I can't say this is an amusing tale (it's one of the weird ones), but it certainly has made for a lot of story telling and reminiscing between the people that were actually present and got out unscathed! Call it our very own mini-Altamont.
The band had gotten an offer to play at a field party, in Warrenton, a suburb of Washington DC that, at the time, was out in the "sticks" as opposed to a fully developed suburban area as it is today. I'm not really sure who actually got the invitation to play and whether or not they knew that the guy throwing the party was a member of a biker gang (no offense to bikers, we've played at so-called "biker bars" and had some of the best times we had ever had; however, these particular guys turned out to be ranked in the "no sense of humor" department). We of course said "yeah, we'd love to play", so we packed up our stuff and headed out to play on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.
We set up our equipment in a large meadow that was part of the guy's farmland. It was an absolutely beautiful environment, green grass, large trees, and the day complied as well, warm and breezy, not too hot. Man, we were in for a great time. We hung out for a couple of hours before we started playing. We had brought food, drink and other items of entertainment with us. We were having a great time just sitting around bull-shitting and enjoying ourselves. We set up our equipment, did some checking of the sound to make sure we would be ok when it came time to play and returned to just hanging out. The coolest part of the equipment was that our keyboard player had brought along his tape deck, which was equipped with an echo unit. I remember the generation of really cool psychedelic sounds (remember, this was 1977, way before the digital effects era of today). We were really on the cutting edge!
The first sign of the possibility that the day might not be heaven-sent was when several bikers showed up (which in itself was no problem), but unfortunately they were brandishing ax handles. Somehow we thought ax handles were a strange thing to bring to a party and we didn't think the ax handles were to help them do anything in particular, except maybe help them in beating the shit out of somebody. We were concerned but still OK when the first several people arrived with ax handles, but as more arrived it seemed to be one of those 'foreboding' signals that things might not go the way we actually had planned. This is still to this day, the last party I have attended where a large portion of the attendees came sporting ax handles.
Well, the afternoon progressed and most of the audience turned out to be, for lack of a better word, "roughnecks" (putting it lightly). Basically it seemed like their idea of a good time was getting as drunk as possible while finding someone to beat the hell out of. We wound up actually playing some good rock music (which can soothe the soul of even the harshest beast) and we all considered ourselves lucky that we were in the "band". In case you don't know, there are actually some times in life when being in the "band" is a GOOD thing, if the audience likes what you're playing. Since our rowdy audience seemed to be pleased with what we were playing, we seemed to be deemed "OK" by the crowd. This was a good thing.
By the time dusk was rolling around, we found that everyone that had come with the band was sitting BEHIND the band so as not to be involved in the general fracas that was the audience that evening. Hoards of rowdies (male, female, made no difference) made up our entire audience. We could hear females screaming in the distance (whether it was from pleasure or pain was not necessarily obvious) and volleys of gunfire. One of the people with the band got up and made a great speech about how violence wasn't cool and everyone should just be peaceful and enjoy themselves. We wondered how long he would last before getting hit in the mouth, but as I remember, he finished his speech unharmed, but then joined the rest of our entourage behind the band. It also didn't hurt that he was nowhere near being in a clear-headed state to begin with.
My most prevalent memory of actually playing music was looking back on the ground while playing one of our songs and seeing our bass player playing bass while lying on the ground. The reason he was lying on the ground was because he was too drunk to actually stand up and play simultaneously. I remember his smiling face, lying on the ground, doing a decent job at keeping up with the song even though his mind was nowhere to be found!
Well, things at the 'party' just kept getting worse. We finally stopped playing when the police department showed up at the gates to the property. The disturbing thing to us was that the police had no intention of entering the property, probably for fear of a general shoot-out. In the distance, we could hear what sounded like a large group of people basically destroying someone's car (sounds of laughter, screaming, bending and grating metal, and breaking glass comprised the sounds of this symphony from hell). The singer and I were discussing our situation with a party-goer and indicated that we weren't really comfortable with the fact that we could hear fairly regular gunfire. The party-goer laughed and said, "Hey no problem, I'll protect you" as he pulled out a pistol from his jacket and showed it to us. I don't remember exactly feeling better about the situation. We excused ourselves from this gentleman and began packing up our equipment!
Somehow we managed to get our equipment packed up and were able to leave without being harassed by either party people or the police. I really don't remember how we pulled this off. I think all of the partyers were too involved in the fun they were having to notice that the band was packing up and leaving. I never felt so good as when I could look in my rear view mirror and see the party site gradually disappear (although the flashing lights of the police cars lasted a while!)
We found out the next day that the guy who threw the party was in the hospital after being knifed. Turned out that it was at least a paying gig . . . .