“Hey Nash, I’ve totaled my car on I-40,” he said. “Holy shit. Are you okay?” I replied. Not the ideal way to start a gig with The Shakedown.
This post is actually a long-winded way of thanking two people. It’s also meant to be a reminder for us all that in a world where things often fall apart and people tend to let us down, sometimes people overcome great obstacles to follow through on a commitment. We take a lot for granted until chaos emerges from the darkness to lay waste to our plans. But first some context.
For me, the work of performing music at weddings is actually everything besides performing the music. Planning with clients, coordinators, venues, emceeing and the countless logistics of getting a band with 8 to 10 folks on stage at the same place on time is work. Once the band starts and all the other boxes are checked, I often close my eyes and come to three hours later, a sweaty mess, feeling the worn-out, yet delightful buzz of having landed the plane.
This weekend The Shakedown was gigging in Uptown Charlotte. My wife and I came down the night before to kick it with friends and avoid the stress of traveling from Raleigh straight to a Charlotte gig on rainy roads. Mike, our sound engineer, was scheduled to arrive at The Mint Uptown around 2:00 so we could have the stage set by 4:00. For those of you who don’t play music, basically a sound engineer is the person who runs the sound system or PA which enables the show to happen. No sound, no show, and no sound engineer to run said sound system, no show.
Mike called me at noon to inform me that shortly after leaving Durham he had totaled his car on I-40, luckily unscathed in the accident. Here’s how most people, myself included, would have reacted after a brush with disaster: “Sorry man, I’m done. You’ll have to figure something out. Best of luck with the show.” I would then have to figure out how to find a sound system with an accompanying engineer for a non-usurious rate in a town where I don’t know anyone in under 4 hours. Doubtful at best.
Here’s what happened instead. Mike works with long-time sound engineer David Jennings, who I’ve covered in a prior post. David lives in Durham and rents out several sound systems on any given weekend with Mike as the engineer for most of our shows. Mike’s wreck was fairly close to Dave’s house. Dave drives his family minivan to the scene of the accident and once the truck is out of the interstate to unclog traffic, then proceeds to transfer 1000 lbs. of his sound equipment out of Mike’s wrecked truck into his van so that Mike can drive the van the 2.5 hours to Charlotte in the pouring rain to make our gig as if nothing happened. Get out.
Prior to learning that these two guys had devised a solution to a really big problem, I had a flashback from my own wedding, where a key vendor called day-of to let me know he couldn’t make it because he too, wrecked his car. Our party was forced to improvise given he couldn’t make it. Shit happens. Having gone through the experience of contracting with a service provider on my own wedding only to learn they couldn’t make it, I never want to put one of my own clients through that headache, particularly on their wedding day. But what do you do when chaos ensues?
Mike and Dave didn’t roll over and they didn’t give up. For those of us in the special events industry, they displayed a level of professionalism way beyond anything I’ve ever seen. The Shakedown didn’t miss a beat and the clients had no clue that their wedding band almost missed their big night. It would have been completely understandable if Mike and Dave had buckled under the circumstances, but they didn’t. The next time you see someone or a group of people do something extraordinarily gritty in the face of chaos, make sure to thank them. And always take your time when driving in the rain.