Gig Stories: Sheeva’s?

This is the first of a series of blog posts called, “Gig Stories.” We all have our stories, of a gig gone wrong, a gig that you’d never want to experience again, a gig to look back on and laugh, etc. So here’s the first of many…

During my time at CSULB, I was looking for ways to be a gigging musician right out of college, and started looking for auditions, teaching positions, and other opportunities. A classmate recommended that I audition for this all female pop/cumbia band, led by his Colombian percussionist friend. I auditioned, got in the band as their drummer and started rehearsing and writing songs with them. We played a couple of gigs around LA, and one in particular I will never forget.

Blurred to keep bandmates anonymous

The percussionist and band leader, booked us a gig opening for her singer/songwriter friend. She said the gig was paid, and it was at some bar called “Sheeva’s,” from what I understood with her thick accent.

The day before the gig, I got a text from the band leader explaining all the details of the gig: load-in time, set time, backline, and most importantly, the address and name of the place. She explained that it was a bar in Hollywood called Cheetahs. I looked up the address and my mouth dropped.

Cheetahs was a strip club.

I panicked! I felt really uncomfortable about the idea so I called her to ask why she would book us at a strip club and not tell us what that place was. She explained that this would be a great way to network with and possibly do more opening spots with her friend, that we will  get paid, and it would look bad if we dropped out last minute and blah blah blah. So I regretfully agreed to do the gig anyway. She later texted the whole band that we were playing at a strip club.

The guitarist called me soon after, panicked too, said she would not have agreed to do this if she knew where we were playing. It turned out, none of the band members would have agreed to this.

The day of the gig, I didn’t want to arrive at the strip club alone, so I called my boyfriend at the time to join me. He wasn’t available that night, so I tried my two college buddies, Wilson and Albert. Wilson answered the phone with his usual grumpy demeanor,  “what the hell do you want?” I asked, “will you go to my strip bar gig with me tonight?” and he didn’t hesitate with an excited “hell yes I’m going and Albert is coming with us!” That was easy. I picked them up and managed to fit them in my little hatchback with drums.

We arrived at Cheetahs and I dreaded going inside. All I imagined were creepy old dudes waving cash as they gawked at the half naked women. I get inside and it was actually a nice looking bar that reminded me of a speakeasy with red lights and velvet everywhere. The strip dancers walked around the nearly empty bar in really skimpy bikinis. It didn’t seem so bad until we started setting up, on the catwalk, and I had to set up behind a dance pole.

People slowly started to arrive before our show. I sat next to Albert and Wilson while we waited but dancers kept coming on to them so I got up and sat somewhere else. I was amused to see my guy friends react to the half naked ladies teasing them.

We played the show and the girls played well. Dancers did their thing on the catwalk and luckily none of them came up to my dance pole. At one point I noticed Albert disappear from the audience, then later came out from one of the back rooms followed by a stripper. The singer/songwriter performed after us and honestly, he sucked.

After the show, the girls confronted the band leader about not telling us the details before booking the show. She apologized and made all kinds of promises. By the end of it all, none of us got paid for that gig, the singer/songwriter who supposedly would give us opening spots kept canceling our shows with him.

Months later, I quit the band. I felt that I didn’t get much out of this project other than having developed some cumbia chops and a story to tell.

Thanks for reading!

– Joan

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