play some really bleeding-edge wind band music. Sure, we did the classics — Grainger, Claude T. Smith, etc, but we also got a chance to have at stuff by guys like Adam Gorb and Fred Stride, and play wind band (and chamber-winds) adaptations of Zappa, and so on.
This particular show in question featured a tune by Robert Jager called “A Sea of Glass Mingled With Fire”, which was originally a commission for the Tacoma Concert Band. The second movement of this tune is quite peaceful and pastoral, unlike the bookending movements which are a little more on the “fire” side of the title. In any case…
I was just out of college at the time, working a low-paying job in a high-rent city, and couldn’t afford great gear, but the stuff I had sounded wonderful, and worked for me. The bass I was playing that night was a Chinese plywood bass (I can hear the groans already!) which was seemingly made out of balsa wood and put together with Elmer’s glue. Despite its (many) shortcomings, it had an amazing sound to it, and was ridiculously easy to play. That is, until the quietest part of the aforementioned piece.
The score was down to just a few players, and they were all at the low end of the dynamic spectrum, when this earth-splitting cracking noise came from my bass.
This cracking noise was followed in quick succession with the sound of wood clattering on the stage.
I looked down, and wouldn’t you know it, my tailpiece wire had snapped and my bridge had fallen onto the floor.
My bass had basically gutted itself onstage at the LEAST opportune moment.
Panic gripped me quickly as I realized that we were only coming up to intermission and I was now bass-less. Irrational (and terrifying) thoughts of my soundpost falling over started to enter my mind, so I laid my bass on its back and hoped for the best. Mercifully, the third movement of “A Sea of Glass…” is played on Electric Bass, so I calmed my nerves, strapped on the electric, and played the end of the half.
At the start of intermission, my friend Roy Sluyter (a fantastic Vancouver-based jazz pianist and recording engineer) comes bounding down the aisles and just says “Get your keys — let’s go”.
We jump into my car and split from the theatre. Now, I have to fill you in on Vancouver geography. The show was being held at the Evergreen Cultural Centre in Coquitlam. Roy lived in Port Moody — about a 15-minute drive away. Now, especially as a father, I don’t condone driving like this, but Roy and I managed to drive from the ECC to his house in PoMo, get the double bass that just *happened* to be sitting in his living room, jam it into my hatchback, and get back to the ECC in time to tune up and play the second half of the show.
It was through this experience that I got acquainted with Gerard Samija, who became my luthier of choice for the rest of my time in Vancouver. Gerard did a wonderful job of rehabilitating my instrument and it’s still working well for me to this day.
Bassist – The Central Band of the Canadian Forces