Dave Holmes

It's Only Music!

It's Only Music!

Last Saturday night I depped on ‘We Will Rock You’ at the Dominion Theatre. As both the contracted guitarists were off, it fell to me to play the solo to Bohemian Rhapsody on stage at the end of the show in front of 2000 Queen fans. If I haven’t done it for a few months its pretty nerve-wracking. Its such a famous, recognisable solo, you cant really get it wrong! But, I’ve played this solo two or three times on stage over the last few weeks and felt much more comfortable about doing it yesterday. 



It works like this. Near the end of the show, one of the sound crew hands you a receiver pack. You clip it to your belt, plug in your in-ears (headphones) and do the remainder of the show using the pack, rather than your headphones being physically connected to your individual monitor desk.


At the end of the ‘Bows’ music, you check your tuning, unplug your guitar and make your way from the playing area, down the stairs to the stage. A member of the sound crew hands you a lead, you plug in and you’re ready to go. In the meantime another sound tech has connected you to your amp again via a DI box.


When the time came, I strode onto the stage, stopped on the mark and let rip....only nothing happened. No sound at all. I’m telling you now, there are fewer worse feelings than standing on stage in front of a theatre full of Queen fans, surrounded by the WWRY cast, helplessly, silently plucking those strings. Was it something I’d done? The lead was plugged in, volume was up, the right pickups were selected. So nothing I had any control over. Slight relief, but what to do? Walk off, carry on miming and pretend everything was fine? Before I could decide, the sound in my headphones changed and I realised the guitar was live at last. I managed to play the last couple of bars before throwing up my arms in what I hoped was an ironic ‘DA-DA’ gesture.


The two sound girls who greeted me in the wings were subjected to a volley of expletives (sorry about that, just letting off a bit of steam!). They apologetically explained a dodgey DI box was to blame. Still feeling utterly pissed off, the song finished and the band took a bow, which only seemed to add to my humiliation. I pretended to break the guitar across my knee as if the instrument had been at fault. In the heat of the moment it all seemed like a big deal. 


I guess most performers can get agitated when things dont go to plan. It’s a combination of  being perfectionists, wanting to show what we’ve practised so hard to do and not wanting to get shown up in front of an audience. The thing to remember is that gear fails and we all make mistakes occasionally and no matter how important it seems at the time, it rarely matters. Other musicians are understanding and empathetic and audiences either dont notice or dont mind. If anything, they’re pleased to witness a unique, spontaneous, warts and all performance, rather than a slick, faultless one.


Lee Morris was depping on drums and we were chatting about it afterwards. He got me out of my pissed off state and brought back a sense of perspective as he reassuringly quipped, “It’s only music”. Thanks Lee!

Dave Holmes 26/03/2012

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© 2012 Dave Holmes

Dave Holmes