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When Nature Calls
All Rights Reserved © 1996 Duncan R Fry
Our bodies are all regulated by unseen forces and rhythms of nature. We all have to listen when nature calls, and it's been my experience that she usually comes calling about halfway through the second set!
It's not so bad if you're the lighting guy or the sound engineer down there in the Front of House bunker - in an absolute emergency one of the audience can always babysit things while you zip off to strain the potatoes, but it's not as easy as that for the band playing away up there on the stage. In the excitement of the gig, with the adrenalin rushing through the body, all of a sudden they must regret having that couple of pre gig beers that are being metabolised through their system at amazing speed! I suppose punk bands back in the 70's could have just dropped their pants and had a quick leak on the audience, but that sort of thing is frowned upon by most club managers these days.
There's really no option but to grin and bear it, since the band can hardly put their instruments down and wander off the stage.
Or can they?
Some years ago we were doing the sound for a group of Irish folksingers, who played beautiful sentimental tearjerking songs that the hopeless romantic expatriates in the audience could cry into their drinks to. They were talented musicians, very friendly and easy to get along with, and very keen on absorbing as much Australian culture as possible in the short time they were here.
And as far as they were concerned, Aussie culture consisted of copious amounts of Vitamin F (a.k.a. Foster's Lager).
Jeez those guys could drink. Every one of them could put it away like there was no tomorrow!
Anyway, I was sitting down with a couple of them before the show, and thought I'd get us all a drink. The waitress came over, I indicated the three of us and said to her "Three beers, thanks."
"Oi'll have the same," said one of them.
"Me too," said the other!
With all this intake of beer, it was a foregone conclusion that what went in would sooner or later have to come out.
How are they ever going to get through the gig, I wondered to myself, but I needn't have worried, because the boys had it all worked out.
There were six of them in the band, but as I watched the show I suddenly realised what was going on. Once the first song was over, there were only ever five of them on stage at the one time! One of them was always slipping away to splash the boots!
A song would finish, they'd all stand around waving their arms and bowing, and one of them would slip away unnoticed and make a dash for the toilets backstage. Then, having thoroughly watered the horses, he would stand by the side of the stage until the song finished, usually sipping away on a fresh brown trout while he waited. During the applause at the end of the song he would slip back on stage while one of the others would do the same trick.
The audience never seemed to notice. I guess one bearded guy in a check shirt holding a guitar or banging a tambourine and singing maudlin ditties looks much the same as another.
At the end of the night they would invite family members, the support band, and various people from the audience up on stage with them. Then, when everyone was clapping and cheering, the missing band member would slip back on stage and no-one seemed to notice that there was one more person in the band.
It was a slick, well rehearsed trick. I was mightily impressed!
This story first appeared in Connections magazine