Grand Funk Railroad Grand Funk Railroad

In Homer Simpson's wounded musical lament, he asks a younger generation, "Nobody knows the band Grand Funk? The wild, shirtless lyrics of Mark Farner? The bong-rattling bass of Mel Schacher? The competent drum work of Don Brewer? Oh, Man! " Fortunately, many fans do remember the rock power trio from Flint, Michigan. Best known for the chart-topping singles "We're an American Band" and "The Loco-Motion," as well as the classic rock radio staples "I'm Your Captain (Closer to Home) " and "Some Kind of Wonderful," Grand Funk Railroad earned the distinction of selling out New York's massive Shea Stadium in a mere 72 hours during the height of the act's popularity.

"It was in Buffalo, New York, at Kleinhans Music Hall. It's a very famous place. It's one of those places that's acoustically perfect. You could put a violin player on the stage and every seat in the house is going to feel like they're right next to that violin. You could hear a pin drop. They put us on in that place as opening act for 'the solo artist Arlo Guthrie.' We come out, and even though this is early on, we're still very loud. We're probably the loudest band in America. With that audience, we cleared the place right out. They just couldn't take the volume. It was almost like the hall caught on fire, and people bolted for the exits. 'Aaaagh! Help! Run for your lives!' You can't put a loud rock band in a place like that, especially when the people are there to see a solo artist strumming an acoustic guitar. ... That's more of a promoter's worst gig."

- Don Brewer, Grand Funk Railroad

Death Cab For Cutie

Death Cab For Cutie

Since beginning as Ben Gibbard’s solo project in 1997, Death Cab for Cutie fashioned an instantly distinctive sound. Anchored by the guitarist’s soft-but-sincere voice, the Bellingham, Washington, quartet became exponents for a style of indie rock that paired serene melodies, candid lyrics, layered guitars and bob-and-weave rhythms. Memorable tunes include the shuffling memoir “Grapevine Fires,” the hypnotic, Grammy-nominated “I Will Possess Your Heart” and the acoustic ballad “I Will Follow You Into the Dark,” which seems to be among the most performed song at Millennials’ weddings. The group takes its name from a doo-wop parody tune created by The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band rendered in the 1967 Beatles film “Magical Mystery Tour.”

“We did a West Coast tour in 1998. There were so many terrible shows on that tour that it’s difficult to pin one down. I remember we were supposed to play outside in Fullerton, California. It was on campus and intended to be on this patio in a coffee shop. When we got to the show, not only did we realize the show was free – so we wouldn’t get paid – it was raining, so we had to play inside the coffeehouse. Chris (Walla) at the time had this little tiny amp. He plugged it in and hit one chord to test it. The kid who was putting on the show ran over and said, ‘What are you doing? That is too loud!’

“It precipitated into an almost-fight. Chris was like, ‘We’re a rock band. This is a rock show.’

“It was a series of negotiations because people were studying. But it was in that era of the band where you had to take whatever you could get. There was no Internet presence to tell everybody there was a band called Death Cab for Cutie and they had a really exciting record out so go see them. There was no Pitchfork culture – which in some ways was better.

“We came up in an interesting time. We were one of the last bands who were able to establish themselves over the course of a few albums before people even knew who we were. That made for some trying times. You were at the mercy of whether there was a college station nearby that was playing the record. Or there was a record store that actually stocked the record. In some ways, it’s much easier now. If somebody is doing brilliant work, they can immediately be discovered. Allowed to sink or swim based on their own merits. But I’m glad we came up at the time we did. If we were the people we were then now, I don’t think we’d survive over two or three records.

“I remember we finished the show but there was nobody there to see it. People were more upset because they were there to study. Mind you, this is also the night after a show where we showed up in Santa Ana, California, and we were berated for not bringing our own microphones. Apparently, people stole the microphones all the time. So we had to make a deal with one of the five hardcore bands that had been put on that bill. Because our name was Death Cab for Cutie, they thought we were a punk band.

“It was a crazy time. We didn’t know any better. We just went along with it.”

— Ben Gibbard, Death Cab for Cutie

alice-cooper2Alice Cooper

There would be no Kiss without him. No Rob Zombie. No Slipknot. And certainly no Marilyn Manson. Alice Cooper was and continues to be the undisputed father of shock rock, a title he's embraced since the late 1960s. The Detroit native and 2011 member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is best known for classic rock hits "School's Out," "I'm Eighteen" and "No More Mr. Nice Guy." And who could forget Cooper's immortal appearance playing himself in the film "Wayne's World."

"I don't think that we've ever done a bad show. I can say that honestly. I always design our shows so that there's no such thing as a bad show. The audience won't know if we play a bad show. We will, but they won't. But you get audiences sometimes that are just asleep. It don't care what you do, they just will not wake up. The worst one was at Guelph college in (Ontario) Canada, back in the '70s, where by the end of the fifth song we turned around and played to the walls. Then we found out that The Kinks were there the week before, and after about the fourth or fifth song they turned around and played to the walls. They did the exact thing we did, the audience was so dead. ... It's an agricultural college. The people were sitting in Samsonite chairs holding hands. 'Now here's Alice Cooper.' They just sat there and would not move. I didn't know if they were threatened, like, 'If you move you're going to get expelled or something.' Out of the thousands of shows we've played, that was the one show I can remember as being the worst show."

— Alice Cooper


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Assembled in the late 1970s at a Los Angeles junior high school when mandatory busing brought inner city kids to predominately white Valley schools, Fishbone notched a record deal with Columbia before all the members were out of high school. The ensemble delivered some of the most accomplished music of the pre-grunge era, mixing ska, metal, rap, funk, reggae, punk and soul into a boisterous jumble that was as entertaining as it was ambitious. Still together decades later -- powered by remaining founding members Angelo Moore (vocals, saxophone) and Norwood Fisher (bass) -- the group recently made front-page headlines when its song "Lyin' Ass Bitch" was played by the house band on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” to accompany the appearance of Republican presidential nominee Michelle Bachmann.

"There was a gig in our career before we were Fishbone, but we were the same six members. This is the gig that got us to change our name to Fishbone because we were called Megatron -- which we can all agree was a bad name. We had just gotten new management and he booked us at this club called The Music Machine in West L.A. He put us on this bill that was all heavy metal bands. The booker at the club thought -- based on our name --that this would fit. Maybe he thought we were Megadeth? We were doing what we do, and we did not fit with any of the bands. It was a horrible show. There were probably like eight people in the audience, and my grandmother was one of them. ... I'm starting to remember others. Again, this was with the original six guys early in our career. We had changed our name to Fishbone, and our manager got us a show to open a Trak Auto Parts store in Compton (California), playing the parking lot of a shopping center. No one booed us. No one threw anything at us. But we got the strangest looks. It was the wrong band in the wrong part of town doing the wrong music. For once we actually bothered people more than we brought joy into their hearts."

— Norwood Fisher, Fishbone

gracepotter3_kanrocksas_08042011Grace Potter and the Nocturnals

Grace Potter possesses one of the most commanding voices of any singer on the festival circuit. The multi-instrumentalist formed Grace Potter and the Nocturnals in 2002 while attending St. Lawrence University. Soon the Vermont-based act was logging 200 shows a year even before a proper record was released. The band's style has been described as "a modern-day version of Tina Turner stroking the microphone in a spangled mini-dress while fronting the Rolling Stones circa 'Sticky Fingers.'" In other media, the Nocturnals can be heard performing Jefferson Airplane's “"White Rabbit" on the companion soundtrack for Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland." And Potter wrote and performed "Something That I Want," the end credits track on Disney's animated hit "Tangled."

"We've been touring for I would say realistically -- nationally -- about six or seven years. And when we were just getting started, I have not just a worst gig but a worst tour. It's all connected.

"We were asked to go on tour with a huge star. Our booking agent was like, 'Well, what you're going to be doing is playing (as) the second-stage band. This particular star wants to have a very festivally vibe wherever he tours. So you'll be the band that's by the beer tent the whole time.'

"We were like, 'Oh, that's so great. We're on tour with so and so. This is going to be killer.'

"I think it was three months over the course of a summer. We just sort of picked up in major cities -- we're going from arena to arena. We'd look at our schedule, and it was like, 'Oh my God, it's the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre here, and the Nissan Center there, and the casino over here. This is gonna be great.'

"So we get there on the first day, and not only are we not in the beer tent area, we're actually in the parking lot. And the stage had no mic booms. It was meant to be we were gonna bring our own sound, I guess. Nothing was really advanced. So every single place we went we thought, 'Okay, so cool. We'll have our backstage passes, so at least we'll be able to go backstage.'

"Well, we found out the first day that not only were we not allowed backstage, we weren't allowed to park where the normal fans were allowed to park. We had to park offsite and walk our stuff on. So we were allowed to come in, pull up, unload our gear but then park our car offsite because we 'didn't want to get in the way of the fans.' So we'd have this mile walk between wherever the stage was, and we were supposed to bring our own sound.

"We fixed that problem, luckily, and by the end of the first day, at least there were mic booms onstage.

"And then there was the infamous Red Rocks. Three nights at Red Rocks (in Colorado), which was unbelievable. Finally, we got the invitation to go backstage after touring with this guy for several months. ... We were starving and poor, and they said, 'Sure, come get some catering or whatever.'

"So I got catering not just for me but the whole band because not everybody was allowed backstage; it was just me. So I come out of the catering area with every piece of food I could get. After three months of touring I felt like I earned this food, right? So I'm walking with all this food in my hands. I've got plate after plate after plate of lamb and all this good stuff. 'Wow, we haven't eaten this well in a long time.'

"I feed the band. Everybody's happy. It's the end of the night. The third night at Red Rocks. Of course, we weren't at Red Rocks on the main stage. We were up in a little baby tent somewhere. Then we continued on our tour. About a week later I got a phone call from my booking agent saying, 'Yeah, about that catering you took. I just got a $350 bill ...'

"It was just one thing after another. And every once in a while I tried to zip backstage and grab a shower. Sometimes I would sneak in. But one time the big star was walking down the hallway. So all this security locked down the hallway. They're like, 'We've got a bogey!' And I was the bogey ... because I was in the shower.

"So there's a security guard standing in front of the door not letting me out. I'm in a towel trying to get back out to my bus. ... I'm dripping wet. I don't have my hairdryer or anything with me because they said I could only be in there for like five minutes. So I'm hiding behind a door and there's a security guard literally telling me that I can't go anywhere.

"I said, 'Can I at least get out of the bathroom and get my clothing, which is in that other room?'

"I go into the other room, and the room is the catering area.

"I'm like, 'Oh sweet. Food.'

And the security guard goes, 'DON'T EAT ANYTHING!'

"It's like everywhere we went, we weren't supposed to be. It was three months of getting over red tape that we didn't even really want to get over. It was really humiliating, but it was also one of those moments where, 'The rock gods are testing us. They're asking us if we really want to be here.'"

— Grace Potter, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals

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Grace Potter Worst Gig

Cross Canadian RagweedCross Canadian Ragweed

Cross Canadian Ragweed was formed by singer Cody Canada, guitarist Grady Cross, drummer Randy Ragsdale and bassist Jeremy Plato -- its name derived from a combination of Cross, Canada and Ragsdale. The band honed its sound in the early '90s while based in Stillwater, Oklahoma. In 2001, the members relocated to Texas, where it developed a rabid following -- due in part to extensive touring -- before disbanding in 2010. The quartet became emblematic of the American Red Dirt movement known for merging country and rock.

"It was Gordon, Nebraska. It was the biggest shithole gig we've played. We'd been on a 7-week run. ... Everybody was missing home and missing families. We'd actually come home for one day for a friend of ours' birthday party. Then we turned around and went to Gordon, Nebraska. We'd just been there. It was under 100 miles from Sturgis (South Dakota), and we'd just played Sturgis. We thought, 'This better be a pretty kick-ass gig if we're taking two days off just to drive.'

"We got there and it was in an outside rodeo areana. The trailer we played on had particle board sides and roof, and they had gotten it stuck in all the cow shit and horse shit earlier that day. They were trying to pull the stage out and they swung shit all over -- so it was green, dried crap.

"They asked us to have a bite to eat because they were cooking steaks. We were sitting in the horse stall area, and there were flies buzzing all over the food. People were actually sitting in piles of horse shit.

"The guy walked up to our road manager and said, 'You know, Randy Travis said this is the worst gig he ever played.'

"We thought, 'Why the hell would you repeat that?'

"They were harping on us all day to play country-friendly songs for the crowd because there were a lot of older people there who were sponsors. But we said, 'You hired us, so we're going to play what we are.'

"Halfway through the set, the guy came up to our road manager and asked if we could finish the night playing nothing but Willie Nelson — which if it was our idea, we'd have done it.

"That was the worst gig ever. Usually our contract is 90 minutes, and we play 2 hours and 15 minutes. But that was one of those where right when the clock hits that 90 minute mark, 'We're out of here!'"

— Cody Canada, Cross Canadian Ragweed

phillip_glassPhilip Glass

Known for his cyclical song structures that rely on repetitive, arpeggio-heavy arrangements, Philip Glass is arguably the most renowned contemporary composer of the past few decades. This can be credited to a combination of his prolificacy and diversity. Glass' range has extended to symphonies, operas, musical theater, concertos, string quartets and dozens of film soundtracks. He's not only a three-time Oscar nominee (for scoring "Notes on a Scandal," "The Hours" and "Kundun"), but he also holds the distinction of being the only composer to ever appear as the featured musical guest on "Saturday Night Live."

"It's been so long since I played in clubs. But any time people are eating and drinking, that's a bad thing. Any musician will tell you that. It doesn't happen so much anymore. I'm kind of protected. But when it did, it was not very pleasant or inspiring."

— Philip Glass


Gillian Welch

After being exposed to Gillian Welch's music, a listener unfamiliar with the singer-songwriter might conjure a distinct mental picture of her. She is likely a Southerner who grew up in dirt-poor conditions. Learned to play guitar from her grandpappy. She wears a lot of gingham. In truth, Welch is a New York City native raised primarily in Los Angeles by parents who co-wrote the Emmy-winning musical numbers on "The Carol Burnett Show." The Grammy-winning Welch is now the poster child for a blend of neotraditional country and rustic folk that she dubs "American primitive." The list of performers she's worked with is both impressive and eclectic. It's doubtful anyone else can claim to have shared a microphone with Ralph Stanley, Elvis Costello, Norah Jones, Ryan Adams and Bright Eyes.

"In Nashville, before we ever had a record out, I decided I wanted to play this writers night. I went down there by myself and waited like three or four hours to play. They kept me waiting and kept me waiting as the crowd thinned out. Finally, the guy who had been playing his own songs between every three writers, he got up when there were about three people left and played three more songs. Then he said it was my turn. There was literally nobody left in the place but the bartender and the MC. The MC said, 'Okay, you can play now. Will you turn the PA off when you're done?' So I got up and played a couple songs to the bartender, then I walked over and turned the PA off."

— Gillian Welch


Brothers Bobby, Dannis and David Hackney began playing The Who and Alice Cooper-influenced material in their Detroit neighborhood of the early 1970s at a time when other black artists were epitomized by the Motown sound. This resulted in an unreleased 1974 recording of aggressive, proto-punk tunes that predated The Ramones and The Sex Pistols. There is a strong argument to be made that not only was Death the first black punk band, they were the first punk band. Despite receiving offers of record deals from major labels, the act was unwilling to change its downer name -- a real dealbreaker back then. So the trio's music all but disappeared until its burgeoning cult reputation led to the record being released in 2009 under the title "...For the Whole World to See." This also spawned the acclaimed 2012 documentary "A Band Called Death," which hits theaters June 28. The reunited Death (minus guitarist David Hackney, who died of lung cancer in 2000) just recorded an album of new material and embarked on their first tour in four decades.

"My brother David decided it was time for Death to get out and do some shows. So he booked us at a cabaret that was on Warren Avenue in Detroit (Michigan). It was a typical east-side-of-Detroit cabaret where you had mostly auto workers. This was an all-black audience. We're the opening band. We came out and did Jerry Lee Lewis' 'Great Balls of Fire,' then 'I'm a Man,' then a couple Rolling Stones songs. Then we did our own songs 'Keep On Knocking' and 'Politicians in My Eyes.' After each of our songs you could hear a pin drop even though the place was packed. We were pulling out all the stops. We were jumping and rolling on the floor. Then at the end of 'Politicians,' one guy -- just one person -- started a slow clap. Nobody else joined in. He might have been clapping because the program was over. ... What would make us so mad is that there was always some guy who would come up and say, 'You know what you should do is play some James Brown or the Isley Brothers. Then people would really like you.' We could have played that if we wanted to. But we wanted to play our own music. And the reason David kept wanting to book us at these gigs is he was on a quest to educate the black community about rock and roll. To a certain extent, we did."

— Bobby Hackney, Death

"We played an outdoor festival in Biloxi, MS, while a hurricane was coming in. So nobody showed up, including the band we were opening for, Blood, Sweat & Tears. There was maybe five people there who showed up to see Blood, Sweat & Tears, and they saw us. They didn’t respond very well. We all packed up and got out of there in a hurry....It hadn’t started raining yet, but the winds were kicking up."


First assembled as White Clover in 1970, the Topeka, Kansas, ensemble kicked around for a few years before solidifying a lineup and changing its name to one that matched the members' license plates. Eventually, music mogul Don Kirshner became interested in the group's not-very-radio-friendly mix of progressive rock and rural emotion. Four decades of basically the same lineup and sales of 30 million records followed. The band's hits "Carry On Wayward Son," "Dust in the Wind" and "Point of Know Return" continue to be staples of classic rock airplay.

"One of the most memorable ones we played was up in Wisconsin called Nudestock. It was a nudist colony. Foreigner was on the bill and Alan Parsons. But you expect up in Wisconsin there'd be all these beautiful blond women. But the reality is never what you imagine. You get there and it looks like you walked into a Piggly Wiggly grocery store and suddenly everybody was naked. And you're standing there playing and there's some guy with a baseball hat and tennis shoes standing in front of you, wiggling and playing air guitar with his pecker swirling around. It bothers you."

— Rich Williams, Kansas

pat-methenyPat Metheny

Jazz is often divided into the traditionalists and the risk-takers. Pat Metheny passionately considers himself a proud member of the latter set. The Missouri native has been releasing acclaimed albums for four decades, each one a new wrinkle in the development of jazz. Although best known for his freelance ventures and work with his Pat Metheny Group, the guitarist has enjoyed numerous collaborations, ranging from such stylistic stalwarts as Dave Brubeck to fellow experimentalists Herbie Hancock and Ornette Coleman to pop music idols David Bowie and Joni Mitchell. And he's dabbled in the world of film and television, composing soundtracks for features that include "The Falcon and the Snowman" and "A Map of the World." Along the way he's racked up an astonishing 19 Grammy Awards and managed to sell 20 million records.

"I once was hired to play on a jazz festival in Palermo, Italy. The trio that I had at that time was Charlie Hayden and Billy Higgins. First of all, we got to the gig and there were signs everywhere that said Pat Metheny Group. And what we were playing was nothing like that. I was completely freaked out about that. Then they said, 'We'll take you to the venue.'

"So we started driving through Palermo and I noticed that we were getting closer and closer to what appeared to be the largest soccer stadium on the island of Sicily.

"I was like, 'No!'

"Sure enough, that's where we were playing. Then we get there and I notice that the stage is in the direct center of the soccer field. It's 150 yards from the stands. I'm thinking they're going to let people come out on the grass and they'll all be standing around the thing. And we get out there, and there were barriers around the stage.

"I'm like, 'Can we move these barriers and let people get closer?'

"The guy looked at me and said, 'We don't let anybody on the grass.'

"So the nearest person is like half a football field away in this stadium that seated about 70,000 people -- and there were about 20,000 people there. And the PA they had was basically like the kind you'd have at a wedding. Plus, Charlie and Billy were the softest rhythm section in jazz. So we did our best, but that was a pretty rough night. It was just surreal and wrong."

— Pat Metheny

owlcity_a_600Owl City

Adam Young is the sole brainchild behind Owl City, a poppy electronica project created by the Minnesota-bred artist as a means to thwart his bouts with insomnia. Young attained a massive buzz through online grassroots networking and two indie albums before finally inking with Universal Republic. Owl City's ensuing major label debut, "Ocean Eyes," featured the No. 1 hit "Fireflies," which went quadruple platinum.

"The worst show I ever played was at a local county fair in rural Iowa. They had the bands playing in a smelly old hog barn with actual hogs rooting around. Nobody showed up so it was just us and the porkers. It was intense. Actually, now that I think of it, it might've been the best show I've ever played."

— Adam Young, Owl City

drowningpool3Drowning Pool

Despite running through singers the way Spinal Tap did drummers, Drowning Pool continues to be one of the consistent forces in the alt-metal scene. The Dallas quartet formed in 1996, and by the 2000s had secured frequent slots on the festival circuit, from Ozzfest to Wrestlemania.

"It was on a Sunday night in Salt Lake City, Utah. Friday and Saturday nights had been spent playing L.A. and Vegas. Not only did we play those cities, we took full advantage of the excess both cities offered. We pulled into Salt Lake on Sunday, sleep deprived and very hung-over...

"Everything came apart during the show. Speakers blew, guitars went out of tune. Our enthusiasm was gone by the end of the third song.

"Toward the end of the set, however, most of the crowd had come to life even though we were barely hanging on. Prior to the last song, Dave (Williams) had the audience fired up.

"'Give it up for heavy metal!' he screamed.

"The crowd roared back!

"'Give it up for alcohol!'

"The crowd roared louder! Dave had them right where he wanted them.

"With his final anthem, he cried, 'Give it up for Satan!'

"Not a peep from the crowd. It was one of those classic moments when you hear crickets chirp. We played the last song and walked off the stage in silence."

— Stevie Benton, Drowning Pool

John Scofield John Scofield

With dozens of acclaimed albums to his credit and numerous high-profile collaborations, fusion luminary John Scofield has joined the likes of Pat Metheny and Bill Frisell as one of the most respected guitarists in modern jazz. The Ohio native and Berklee College of Music alum has made a name thanks to his nimble fingers and a distinctive, distorted guitar tone that is more muted than piercing. From 1982 to 1985, the guitarist scored his most significant assignment, recording and touring with pioneering jazz trumpeter Miles Davis. Scofield embarked on a solo career thereafter, often collaborating with acts not initially associated with jazz-rock, such as Gov't Mule and Medeski, Martin & Wood.

"I've played amazingly hilarious gigs in my life, back before I was known as a guitarist -- when I was just jobbin' around as they say. ... I was a music student in 1970 in Boston. Me and my friend Dave Samuels (Spyro Gyra), a vibraphonist who is pretty well known in jazz (circles), we were both Berkelee students at Berkelee School of Music. We got a call to play a St. Patrick's Day gig in Chelsea, Massachusetts -- which is an Irish town right outside of Boston -- with some Irish drummer we didn't know. So we're just supposed to show up there.

"We showed up and set up our instruments, and the guy set up his drums, and he was the lead singer, too. So this is a weird instrumentation to begin with: vibes, guitar and a drums/singer. And this guy was Irish, as in from Dublin.

"We're in some Sons of Ireland ... hall in this real working-class place. So we pick up our instruments and people come in, and he says, (in accent) 'Let's start with 'Mrs. O'Flannery's Cow.'

"And we said, 'Well, we don't know that one.'

"Then he starts to run this list of traditional Irish tunes, and we had no idea what he was talking about, of course.

"So he said, 'Just FOLLOW ME.' So he starts to play the drums and sing. And we had no idea what to do. So we started to just play little chords and try to follow what key he was in. And we were fucking up. He's singing, 'And Mrs. Flannery went to town/And then came back in the mornin'.' And he's looking at us, and the audience is starting to look at us like, 'What the fuck? Everybody knows "Mrs. Flannery's Cow."'

"He went from one tune to another. Then the audience started to boo us. He was getting real mad, and said, 'Come on. Play with me. Play with me.'

"The audience is drunk -- they'd been drinking all day. So finally, this little 80-year-old guy says, 'Get the fuck off the stage.' And he pulls out this upright piano and starts to play with the drummer. So we just started to slink in the background, standing there with our instruments as this guy began to take over. Then we just sort of unplugged to go get in the car and leave.

"I can't believe that it happened, but it did."

— John Scofield


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lukas-nelson1Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real

Lukas Nelson earned his first songwriting credit at the age of 11, when he contributed "You Were It" to an album released by his father, country legend Willie Nelson. He's been pursuing music ever since. Now the skilled guitarist and singer fronts his own band, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, which also features bassist Corey McCormick, drummer Anthony LoGerfo and percussionist Tato Melgar. The rock/blues/jam quartet released its self-titled debut LP in 2010, leading to recent appearances on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and "The Late Show with David Letterman," and high-profile festival slots such as Farm Aid.

"The worst road experience was this one time we went to Denver. We played ... I will not name the club. There was this unnamed guy -- we'll call him Jerry -- and he was a promoter. Jerry was a son of a bitch. ... My brother (Micah Nelson) has a band called The Reflectacles, and they had driven from California in just a car for that one show. It took them hours and hours. They were supposed to play right before us. So this promoter puts out this flier, and we see it right when we get to the show. He had been promoting it as, 'COME DRINK AND SMOKE WITH WILLIE NELSON'S KIDS!' It was super, super tacky. My brother was not even of age (to legally drink). It was just so bad. The sound was horrible. And (Jerry) had this girlfriend of his, and he put her band in front of my brother's band. So we got super pissed at him. ... The problem was just the complete lack of class. ... The sound sucked. I ended up sitting down on the stage (then) I left. I just walked off the stage."

— Lukas Nelson, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real

floggingmolly1Flogging Molly

Few bands have blended two seemingly unrelated styles more successfully than Flogging Molly, a rollicking mix of traditional Irish music and punk rock. Dublin native Dave King had established himself as the lead singer of 1980s metal act Fastway when he decided to team with some friends in '93 for a weekly gig at L.A. pub Molly Malone's. Eventually, the lineup became permanent, featuring fiddle player (and King's future wife) Bridget Regan, guitarist Dennis Casey, accordion player Matt Hensley, drummer George Schwindt, bassist Nathen Maxwell and mandolinist Bob Schmidt. Flogging Molly continues to enjoy an unusually loyal following, which celebrates the band's poetic collision of old world and new world sounds.

"One of my horrible touring experiences was in ... the U.K. We were on the bus, and you can't take a shit on your bus. So when you stop at a truckstop, that's when you have to do your business. We were driving, and I had one of those times when I woke up and 'you got to go.' There are no questions. I won't get into too much detail. We've all had the experience.

"I got to run off the bus because it just stopped. Perfect. I threw on my shorts and my flip-flops, and I run into the gas station. I do my business. I come out and the bus isn't there. I go, 'Oh, they probably went around back because they were in front.' I walk around back. The bus isn't there. I walk around front again. The bus isn't there.

"I don't have a cell phone. I don't have any money. I don't have any ID. I have nothing but shorts and flip-flops. Now I'm at this British truckstop. It's 8 in the morning. I'm hung over, and I look like shit. I realize the bus has left me, and I don't know what to do. With cell phones -- I'm sure people can relate to this -- you don't memorize numbers anymore. The first thing was like, 'I'll call somebody.' But I don't remember anybody's number! But it doesn't matter because I don't have a cell phone or any money for a pay phone.

"I walk in (to the gas station), and this grumpy old lady is behind the (counter). I said, 'I gotta ask you a favor.' I ask her, 'Can I call the U.S.?'

"She's like, 'Piss off. No, you can't use our phone.'

"I was like, 'But I really have to.'

"She was not having any of that.

"I walk out and there's a hotel across the street. I walk over and ask, 'Can I use your phone to call the U.S.? I was left by my tour ...'

"They just look at you like you're out of your mind -- drugs, or whatever they're thinking. I'm desperately trying to be calm and cool about it.

"They're like, 'No. No. No.'

"I'm panicking now. I'm walking around and walking around. By the way, we have laminates on the tour that tell you where your next city is. I didn't have my laminate. So I couldn't tell anybody where I was going either. I don't keep track of that -- you show up and you're there.

"I go to (another) gas station. They're like, 'No. Can't use the phone. Sorry, buddy.'

"I'm just walking around. An hour goes by. I'm panicked. 'What am I gonna do? I don't know where I have to go. I don't have any money, no cell phone, nobody's number. I'm in the middle of England, and I don't even know where I am in England to tell somebody to come and get me.' That made it worse when I would ask people where I was.

"Eventually, by my third trip back to the hotel, they realized I was pretty desperate. I was getting real serious, like, 'I'll pay you. I'll give you a credit card number over the phone. You can charge me a room. Do whatever you have to do.'

"They let me call, and I got in touch with our manager -- he's been our manager forever, so I knew his number. I called him ... and, of course, he didn't answer because it's L.A. He's not up. I was like, 'Son of a bitch.'

"They dialed the number again for me, and eventually he answers.

"I was like, 'Gary. They left me at a truckstop, and I don't know where we are or where we're going to go.'

"He was waking up, 'What?'

"I said, 'Just call Joe, our tour manager, and tell him they left me at a truckstop.'

"He does his thing, and he calls me back and (says), 'Dude, you're like a hundred miles away from the gig.’ ... The bus driver is sleeping. They got to sleep because they drive through the night.'

"He's really bummed out. So he's like, 'I gotta work this out. You're a hundred miles away. I got to try and get you a ride.'

"So eventually he gets me a cab that we pay through the teeth for to take me to the (gig). We paid like hundreds of dollars for that ride. I get there, and the kick-in-the-balls part was everybody was looking at me like, 'Hey, what's up?' ... Everybody is just acting normal. I was like, 'Don't you guys know what happened to me?'

"They were like, 'No. Did you just wake up?'"

— Dennis Casey, Flogging Molly

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Flogging Molly Worst Gig

newduncanimperialsNew Duncan Imperials

Pigtail Dick (guitar and vocals), Skipper Zwackinov (bass, balloons, and vocal) and Goodtime Dammit (drums, drums, drums) started New Duncan Imperials for a laugh, honing a campy brand of rock in the basement of Dick's mother's house. Soon they were named the best live band in the city by both The Chicago Reader and The Chicago Tribune.

"We did this show in Finland at a cultural center in Helsinki. They set us up in like an art gallery. It was really echoey, and we were all jet-lagged because it was right after we got there. It was so awful. They didn't like us. We didn't know how to charm them because we didn't know how to speak Finnish -- I don't think anyone speaks Finnish outside of Finland. Then we were so loud that we knocked this art off the wall. It involved these half egg shells glued into it. It ruined the work of art, and they wanted us to pay for it ... something in kronas. It was way more than we were getting."

— Pigtail Dick, New Duncan Imperials

bernardpurdieBernard Purdie

Bernard Purdie is known as the "world's most recorded drummer." He has literally played on thousands of songs, for artists such as James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Miles Davis, Steely Dan, Bette Midler and Bob Marley. The Maryland native is also known for inventing "the Purdie Shuffle." His intricate signature groove turns up on a number of artists' tracks -- Steely Dan's "Babylon Sisters," for instance. And, yes, that's him behind the drum kit on iconic tracks such as "The Hustle" to "The Theme from Shaft."

"Not too many people have ever asked me that. I can't call it the worst, but I’ll tell you the one I tried to mess up because I was angry. They asked me to play like I was a 14 year old. I was upset. Here I am the number one drummer in New York and around the country, and they want me to sound like a 14 year old. So I tried to mess up the song. That song has haunted me for (45) years: 'Hang On Sloopy.'

"They wanted me to sound like a beginner. They wanted me to sound like a trash band, a garage band. They didn’t use those terms then. ... What made it even worse is that the producer and a couple of the guys in the band had been smokin' and drinkin'. It made me very, very upset. So I tried putting fills in every place but where I was supposed to. Once I've told the story around, then people listen to the song differently and say, 'Oh yeah, you would normally never put a fill here, and not do this here.'

"That's what happened. But I was trying to mess it up. And when we finished, they were like, 'That's it! That's perfect! That's the one!'

"I said to myself then that as long you live, if you don't like something or don't want to do it with somebody, then don't take the job. You cannot go with the wrong attitude to do a job when somebody is paying you. If you don't want to do the job, don't accept the job. So that has been my motto."

— Bernard Purdie


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danzanes2Dan Zanes

If you don't know who Dan Zanes is, chances are your kids do. The former Del Fuegos frontman has undergone a career rebirth by immersing himself in "age-desegregated folk music." In layman's terms, that means songs that children love but adults can equally enjoy. Whereas Zane's Fuegos -- dubbed Rolling Stone's best new band of 1984 -- once enjoyed airplay on MTV with hits such as "Don't Run Wild," he has recently found a much younger fan base on Noggin and Disney Channel. The kids-aimed networks show his peppy, homespun videos on seemingly perpetual rotation. Zanes' creative philosophy evokes a time when families and friends of all ages gathered around their neighborhoods to play instruments and sing songs -- and the loose, social atmosphere of his concerts reflect that.

"This might have been somewhere in Kansas where we played a particularly uninspired show, and the next morning the headline of the article read: "Del Fuegos take crowd for a walk on the dull side." That hurt, but they probably weren't far off. That might not have been the worst show, but it was certainly the worst followup to a show. That's the one that stays with me."

— Dan Zanes

moby-grapeMoby Grape

Taking its quirky name from the punch line of the joke, "What’s big and purple and lives in the ocean?," Moby Grape became one of the primary movers and shakers in the Bay Area music scene of the late 1960s. Critics consider the band one of the standouts of the era for its lively mingling of folk, blues, country and psychedelic sounds. Founder Jerry Miller was recently ranked No. 68 in Rolling Stone's "Top 100 Greatest Guitarists Of All Time," placing him ahead of such heavyweights as Eddie Van Halen, Pink Floyd's David Gilmour and AC/DC's Angus Young.

"We did one at the Fillmore East where we sat down. (Promoter) Bill Graham had a fit. He said, 'All you guys needed was coffins.' But some of the new generation thought it was really alternative. They just shit a brick. They thought we were the coolest thing ever. Yet we didn't understand what we were really obligated to do, which was to come on and give people what they wanted: 'Omaha' ass-kicking like it should have been. That was a valuable lesson. ... The audience was the cream of the crop (in the Bay Area scene of the '60s) -- not so much the musicians. It was the blessing of the audience. They gave and gave. The Grateful Dead and Big Brother and Jefferson Airplane were oftentimes very sour -- and Moby Grape was from time to time very sour. We had no tuners and (the PA systems) weren't great. But the audience was right there with you, always."

— Jerry Miller, Moby Grape

tresure fingers 03smTreasure Fingers

DJ and producer Ashley Jones spent a decade on the international club circuit with the drum & bass group Evol Intent. He recently launched as a solo act under the name Treasure Fingers, employing nimble remixes and originals that stress punchy synth hooks and mobile basslines. The Atlanta/Brooklyn-based artist is best known for "Cross the Dancefloor," a vocoder-driven track that became a club anthem and spawned dozens of remixes.

"I got a new worst gig -- I used to have another one -- but I've got a new one as of this past January (2011). I was in Australia, and it was billed as a beach party. It was on Australia Day, which is kind of like their Fourth of July. So I show up, and it's in a warehouse, inside, like 3 or 4 p.m., there's no beach in sight -- (not) even outside. It would be the equivalent of like if someone decided to throw a party in a club in the afternoon on Fourth of July when everyone was off and having parties at the beach or whatever. It's pretty sparse, and the room that I was on, the guys actually before me decided to stop.

"They're like, 'We're done with this.'

"They left. So there’s no music playing in there. So they come and grab me to go start playing. I walk in there, and the guys had switched the flatscreen (TV) on the walls ... to show a cricket game. There are like three or four or five guys just sitting in the middle of the dance floor watching this flatscreen cricket game.

"The promoter is like, 'You've got to go on. You've got to bring this back to life.'

"I was like, 'This is gonna be impossible.'

"I literally just turned it on and put on a CD really quiet, apologized to the cricket fans and let the CD play for an hour, looping over and over."

— Treasure Fingers

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Treasure Fingers Worst Gig

billlynchBill Lynch

R&B guitarist/singer Bill Lynch has shared the stage with performers such as Jerry Lee Lewis, Bonnie Raitt, Bo Diddley, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Bruce Willis, but he's probably best known for his longtime collaborations with keyboard icon Mike Finnigan. He is also fondly remembered as the singer of the theme to the Emmy-nominated "It's Garry Shandling's Show" (1986-1990). Who could forget the catchy ditty, "This is the theme to Garry's Show / The opening theme to Garry's show / This is the music that you hear as you watch the credits." Lynch currently fronts an all-star band called The Midwestern Icons.

"Harmonica player Juke Logan and I were hired to open up and play with Homesick James. He claimed to have written 'Shake Your Moneymaker.' The guy was in his 80s and so obstinate. He hated us because we were white. He refused to tune.

"When we walked out onstage I said, 'I have a tuner if you want it.'

"He took total offense. He said, 'Boy, I've got A-440 ears. Don't touch my guitar.'

"So Juke and I get out there and play half a dozen songs. Then it was time for Homesick James. This was at The Music Machine, and the place was absolutely packed with blues fans coming out to see this living legend. The three of us were sitting on the stage in chairs, and Homesick James was sitting between me and Juke. The whole time he was stirring up trouble. He'd lean over and say something to me then mutter something to Juke. The whole thing was just horrible.

"I took a walk between shows just to cool down. I didn't know if I wanted to go back in and play with this guy. But the show must go on. So I get back onstage with him, and the second set he was even more out of tune. It was horrendous. I had resorted to just making rhythmic noises. He'd lean over and say, 'Play.' He would change chords whenever he felt like it.

"So he blows in an ending out of the blue, and Juke missed it and played an extra note. James snickered and leaned in to me and said, 'Never send a boy to do a man's job.'

"With this, I figured, 'I am done!'

"So I grabbed the microphone and said, 'Ladies and gentlemen, Homesick James!'

"He appeared sort of disoriented because it seemed weird that I all the sudden turned into some kind of announcer.

"I said, 'Can you believe it? Right here on our stage, a living legend: Homesick James!'

"He was just staring at me. The crowd was kind of stirring.

"Then I said, 'I can't believe I'm sitting next to Homesick James!'

"Then I said his name over and over until he stood up, threw his guitar down and left the stage.

"They wrote a review of the show in a local blues publication. In the review I remember one line that I loved. It said, 'The second set was wrought with malice.'"

— Bill Lynch


Rush has sold more than 40 million records worldwide and garnered untold legions of devoted and admiring fans. According to the RIAA, Rush's sales statistics place the band third after The Beatles and The Rolling Stones for the most consecutive gold or platinum studio albums by a rock band. The Toronto trio was formed in 1968 by high school friends Alex Lifeson and bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee. After an album of basic guitar rock in 1974, the pair brought in replacement drummer Neil Peart, who added his cerebral lyrics and technical prowess to the band's gifted musical mix. In that span, Rush has entrenched its reputation particularly among other performers. Lifeson's densely textured guitar work and eccentric solos, Lee's virtuoso bass riffs and Peart's intricate polyrhythms have influenced the talent of several generations of musicians.

"It was a long time ago, the first tour in fact in 1974. We were playing at a university in Baltimore. We got to the gig; the crew was setting up. It was just before the show, and we came out to sort of peek around to look at the audience before the doors opened and they came in. And we saw that the girls were dressed in little white socks and long skirts, and all the guys had greaser hairdos. It turned out to be one of these '50s sock hop kind of things. We went on and were wearing satin pants and big high boots. And we started with 'Finding My Way' from the first record. They just sort of stood there and stared at us. Then by the second song they started to rumble. By the fourth song it was 'BOOOOO. Get out of here! Get off!' So, of course, we turned everything up a little bit and continued to play. Then finally the promoter said, 'That's great. Thanks guys. You're done.' But they were nasty. They were really pissed off. I'm sure if we would have kept going they would have thrown their greasy combs at us."

— Alex Lifeson, Rush

julianahatfieldJuliana Hatfield

Originally coming to prominence in the underground Boston trio The Blake Babies, Juliana Hatfield went solo in 1992 with "Hey Babe," the album that first led to widespread critical acclaim and her face being plastered on the covers of national magazines. Subsequently picked up by Atlantic Records, Hatfield issued "Become What You Are." The disc effectively showcased her "girlie" singing voice, blistering guitar playing and contemplative lyrics via the standout singles "My Sister" and "Spin the Bottle." By 1995's follow-up "Only Everything" (featuring the amiable hit "Universal Heartbeat"), Hatfield had seemingly cornered the college-rock market of radio and MTV.

"One thing that comes to mind is the show The Blake Babies did in Clemson, South Carolina. We had all cut our hair in a video, then we all shaved our heads just to even it out. We played down in Clemson, and the crowd was giving us so much hell. It was packed with frat guys and drunk people. They were so obnoxious and rude, yelling 'dykes' at us. It was just constant antagonism. But there's something invigorating about fighting against injustice. I think I dumped a beer on some guy's head. We were such snotty punks -- not punks in the traditional sense -- we just were pretty tough about it. We forged ahead and realized there were at least a few people who dug it."

— Juliana Hatfield


Launched in 1977 in Sydney, Australia, INXS went on to sell 30 million albums. While the dance-friendly rock band once dominated 1980s MTV and commercial radio with hits such as "Don't Change," "What You Need," "Devil Inside" and "Never Tear Us Apart," it enjoyed a more contemporary boost in 2005 as the centerpiece of the CBS series "Rock Star: INXS." The reality competition show provided the members (Jon Farriss, Tim Farriss, Andrew Farriss, Gary Beers and Kirk Pengilly) an opportunity to find a permanent replacement for frontman Michael Hutchence, who died in 1997. Canadian J.D. Fortune was crowned the winner, and his good looks and brooding antics helped INXS return to the charts.

"I do remember in the mid-'80s we supported Queen in Europe for a bunch of shows at Wembley Stadium. We were one of the opening acts. Throughout the whole performance the Queen fans were very 'devout.' They threw all sorts of things at us: cans to bottles to loaves of bread. We had to have our wits about us to dodge the stuff. Even the bread."

— Kirk Pengilly, INXS

mikewatt2Mike Watt

Mike Watt has been described as "arguably the hardest working man in underground rock," and his background certainly supports that assertion. The punk rock legend is responsible for the booming bass guitar and voice that powered Minutemen, Firehose, Dos and numerous solo projects for more than three decades. He's also lent his four-string skills to live tours with Porno for Pyros and the reunited Stooges. But those are just a fraction of the collaborations enjoyed by this jovial performer known for his blend of punk energy and working-class earnestness.

NOTE: The artist recently published “Mike Watt: On and Off Bass”: Legendary Punk Bass Player Mike Watt's Photography, Reflections and Diary Excerpts. Go to for more info.

"There was a Minutemen gig where we got booted from the club during the soundcheck. It was the Cuckoo's Nest. There was a new owner or some shit -- we had played there before. We were soundchecking with 'Joy,' a song that’s not even a minute long. This owner looked around and said, 'You guys sound like that? I thought you played the Roxy?' Then he just started laughing at us and said, 'Pack it up, boys.'

"I also remember the first time we got into the Whisky (a Go Go) with Fear, and then X asked us to open up. We got the chance to play at the Croatian Hall, so we were like, 'We'll open up for them at 7:30, then we'll rush back to San Pedro to play.'

"I'd just had knee surgery, so I was doing the fucking gig in a chair with my leg in a cast. We got down there, and it was like, 'Wow. A club with monitors. You can actually hear.'

"Then we rushed back (to the Whisky) and it was a bunch of jocks dancing to New Wave stuff. By the time it was our turn to go on, it was maybe one or two songs before they started throwing things. First it was just the ice in the drinks. Then it was the glasses. I couldn't dodge. I'm in a chair in a cast, and I'm getting hit with all this shit. Then somebody pulls the power and shut the whole thing off.

"We also had this gig in Vienna. It was the first time Minutemen played over there. It was with Black Flag. The first note of the first song, all the power goes off. It comes back on, and I've got a dozen used condoms thrown all over me. They're hanging on my neck, on my shirt. (Guitarist) D. Boon got hit in the face with a cup of piss.

"We call those kinds of gigs 'character builders.' But the ones where we got stopped and couldn't play anymore, those are really the 'worst gigs.' They're failures because we don't get to finish."

— Mike Watt

Rufus WainwrightRufus Wainwright

The son of folk singers Kate McGarrigle and Loudon Wainwright III, Rufus Wainwright was already touring with his mom, aunt and sister by his early teens. While Wainwright certainly inherited his wry humor and lyrical skills from his parents, the style of music he chose to pursue has been quite dissimilar. The Canadian singer/pianist has established a bridge between commercial pop songwriting and sophisticated theatrical orchestration. That coupled with his dramatic, vibrato-heavy voice has made the performer a unique commodity in the industry.

"It might have been one of those Lisa Loeb shows (where I was the opener). I think it was in Tucson, Arizona, and I just stopped in the middle and said, 'Good night, fuckers!' and walked offstage. They wouldn't stop talking and were very much into screaming — grunting I should say — 'Lisa, Lisa, Lisa.' I think it was because the boyfriends had gone to the show with their girlfriends, who had thus promised certain sexual favors if they would go to this show. They just weren't into it. And they weren't into an opening act — especially a little gay boy from Canada."

— Rufus Wainwright


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bettie-serveertBettie Serveert

Formed in 1990 in Amsterdam, Bettie Serveert took its name from an instruction manual by Dutch tennis star Betty Stove. Translation: Bettie serves. Between 1992 and 1997, the sometimes jangly, sometimes gritty ensemble released three signature albums -- "Palomine," "Lamprey" and "Dust Bunnies" -- that established its reputation among the college rock crowd. Years on the road with acts such as Dinosaur Jr., Buffalo Tom, Superchunk and Counting Crows helped buoy its indie fanbase. While various drummers have come and gone, the core membership of Carol van Dyk (vocals and guitar), Peter Visser (guitar) and Herman Bunskoeke (bass) has remained solid through nine albums.

"There's a very small festival in Holland. It's called -- translated in English -- Easter Pop. It's the worst festival you'd ever want to play. It's infamous for that. Most people are completely drunk by 2 p.m. ... It's in the middle of farm country in Holland. They get so completely wasted that it doesn't really matter what's onstage as long as they can sort of jump to it. There are only a couple of bands, specifically Dutch singing bands, who can play there and get away with it without getting bombarded. It's not because (the crowd members) hate the bands, it's just because they're so drunk that they don't really care. It's usually rolls of toilet paper that they throw, for no apparent reason. We've only done the festival once. And we came offstage and were like, 'Never again!'"

— Carol van Dyk, Bettie Serveert

sonvoltSon Volt

Most people credit former Uncle Tupelo frontman Jay Farrar with creating the genre known variously as alt-country, Americana or No Depression (named for Tupelo's 1990 debut album). Consequently, Farrar has become a spokesman for anything and everything involving the style, even though his subsequent projects have often expanded past the parameters of such definitions. After Tupelo split in 1994, Farrar formed Son Volt while bandmate Jeff Tweedy launched the equally revered Wilco. Although Farrar remains the one constant in the capricious Son Volt lineup, his band has delivered seven albums since its 1995 debut, "Trace," and remains one of the definitive artists of the genre.

"Worst show? I think I can tell you the most precarious show we ever played. It was a gig at a private college outside of Birmingham, Alabama. David Allan Coe was opening the show, and Son Volt was closing the show. We got there and thought, 'Cool, we're going to get to see David Allan Coe. These college kids probably aren't really going to be into it.' We got there a little bit late, and David had started probably about half an hour after we got there. There were already 400 completely drunk kids ready for him. As soon as he started, they went nuts. They sang along to all the songs. After that, we went on. We didn't know if we were gonna survive at that point. ... They didn't boo. But they didn't know all the words like they did to David's songs. ... It was disheartening. But we felt like we'd at least tried to win them over. I think to a certain extent it was a draw. We were just happy it turned out as that."

— Jay Farrar, Son Volt


One of America's most acclaimed punk bands, X was part of the first-wave pack to emerge on the L.A. club scene in 1977. The visually distinctive act was aided early on by former Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek, who produced the '80 debut LP "Los Angeles" and follow-up "Wild Gift." Powered by the atypical harmonies of singers John Doe and Exene Cervenka, the quartet (that includes guitarist Billy Zoom and drummer DJ Bonebrake) brought punk's raging tempos together with rockabilly and roots influences.

"It was the Elk's Lodge in 1979 in L.A., and we were headlining. The Go-Go's were on before us, and The Alley Cats -- might have been The Plugz. ... While The Go-Go's were playing, somebody called the cops, and about 200 cops came to the site and broke the concert up.

"I was sitting out in the lobby. Nothing was going on, and I was bored. Then suddenly the cops show up and boot us out. There were cops outside in formation. There were helicopters. There were snipers. It was like, 'What was going on?' The Go-Go's were playing.

"They pushed everyone down the street. We were crying, 'Foul. Why are you doing this?'

"There were no riots. But some of the kids smashed a police car. Someone I knew got thrown in jail. I actually loaned her money to bail her out. It was in the news, these rioting punks. So a lot of the punk rockers went on AM radio and defended us.

"What I heard is that a couple of the kids went into a wedding ceremony or wedding party, and they disrupted it somewhat. So I guess that's a reason to call the police, but maybe not 200 police. That was the rumor. I never got to the bottom of it. I should try to investigate what really happened. ... I wasn't in a position to do that 30 years ago. In a way that was the worst gig because we never got to play.

"Another one I can remember happened to me but it wasn't with X. I was playing Oslo (Norway) with Dave Alvin. We played two nights in 1991, and the first night the Gulf War started. ... But the next night we played and were about five songs into our set, and our road manager comes onstage and says, 'Don't ask any questions. Just stop playing!'

"So we leave, and they announce that the King of Norway had just died and the gig was canceled. Some people were respectful, and other people were going, 'Fuck the king!' We got the info that there was no music allowed until further notice."

— DJ Bonebrake, X

neil-hamburgerNeil Hamburger

More Willy Loman than Will Ferrell, Neil Hamburger is the current poster boy for un-comedy. Some audiences assume Hamburger is the worst stand-up comedian they've ever heard. Others pick up on the fact he's a gifted performance artist engaged in a lingering hoax. Hamburger's material is chiefly tied to the music scene, beyond just the frequent targets of his awkward barbs. (What did the Red Hot Chili Peppers do when their management informed them that they were not all happy with the band's latest tracks? They went out and bought long-sleeve shirts.). In 2008, Hamburger (who is actually the alter ego of musician Gregg Turkington) performed lead vocals on an album by Australian band The Hard-Ons. He followed that up with an album of country and western tunes called "Neil Hamburger Sings Country Winners," which featured such hits as "How Can I Still Be Patriotic (When They've Taken Away My Right To Cry)."

"I did a show in Brisbane, Australia. It was a big rock festival with a lot of the younger bands. For some reason I got on this bill, which I can't complain about because it was 20,000 people. But they were there to see these angry bands like The Offspring and Garbage. So the kids were worked up and in a rage. So I started to tell a few jokes to warm the crowd up. And the five minutes that I was onstage we counted 24 shoes that had been thrown. They were never the same shoe. It was 24 different shoes. So that can't be good. I tried to keep the shoes, but the security people wouldn't let me do that. Because you do wear out shoes in this occupation -- especially the right shoe because you're using that to drive."

— Neil Hamburger

Pete YornPete Yorn

New Jersey songwriter Pete Yorn came to prominence following his acclaimed 2001 debut "Musicforthemorningafter." Even those casual fans who haven't bought Yorn's albums probably possess a few of his songs in their DVD collection. The musician has contributed to the soundtracks of more than a dozen feature films, with icons like Shrek, Spider-Man and Jim Carrey filling the screen while his tunes provide the aural backdrop.

"There was one where we were put on some bill — a radio show — in Savannah, Georgia, which is a city I love very much. We had a song on the first record that was getting some alternative radio play, and at the time it was on those stations where you were hearing a lot of that 'Cookie Monster rock.' So we got put on some bill with some bands we certainly didn't fit in with. I remember the crowd was 'not exactly our crowd' is all I can say. The bass player got whizzed in the head with a bottle. We were just like, 'Thank you. Good night.' We couldn't wait to get off that stage."

— Pete Yorn


Led by the formidable voice and acrobatic keyboard playing of Paul Meany, Mutemath is revered for its engaging live shows. But the band is equally praised for its innovative videos, such as for the hit "Typical," a backward visual gem which was shot in one unedited take while the group delivered the performance in reverse. Mutemath -- often Mute Math, MuteMath or MUTEMATH -- began as a cross-state collaboration between former Earthsuit frontman Meany and drummer Darren King. Eventually, the group expanded into a quartet that settled in New Orleans. The alt-rock act cites numerous influences (many of them British), and has found success ranging from a Grammy nomination to witnessing its material performed by contestants on "American Idol."

"What is it that makes a 'worst gig'? One of the things that's usually a common thread is if you happen to find yourself playing in front of a crowd that does not have any interest in you being on that stage at that particular moment -- which is usually when you take opening gigs. Or it's just that gig you need to get from one to the other -- it's that middle gig that you have to do. In the early days we found ourselves every now and then getting the chance to open for a very heavy band, which we learned early on is not a good fit for us. If there's too much testosterone in the room, we wilt. I remember we did a gig once in London opening for a band called The Used. To make it even more specific, it was a private party that they were doing for their most die-hard fans. So it was the most exclusive, die-hard, Used fans -- there shouldn't have even been an opening band for this kind of thing. ... I just remember being heckled the whole time. It was just basically high school locker room all over again. The only thing is it was with heavy British accents, so we couldn't understand what was going on. But we knew that they did not like us, and they wanted us to get off the stage as soon as possible. ... We didn't win anyone over. But we did not relent. We did not just leave the stage. We played our set, as painstaking as it was. We didn't patronize the crowd, either. I don't believe in doing that. We just took it like men, and we moved on and promised ourselves to never open for The Used again."

— Paul Meany, Mutemath

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Mutemath Worst Gig


Grammy-winning, multiplatinum-selling quartet Tool has perfected what Rolling Stone calls "a primal sound as distinct as it is disturbing." The Los Angeles band (singer Maynard James Keenan, guitarist Adam Jones, bassist Justin Chancellor and drummer Danny Carey) assembled in 1990 and has since become one of the godfathers of the "progressive metal" movement.

"We played up at Boise, Idaho, one time. It was an outdoor thing and quite a few people showed up. I remember this horrible feeling looking at the crowd when all these malicious, skinhead psychos showed up and started beating people up to our music. We had to cut the set short out of fear that someone was going to get beat to death. That was pretty grim. ... I remember it being a tough decision. We just got in a huddle onstage and said, 'Man, what are we gonna do? Every time we start playing a song all these fists just start flying.'"

— Danny Carey, Tool


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sex-pistols1The Sex Pistols

When the first line ever written by a band is "I am an antichrist," that's a lot to live up to. And though the images of singer Johnny Rotten bassist Sid Vicious, drummer Paul Cook and guitarist Steve Jones in ripped T-shirts, dyed hair and sporting safety-pin jewelry look more contemporary than shocking by today's standards, in 1977 England they were the closest thing to Satan that the country had seen. The Sex Pistols were considered a genuine threat to the "British way of life." As a result, the reaction to them far over-reached what most musical groups deserve. This disdain for the band came from the record industry as well. When the quartet's classic single "God Save the Queen" was released, the BBC banned it. When it went to number one anyway, the slot was left blank rather than admitting which artist occupied the top position. To modern audiences, The Sex Pistols are regarded as the greatest and most influential punk band of all time, and their lone record, "Never Mind the Bollocks," remains a genuine classic -- and a Platinum-selling one at that.

"One has really stuck in my mind as my worst gig scenario. I remember it well because it was my 40th birthday on the Pistols reunion in '96. It was my 40th birthday, and I thought it was going to be a great day. It was in Belgium actually, by the seaside somewhere. We got on the train from London to Belgium, the Eurostar that went to Brussels. I was going to keep it quiet, but someone mentioned it was my birthday. This was 9 o'clock in the morning, so it kind of gave everyone the excuse to get the champagne out. You can guess that by the time we arrived in Belgium, everyone was really tanked up. ... Basically, it just turned into a nightmare. By the time we took to the stage, John had completely lost his voice. Consequently, nobody could hear what was going on onstage. I don't think anything was coming out of the PA, vocal-wise. Then it turned into total chaos; it got worse. I don't know what happened, but there was a mass brawl between security and people actually fighting onstage. I think someone tried to attack John, and he started hitting him with a microphone. I remember a stretcher coming onstage as well. Somebody was knocked out. There was blood spilt onstage, and there was fighting going on. It just seemed to escalate. ... We were still playing away while somebody was being carried off on a stretcher -- one of the security guys. It was just one of those gigs, and I was expecting to have a really good day for my birthday. ... It was a classic rock and roll gig, I guess. What was the most miraculous thing about it all was that at the end we actually got an encore. People wanted more!"

— Paul Cook, The Sex Pistols

Joe SatrianiJoe Satriani

Joe Satriani first came to prominence as a "guitar teacher to the stars," with Steve Vai, Metallica's Kirk Hammett and Counting Crows' David Bryson spreading kudos as pupils. Soon, however, the teacher had become renowned on his own, following the 1987 release of his platinum-selling "Surfing With the Alien." Although he's spent time filling in as a member of noted bands (Deep Purple) and as a sideman for other stars (Mick Jagger, Alice Cooper), Satriani tours almost every year with G3, a concert tour he founded that partners him with two other renowned six-stringers, from Queen's Brian May to Journey's Neal Schon.

"That would be the Malaysian show. ... It (started) four hours late, so we went on at four in the morning. And it was in this stadium that holds 100,000 people. But it was raining so there were only about 2,000 people there. Before us there was Jethro Tull, there was Sugar Ray ... Toto -- just the weirdest group of bands ever. It was a two-day festival. Anyway, someone wakes me up at 3:30 a.m. and says, 'You're going on at 4 a.m.'

"So I get down there, I'm in the middle of the second song -- which is 'Satch Boogie' -- and the (Malaysian) army comes onstage with machine guns. They threaten to put us in jail unless we stop immediately. So I put down my guitar, I picked up my backpack and I left the stadium.

"I have no idea (why they needed me to stop), but I didn't argue. When you're in a country like that and they show up onstage with weapons -- you know I came packed because I knew from experience that sometimes you gotta be ready. So I literally put on my backpack and gave my guitar to my tech.

"I said, 'Put it in the case and come with me now.'

"Then we got in a car and left, and three hours later I was at the airport flying home."

— Joe Satriani


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Mike FinniganMike Finnigan

Mike Finnigan was a 19-year-old student at the University of Kansas when he became the proud owner of a Hammond B3 organ. Since then he's transformed into one of the premier purveyors of the instrument. His collaborations have ranged from blues greats Buddy Guy and Etta James, to pop stars Peter Frampton and Rod Stewart, to rockers Jane's Addiction and Poison. He also spent years touring with Crosby, Stills and Nash. But he is perhaps best known for contributing organ to the tracks "Rainy Day, Dream Away" and "Still Raining, Still Dreaming" from Jimi Hendrix's classic "Electric Ladyland."

"When I was starting out I used to play in nightclubs for like weeks at a time. You'd go somewhere and play for two weeks in a club and then they might pick up an option and hold you over. I remember being forcibly held over by a mobbed-up joint -- guys that were part of the broken nose club. ... I was a young guy, and these guys were legitimately gangsters. They were like the real thing. They weren't like just faux tough guys, they were really mobbed up in those days. Like in Youngstown, Ohio, it was like Crimetown, USA. The guy who owned it was a known guy.

"I told him in advance we had another commitment -- it was just before Christmas -- back in Kansas City, and we'd been out in the Midwest and the East for a couple of months.

"I said, 'There's no option on this. We can only do the two weeks.'

"He said, 'Fine.'

"Then after a couple of days he was like, 'We really like your band, I'm thinking about holding you over.'

"I said, 'Don't forget, I told you we had this commitment.'

"Then a couple days later he said, 'I've decided to hold you over.'

"I said, 'But what about ...'

"He said, 'Kid, you don't get it. You're staying!'

"(So we stayed another) two weeks."

— Mike Finnigan


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henry-rollinsHenry Rollins

In another era, Henry Rollins would likely be regarded as a "renaissance man." He's the type of person who's achieved success in so many different fields that to define him by only one is not just lazy but mildly insulting. The musician/actor/writer/poet/columnist/VJ/television host/pop culture luminary first gained fame in 1981 as the frontman for the seminal California punk band Black Flag. With few exceptions, Rollins seems to be the rare singer who has created a cottage industry around his everyday voice. Whatever the scenario, the Grammy-winning performer can never be accused of being dull.

"There have been a few. Not because we sucked, because I've never been onstage with a band that was high. Equipment failure was detrimental at times. In Singapore, everything basically blew up onstage; everything went poof. We had to play through the PA. No amps onstage, just plugged in direct. It sounded awful. One time in Austria in 1983 there was a riot inside the venue. The police came in. The fans beat up the cops. The fans beat up the bouncers. A guy punched me and laid me out on the ground. That gig was like, 'How are we gonna get through this? No one seems to be interested in music. They're just interested in beating the crap out of everyone, including us.'"

— Henry Rollins

los_lonely_boysLos Lonely Boys

Guitarist Henry, bassist Jojo and drummer Ringo Garza began touring as grade schoolers while backing their father, Ringo Garza Sr., a conjunto musician who came to prominence during the 1970s in The Falcones. Eventually, the younger Garzas struck out on their own as Los Lonely Boys. Upon the release of a 2004 self-titled debut, the Texas trio began racking up hit singles and Grammy nods via their fusion of Tex-Mex rock and guitar-driven blues.

"Man, it's tough to recap and recall the worst gig -- there are so many of them that went south. Basically, when we first started out, I would have to say that was one of the worst gigs. We were doing a show in ... I think it was Big Springs, Texas. We were playing a show with a conjunto band named Michael Salgado. They were playing, and they were kind enough to let our dad and us play with their stuff. We got up on the stage, and while we were playing, somebody shot one of (their) members. Our dad's theory of music was, 'Never stop no matter what's going on! Don't stop!' At first we didn't realize what was going on. We just saw a big commotion and heard the sound, but we were still going along. There was pepper gas flying everywhere. It was a big crowd, a big fight, and everything started breaking out. ... So we're looking at each other and were like, 'We should stop.' We vacated the premises as quick as we could. We didn't want no more bullets flying."

— Henry Garza, Los Lonely Boys

starship1Jefferson Starship

After a nine-year run as one of the pioneering psychedelic acts of the 1960s, Jefferson Airplane changed its name to Jefferson Starship and began a chart-topping ride that continues to this day -- give or take a few years hiatus. The Bay Area act forged its prolific career through classic-rock staples ("Jane," "Miracles," "Find Your Way Back") and dubious commercial hits ("We Built This City"). Although the lineup changes occur so frequently as to be almost comical, the band's arena-rock legacy is hard to dispute.

"We were playing a gig in Germany at the Loreley Amphitheater (in 1978). The Beach Boys and Chicago had canceled out back-to-back shows at this place, and people were pissed off. Half the crowd was German and the other half were American Marines. There were people in the crowd with gasoline cans. The first band had already played, and they figured the show was really going to go on this time. But Grace (Slick) had diarrhea and was throwing up. She wasn't going to go on. They asked me to go out to make the announcement.

"I said, 'You've got to be crazy. I'm not going to go out there. They're going to kill me.'

"So (keyboardist David) Freiberg said he'd go out there. There was dead silence when he said, 'We'll make the gig up, but Grace is deathly ill.'

"I was standing next to one of my roadies by my drums, and a Heineken bottle came flying through the air. It hit him in the head and he went down like a bowling pin.

"Then a full-bore riot ensued. The Marines were fighting with the Germans. There was military there and police. One of the Germans was drunk and had a broken bottle, and he was coming up to one of the regular German police. And the policeman took his gun out and was going to waste the guy right there. It was Altamont all over again.

"Amilitary policeman said, 'You don't have to do that.'

"He pushed the policeman's gun down with his stick and said, 'All you have to do is this!'

"And he hit (the drunk guy) over the head with his stick."

— Johny Barbata, Jefferson Starship

defleppard4Def Leppard

Arguably the hard rock act most emblematic of the 1980s, Def Leppard has sold more than 65 million records behind such powerhouse works as "Pyromania" and "Hysteria." The Sheffield, England, band surfaced in the late '70s as part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. But the quintet really flourished as an early juggernaut of the MTV era by utilizing its collective good looks and melodic spin on heavy metal -- a potent combo once dubbed "stainless steel."

"I could probably go on all day because we've done so many gigs over the years. The first one that springs to mind is the Narara Festival in Australia in '84. I've never seen rain like it. It was like biblical, Noah's Ark, baseball-sized drops. It covered the place up. There was a crowd of about 35,000. Everyone left. There were only 3,000 people left in the mud, honestly, three-feet deep in this mud and rain. And we thought, 'Shit, we've come all the way from wherever we were at -- it was our first time in Australia -- we're going on!' It wasn't a bad gig, actually. It was pretty triumphant.

"Another one that springs to mind was in Switzerland, and the audience all just left at the same time. We thought, 'What the fuck is going on?' Then we got hit with tear gas. Someone had let tear gas off at the gig, then it got to us at the stage. I don't know if you've been tear-gassed, but it's not very cool. You can't see. They brought in cold towels and stuff to wipe our eyes. But I don't remember if we went back on. ... It was just some idiot in the audience goofing around. ... It was a mass exodus, immediately. Bizarre."

— Phil Collen, Def Leppard

concrete-blondeConcrete Blonde

A three-piece that never got pigeonholed into one style, Concrete Blonde was one of the rare harder rock groups in the late '80s and early '90s to be fronted by a female singer. Johnette Napolitano's undeniable voice -- gritty, passionate, honest to a fault -- made quite an impression on the legion of fans that remember Concrete Blonde as among the best of the college-rock acts to precede the alternative boom. Beginning in 1982 as the act Dream 6, Napolitano and guitarist James Mankey kicked around the L.A. club scene for five years before landing a contract with I.R.S. Records. While its self-titled debut yielded the punky MTV hit "Still in Hollywood," Concrete Blonde didn't crack the top 20 until its 1990 album "Bloodletting," which contained the plaintive anthem "Joey."

"Chicago, and it was years ago. It was 116 degrees, and we had to drive in our RV from New Mexico to Chicago. Chicago has always been a good town for us ... and the show was sold out. We had a crew that was -- let's say -- 'substandard.' ... It was so hot -- and I had my cat on the road with me -- that I had to put my cat in the refrigerator in the RV. We blew a couple tires, and it was hell getting tires on the RV because it's an odd size, and it's Sunday or whatever. And the crew kept going, 'Let's blow the gig.'

"And I'd say, 'We can't blow the gig.'

"We got there just as the opening band was coming off, and we loaded the stuff in. The record company rep was there, and she said, 'We just flew in all the retailers from Canada.'

"She tells me this before a show, and I got nervous. And I shot back some tequila and hadn't eaten all day. It was just too much. When I got out there, I hit the floor. Uh-huh. And I felt really bad. I felt worse than bad.

"I got letters that were like, 'You heroin addict ...'

"Shit, I've never had a needle in my arm in my fucking life. I'm not a heroin addict. It was just a lot of stress, and a lot of heat, and a lot of pressure. And I just didn't handle it right."

— Johnette Napolitano, Concrete Blonde


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Formed in 1994 by veteran record producers Butch Vig, Steve Marker and Duke Erikson, and Scottish ingenue Shirley Manson, Garbage first surfed the decade's alternative wave with initial hits such as "Only Happy When It Rains" and "Stupid Girl." Before long, the group's studio wizardry, songwriting skills and charismatic, waifish singer made it an MTV darling and multiplatinum seller.

"Two stick in my head. Part of it is because of the extremes of the gig. One, we did a radio show on the first tour called Snoasis, which was in Upstate New York at a ski lodge in front of 20,000 kids. It was this outdoor festival and all the kids were in parkas. Oasis was supposed to be the headliner -- there were 10 bands each doing a half-hour set -- and they canceled when Noel Gallagher said, 'Fuck it. I'm not going to sing in 20-below weather.'

"It was absolutely freezing out. They said, 'You guys have to go on and play a longer set.'

"So we went on, and we couldn't keep the guitar strings in tune. I was wearing a parka and gloves -- you can't really play drums in that. Shirley had a complete face mask. It could have been anybody singing. You wouldn't even know it was her until you heard her voice. It sounded so bad that after two or three songs the kids were getting impatient because they wanted to rock out and we kept stopping and changing guitars. Finally, we just played a couple punk covers, and after 15 minutes onstage we bailed. Then the kids started throwing snowballs. It was an absolute disaster.

"The other extreme is we played the Fuji Fest in 1998 right before Korn, in front of 30,000 kids that were moshing like crazy. But the Japanese mosh more politely, so it was a different vibe. But it was so fucking hot. It was 110 degrees out and 95 percent humidity. It was just sweltering.

"We went onstage and we're playing with a pretty intense cest la vie, and about halfway through the second song we were all crushed by heatstroke. Shirley had to sit on the front of the stage. There was no escape from the sun. It was like 3 or 4 in the afternoon and the sun was right in our face. There was nowhere to hide from it. I remember one of the crew guys brought out an umbrella to hold over her. I was having water poured over me between every song. We made it through an hour set, but we were all beet red. I thought Steve -- who was still valiantly trying to thrash on the guitar -- was going to have to be hospitalized. He looked like a lobster. Shirley was sunburned. Even though she put on sunscreen, it just melts and goes in your eyes.

"Physically, it was a terrible show. We're not a band that likes the sun. If you're a Blink-182 from California, you can go onstage and jump around in your boxer shorts. But we're from Wisconsin and Scotland. We like mood lighting. We need all the mood lighting we can get."

— Butch Vig, Garbage

Los Straightjackets

Los Straitjackets

Visually hard to ignore, the instrumental rock act Los Straitjackets first took the stage in Nashville in 1988. Band members developed a eye-popping stage show in which members dress identically in black clothing, Aztec medallions and the "lucha libre" masks popularized by Mexican wrestlers.

"We played an outdoor festival in Biloxi, Mississippi, while a hurricane was coming in. So nobody showed up, including the band we were opening for: Blood, Sweat & Tears.

"There were maybe five people who showed up to see Blood, Sweat & Tears, and they saw us. They didn't respond very well. We all packed up and got out of there in a hurry. ... It hadn’t started raining yet, but the winds were kicking up."

— Danny Amis, Los Straitjackets

"We played an outdoor festival in Biloxi, MS, while a hurricane was coming in. So nobody showed up, including the band we were opening for, Blood, Sweat & Tears. There was maybe five people there who showed up to see Blood, Sweat & Tears, and they saw us. They didn’t respond very well. We all packed up and got out of there in a hurry....It hadn’t started raining yet, but the winds were kicking up."

George Winston

George Winston

George Winston has been dubbed the "father of New Age music." Winston has been proving his musical virility since the early 1970s, first arriving in the public eye through the iconic Windham Hill label and later with his own Dancing Cat Records. He represents the rare musician who can claim to have put out three Platinum and four Gold records of instrumental piano music. His material ranges from successive albums of his own atmospheric pieces based on seasonal cycles to records covering The Doors and Vince Guaraldi's jazz compositions for the Peanuts cartoons.

"The first time I went to Denver, with the altitude thing I kept forgetting the name of the radio station I was supposed to thank. I would say, 'I'd like to thank ... what is it?' Then somebody would yell it to me. Then I'd say, 'I want to thank ...' Then I'd forget it again. I forgot it four times. I was like, 'What is going on here?' I'd never had a drink in my life or a drug. I hadn't even taken aspirin. Then somebody afterward asked, 'Are you a little bit woozy?' I said I was and wasn't feeling great, either. They said, 'That's your first time with the altitude.' Good thing I didn't go to Crested Butte."

— George Winston

Flaming LipsFlaming Lips

Since forming in 1983, the core ensemble of Flaming Lips -- singer/guitarist Wayne Coyne, multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd, bassist Michael Ivins and drummer Kliph Scurlock -- has been rock's go-to act for genre-pushing reinventions. The Oklahoma City group's live show has come to rival its Grammy-winning music, with elaborate costumes, puppets, mounds of confetti and Coyne's man-sized plastic bubble with which he navigates across the audience. The Lips remain one of the rare bands that has seemingly mastered both the studio and live stage with equal acclaim.

"There's always some catastrophe that we think in our minds is ruining it for everybody, then a lot of times people don't even notice. But we were playing at not-that-great-of-a-little festival opening up for Cake and playing with Modest Mouse in 2002 or something like that. We were playing at Red Rocks, the big prestigious venue in Denver, Colorado, to a sold-out crowd of about 10,000 people. We were working on our smoke machine backstage, and it kept triggering a fuse blowing the electricity.

"We're there all day fucking with our gear and all that, and I went to one of the technicians at the place and said, 'This is blowing a fuse here. I'm worried about when we go onstage we're going to blow the electricity.'

"He laughed and said, 'Look, dude, we had Slayer play here. Give me a fucking break.'

"I said, 'We've played places where Slayer has played a lot, and it's just kind of ramshackle.'

"I put it to the back of my mind. That having been said, we go onstage, the smoke machine goes, and the fucking whole place blows. The whole place. We stand in the dark apologizing best we can because there's no fucking microphones (working). The electricity comes back on, we say, 'Sorry about that. We'll trudge on.'

"Two minutes later, bam, the electricity goes out again. I see this guy who told me Slayer played there, and I’m like, 'Dude, it's just a fucking smoke machine. It's not like we're (Nikola) Tesla trying to get our coil to reignite the stratosphere.'

"Again we trudge on and when the electricity comes back on we apologize best we can. And it happens yet a third time.

"At some point we've used up the allotted 45 minutes for our set just with them mucking around trying to get us working again. And yet it's not really humiliating. You just stand there and think, 'Fuck, we want to present this show and you wanted to see it, and this moment has been messed up by people not being prepared.'

"But I have to say I've run into people who saw us at that show since then, and didn't even know who we were because they came to see some of the other bands, and said, 'You stood there, and just seeing you stand there trying to make this work, I really loved you guys.'

"You never now if it's the music you're playing or the way the light hits you. ... You never know what it is that lets the moment become magical. So I welcome all the calamities that come with performing. Sometimes within the disaster is that elusive magic."

— Wayne Coyne, Flaming Lips


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Jeff Tweedy was a founding member of the legendary alt-country act Uncle Tupelo. But his follow-up project, Wilco, has proven far more durable and successful than his formative band. Only singer-guitarist Tweedy and bassist John Stirratt have remained with Wilco since its formation in 1994, witnessing more than a dozen members come and go. The unifying factor that has kept the Chicago quintet centered through years of experimentation and internal turbulence is Tweedy's inimitable songwriting. The Grammy-winning act's strenuous creative process was infamously captured in Sam Jones' 2002 documentary titled "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart."

"It's a tie. There are two. The Sasquatch Festival in 2004 with this lineup of the band. We went on after Arcade Fire, which is kind of hard to do anyway. They had so many instruments that the monitor lines were crossed. We had a hopeless monitor situation. It was completely messed up on the monitor front. Not only did we have no monitors, we had really strange sampled sounds coming back at us at a huge volume. That was the most disconcerting show I've ever played. That was the most uncomfortable hour onstage ever. I saw it on YouTube. It actually sounded pretty good -- he had everything coming out front. But it's a very uncomfortable-looking band onstage. We also did a festival in Indiana in 1995. The first record had just come out and we hadn't toured much, and we had no concept how to get sound through a festival stage with monitors. There was a lightning storm. I remember it was the most ham-fisted live gig ever. We couldn't blame youth either. We weren't really that young. It's hard when there's nobody to pass the buck to."

— John Stirratt, Wilco


Otep (an anagram for Poet, though the singer insists "that's my real name") fronts the Los Angeles-based group of the same moniker. She gained her reputation as being one of the lone female voices on the male-centric Ozzfest tour. The vocalist is comfortable growling, whispering, lecturing and rapping her way through topics laced with virulent feminism and peppered with shards of ancient imagery.

"There was a time on Ozzfest (in 2001) where a lot of things went wrong. We had two guitar players that are no longer in the band. I had to release them from the band because they had lost focus of my vision. One of the guys couldn't get his gear working, and he couldn't get his amps going. He didn't understand why nothing was coming out of his guitar. We were 15 minutes into our set time, so we only had five minutes left to play. The reason was he had forgotten to turn the amp on. Prior to this, he was an electrician by trade."

— Otep Shamaya

Dweezil ZappaDweezil Zappa

Virtuoso guitarist Dweezil Zappa is obliged to respond to two questions his whole life:
1. Yes, that's his real name.
2. Yes, his dad is Frank Zappa, one of rock's greatest musician/composers.
Whether releasing his own solo albums, guesting on other people's records or attempting to honor the music of his late father through the Zappa Plays Zappa act, Dweezil is an industrious artist.

"With Zappa Plays Zappa we really haven't played a bad show because everybody is so focused on doing the best job possible. If we're going to give ourselves a hard time and say it wasn't a good show, it's still far better than a lot of other things. We never go up there and have a total train wreck. You might miss a few parts here and there, but that's because they're fucking hard. Outside of that ... I generally try not to get involved in things that I don't like. ... We've had things that have happened that you can't control. Like we played in Roanoke, Virginia -- I'm pretty sure that's where it was -- and we played one song and I stepped on my volume pedal to turn it down so I could change guitars. Then the next song starts and I have no sound. I'm thinking maybe a cable or something is weird. Forty-five minutes later, I still have no guitar sound. At that point we have techs onstage, and I've been conducting the band and doing stuff. But we finally had to resort to putting on house music for a minute while we're completely taking apart my guitar system. Come to find out what it was is there's a little thread in the volume pedal that is part of the mechanism that when you turn it on or off this thread is involved. And it snapped leaving it stuck in the off position. That's the last thing you think of when it comes to 'let's find the problem.' Forty-five minutes later that was, 'Well, let's look at the volume pedal.' We had that little 45-minute snafu, then we played for another two hours after we got it fixed."

— Dweezil Zappa


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skeetskeet2Yung Skeeter

Trevor McFedries transformed from rural Iowa football star to L.A. producer and performer Yung Skeeter in record time. While teamed with Shwayze and Cisco Adler, he became the first DJ to perform during the entire Vans Warped Tour. Well respected for his live sets and remixes, Skeeter (formerly known as DJ Skeet Skeet) was recently on the road with Katy Perry on her "California Dreams" tour, exposing audiences to material such as his signature single "I Like It Loud."

"The most memorable was one of my first really big DJ gigs. I had a show in Las Vegas, and I totally stressed myself out about it. Basically, I got to the gig, checked my e-mails and I had a problem with the booking agent because I had a gig the next day in Orange County that was about as big. So I scrambled, bought myself a flight ticket and got that happening. I ended up losing a ton of money because the flight cost more than both gigs combined were worth. But I just knew I had to be there.

"I do the gig in Vegas and feel great about it. I got to the airport and decided to work on some things for the next gig that was happening that day. I had an external hard drive that I would work off of. I put it between my laptop computer screen and my keyboard, and then I dropped something. So I reached over to grab it and smashed my screen against my external hard drive, and it basically wrecked this computer screen. So I couldn't use my laptop for my DJ set. I basically called every friend I had and asked them if I could borrow their computer so I could copy all my music over, all my sets. I ended up using my buddy's laptop.

"I copied everything over, reinstalled the software with seconds to spare. Got onstage at this proper nightclub gig with 1,000 kids or so there looking at me. I start playing a song, and I'm feeling good. 'This is going to be great. It actually worked out.' And I realize I had set both the channels' 'out' on the software to the same side of the mixer. Basically, I couldn't mix songs.

"It was one of those situations where I was like, 'What am I gonna do now?' I had to wing 45 minutes of me playing a song, starting a song, looping it out, bringing another song in, talking on the mic.

"I'm sure a whole roomful of kids thought I was an amateur whack job. It was pretty dreadful. It was 45 minutes of me looking at my clock: 'How can I get off of here?'"

— Yung Skeeter

belle-sebastian3Belle & Sebastian

Although Jack Black famously described Belle & Sebastian as "old sad bastard music" in the movie "High Fidelity," audiences and critics have been charmed by the band's "wistful chamber pop" for years. Formed in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1996, the act's reclusive, elusive approach helped foster a major cult following. After a several-year hiatus, the band is back touring and recording again, with a lineup that includes singer/guitarist Stuart Murdoch, guitarist Stevie Jackson, violinist Sarah Martin, keyboardist Chris Geddes, drummer Richard Colburn, bassist Bob Kildea and multi-instrumentalist Mick Cooke.

"It was Manchester Town Hall in 1997. The band hadn't been going very long, maybe a year or so. We always had mad ideas. We had one where we would be onstage in the middle -- like in a boxing ring -- with the audience surrounding us. But the whole thing with being onstage is the band is listening through monitors; the audience is listening through speakers. That's the classic performance model in the technical sense. What you hear and what the audience hears is completely different.

"When we started we always preferred playing cafes. Small places. Even at an acoustic bar with a very small vocal PA, you can get the sense if you angle things in a way that you're experiencing the same thing. It gives it more of a communal feeling to the experience. Our idea was to get that same experience.

"But this was not a cafe; it's a town hall. There were maybe a thousand or even 1,200 people. We had two stages. The band members were offset in the center with people surrounding us. Then there was another island in the back of the room where the keyboards were. ... And there were speakers facing in on us -- this being the idea that the audience and the band were going to hear exactly the same thing. This was the concept.

"It was a complete disaster.

"We were all playing out of sync with each other, especially the keyboards because they were in a different part of the room. What I could hear, I could tell it was the worst gig I'd ever been to. I was just going, 'This is utterly dreadful.' It was back in the days before computers, and Chris (Geddes) had a real Mellotron. It was completely out of tune.

"Performing at this was a huge nightmare. And then later in Manchester I found out Johnny Marr (of The Smiths) was at the gig. He was there to witness the worst band ever. My worst gig was probably one of the worst gigs in popular music history.

"But I think it looked pretty good."

— Stevie Jackson, Belle & Sebastian


Ume (pronounced "ooo-may") first earned raves from Rolling Stone as one of the nation's best unsigned bands. Now the Austin, Texas, trio is touring on its sophomore LP, "Phantoms," which showcases the intricate guitar chops and ethereal vocals of frontwoman Lauren Larson. The road-savvy indie band, which also includes bassist/husband Eric Larson and drummer Rachel Fuhrer, evokes comparisons to Blonde Redhead, Metric and Sonic Youth through its mesh of textural melodies and anthemic hard rock. Ume was recently featured on an episode of "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations," taking the host on a tour of Austin eateries.

 "We have a van curse, where literally -- I hate to say it -- we are tens of thousands of dollars in debt from the van. The first van we ever bought was $400, and we got it at a salvage auction in Pennsylvania, where I was going to school. We didn't even know if it was going to run. I don't know why we bid on it. It had a rusted-out bottom. We'd taken it all the way to the West Coast. It broke down four times -- blew a head gasket in the Mojave Desert. That was pretty bad. But then we had 20 bucks, and I ended up going to Vegas, renting a car, turning that $20 into $80 ... it was on a nickel slot called Filthy Rich.

"Then we had another van and ended up putting a new engine in it. We booked a tour. ... We've always done preventative maintenance. We didn't even get eight miles out of Austin. We broke down in the middle of the freeway after we'd already had to replace the engine.

"Then we ended up borrowing our friend's diesel, which had 450,000 miles. That could have taken him to the moon. So we said, 'Let's get a diesel van.'

"We get the diesel van, and it's broken down every single tour.

"When I broke down in Nebraska this last time (in 2011), it was like this big rodeo day. (The people at the repair shop) were going, 'Well, we're gonna close at noon. It's Rodeo Days.'

"I was like, 'I don't know what that is.'

"So I had to put on my country-girl accent, 'Could someone work a miracle for me today? We're on the road from Texas.'

"He's like, 'Alright. Let me see what I can do.'

"They ended up taking our van in. We made it to the show. We ran onstage, plugged into someone else's gear, played one song and the stage manager is like, 'You're done!'"

— Lauren Larson, Ume

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Ume Worst Gig

Graham NashGraham Nash

As the N in CSN  aka Crosby, Stills & Nash (and sometimes Young) – Graham Nash has been cranking out albums since the mid-1960s. The Lancashire, England, native scored his first of many top ten hits as a member of The Hollies before heading stateside. He's one of the few musicians influential in both the British Invasion and the Los Angeles scene during their respective heydays. Nash's best-known compositions include "Our House," "Teach Your Children" and "Just a Song Before I Go." The twice-inducted member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recently authored the best-seller "Wild Tales," one of the all-time great memoirs about the rock scene.

"I think it could be the worst tour we ever played. When David Crosby was really deep in cocaine madness, we had to build a small room off to the side of the stage so he could go and get high between songs. Stephen (Stills) and I, God bless us, we managed to cover it all up and not let the audience even know what was going on. But that tour in the early '80s was a very sad tour for me. I felt I was betraying the muse of music. We were giving it our all. And in that tour, I began to question myself as to whether I was actually enabling David to get deeper into drugs. Music was such a great part of his life  and he was so down  I didn't want to take the music away from him. The flipside of that is the more I made him concentrate on the music and the more records we made, the more money he made and the more drugs he could buy. My answer to that question is not a show, but a tour. Every show was like that. Moment by moment, every show was the worst."

— Graham Nash, Crosby, Stills & Nash

Johnny-WinterJohnny Winter

He was literally the whitest blues guitarist in history. But Johnny Winter's playing was as deep and soulful as anybody who ever picked up the instrument. He and rocker brother Edgar Winter noodled around with Everly Brothers tunes right out of kindergarten. By 15, Winter had already recorded an album with a Houston label. In 1968, he found himself at the center of a record label bidding war after Rolling Stone lauded the albino bluesman's six-string prowess. He went on to release nearly 40 albums, as well as produce three Grammy winners for Muddy Waters. A performer at Woodstock, Winter was ranked in Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. The 70-year-old Winter died July 16, 2014, while on tour in Switzerland. (This interview was conducted two weeks before his death.)

"We were playing the Spectrum in Philadelphia in '71 or '72. It had a revolving stage. The whole band took acid before we played. This was not a good idea. We all got way, way higher than we thought we were going to.

"We were onstage playing, and Tommy (Shannon, bassist) came up to me and said, 'Are we playing?'

"I said, 'I hope so. There's a whole bunch of people out there. We better be.'

"Then I'd walk away from the mic and get lost. I couldn't find my way back to the mic.

"The stage wasn't really going that fast, but it felt like it was just racing. It would move and the sound would completely change because the people were in different places. When the show was over, we thought we were back where we started, but we got off in the middle of the fucking audience. That was definitely the worst gig I ever played. It was a mess. We didn't know where we were or what we were doing."

— Johnny Winter

laurieanderson3Laurie Anderson

Renowned experimental musician/artist Laurie Anderson has been exploring her conceptual pieces since the late 1960s while an undergrad at Barnard College and graduate student at Columbia University. She became something of a cult figure thanks to her piece "Duets on Ice," in which she played a violin fitted with a tape head and a bow strung with audiotape -- all while wearing ice skates with blades encased in a block of ice. The piece ended when it melted. She eventually moved into the world of recordings, leading to her minimalist 1981 single "O Superman," which hit No. 2 on the UK charts.

"I was trying to stop smoking and I had the Nicoderm patch, which is basically speed. You wake up in the morning and you think, 'I'll rearrange all the furniture in the house!' So I was doing that and I had this show in Spain in a couple days, and I thought, 'I'm going to have it translated and do it in Spanish -- a language I don't speak.' So it was a show with lots of words, but it also had a lot of images (projected). I slowly read the Spanish, and by the end of the show I thought it went really well. But I looked out and every single person had gone. There was no one left in the theater. Then I walked offstage and all the production people were looking at the floor. I'm saying, 'Wasn't that great?' They were like, 'I'm working for a crazy person.' The show -- which was normally about an hour -- took four hours. My timing was -- well you couldn't even say it was off. It took four times longer than it normally would. It was ridiculous. Nicoderm is a powerful mood enhancer, I guess."

— Laurie Anderson

janesaddictionJane's Addiction

Jane's Addiction helped pave the way for alt-rock's eventual mainstream acceptance. The Los Angeles act's first two records -- 1988's "Nothing's Shocking" and 1990's "Ritual de lo Habitual" -- are considered among the best and most influential of the genre. Singer Perry Farrell originally disbanded his group in 1991 at the height of its popularity, but not before organizing a suitable tour as a send-off. That event became Lollapalooza, the notorious traveling music festival that was hailed as the MTV generation's Woodstock. Since then, the quartet has reformed numerous times for various albums and tours.

"One time in Chicago I was kicking (heroin) really hard. So as opposed to just giving up, I faked a heart attack. I faked a heart attack and then I faked that it was a fake. The truth of the matter is that I couldn't really stand up that well. So it might have been dramatic, but it couldn't have sounded very good. Honestly, in the day, you could get away with a lot of the drama thing."

— Perry Farrell, Jane's Addiction


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After drumming for the death metal band Shabira, Israeli musician Asaf Borger reinvented himself as Borgore. Now the love-him-or-hate-him "provocation addict" is at the forefront of the international dubstep scene, churning out aggressive beats that also incorporate his piano and saxophone skills. Borgore's videos have logged millions of views on YouTube, and his many EPs of original, often explicit material has led to him being credited with creating his own genre called Gorestep.

"In Memphis, I got food poisoning (from pizza) five minutes before the show.

"The gig was actually good. The kids had fun. But it was just me thinking I was going to the hospital after the gig. I was supposed to play an hour and a half, but I only played an hour. A few minutes before the set I started puking. The tour manager just gave me a bucket. I filled the whole bucket. Every time I turned around to puke, my video guy turned all the lights on the stage super-bright so no one could look at the stage.

"I was telling (the audience) that I was sick, but they weren't fully aware that I was puking. But the stage was smelly. My dancers and my MC almost kicked the bucket. My video guy almost stepped into the bucket.

"I was delirious. I thought I was going to faint and lose control over my ... how do you say in English? It's the thing that controls all your (bodily) exits. Well, I thought I'd fall on the stage, bang my head, lose control of my exits and end up in the hospital. I was counting the minutes. Every song I played I knew it meant I was closer to the end.

"I'm not sure if it was because of the pizza, but I'm sure that after the show I had no pizza in my stomach anymore."

— Borgore

peter-framptonPeter Frampton

No other rock artist is as instantly associated with the medium of live performance as Peter Frampton. The guitarist's "Frampton Comes Alive" became the biggest-selling live album of all time -- a feat that proved to be one of the most unexpected success stories in popular music history. The achievement came after the British musician had established himself through five albums in the early supergroup Humble Pie, followed by four modest solo records. Then with 1976's "Alive," Frampton became a household name, garnering Rolling Stone's Artist of the Year along with a slew of other honors. Despite these accolades, it wasn't until 2007 that Frampton won a Grammy for his instrumental album "Fingerprints."

"One of the worst things that's happened to me was having someone in the band who just had a bad night and wasn't playing the notes at all. This was ages ago. That was the most embarrassing thing for me -- and embarrassing for him, too. It was my show and it was nowhere near what it should be. I'm not going to say who it was, but it was no one who was with the band for a long time. It just blew my mind that someone could be that bad. And I came off the stage and I had welts on my face. I'd actually come out in hives I was so embarrassed."

— Peter Frampton

blue-man-groupBlue Man Group

The bald-headed, indigo-skinned Blue Man Group has always mixed music into its wordless, performance art pieces. The trio employs freakish percussive devices that have become a visual and audio trademark. Among these are instruments made from PVC (polyvinyl chloride) pipes, "backpack tubulums," "air poles" and a "piano smasher," which is a grand piano turned on its side, exposing strings that are hit with an oversized mallet.

"I threw up, so that was pretty bad. It was very early on toward the beginning of the tour. I was so thirsty I had chugged a pint of Gatorade when I got a chance to go behind the instruments. I came out with my fiberglass boat antenna and swished it around. At the end of the show we jump up and down to the beat for about a minute. So I'm jumping and I feel the Gatorade. I turn around and motion to the band to acknowledge them, then my stomach twisted and all this Gatorade just flew out of my mouth. The band just sort of looked at me. They didn't know if I was holding it in my mouth and just playing a joke. I was like, that's pretty rock and roll. It was some ridiculous flavor like kiwi-watermelon something. So that's off my list now. That was a very panicky thing. I started sweating and thinking, 'I'm just gonna lose it in front of all these thousands of people.'"

— Tom Galassi, Blue Man Group

nadasurf2Nada Surf

Nada Surf is best known for its alt-rock hit "Popular." Featuring spoken lyrics culled from an earnest 1964 dating manual, the anthem had just the right mix of irony, angst and catchiness to become an MTV staple during 1996. But it initially painted the Brooklyn-based trio (guitarist/vocalist Matthew Caws, bassist Daniel Lorca and drummer Ira Elliot) as something of a one-hit wonder -- and, in many people's minds, a one-trick pony. Fortunately, Nada Surf would follow it up with the albums "The Proximity Effect," "Let Go" and "The Weight is a Gift," which gained the act significant praise from both the mainstream and underground press.

"I've only played one show high. It was at Lehigh University. The first three songs were absolutely the worst thing I've ever done. Then the end of the show was one of the best shows ever -- but at what price? Like we're playing 'Bacardi' as the third song. The middle bit has this relatively complicated classical-sounding arpeggio. I got to that part and I didn't even try and play it. I just stopped playing, 'Well that's much too complicated. I can't do that right now. Maybe later, but not right now.'"

— Matthew Caws, Nada Surf

12th-planet212th Planet

American dubstep is a genre of electronic dance music known for its pulsating bass lines, periodic vocals and samples -- and John Dadzie is one of its premier practitioners. Operating under the name 12th Planet (a reference to author Zecharia Sitchin's theories involving ancient astronauts), the producer/DJ has achieved worldwide popularity for his vigorous, original live sets. His appearances at elite festivals such as Lollapalooza and Coachella have continued to bolster his reputation as a dubstep guru.

"My worst gig happened when it was my 22nd birthday ... at Adrenaline (in) Orange County. I was mid-mix, and I threw up on the decks and all on myself after taking one Patron shot. ... At the time I wasn't the biggest hard alcohol drinker. I was a beer guy. My buddy was bringing me birthday shots. I thought it was going to be something that goes down smooth, and I just wasn't expecting it. I just went like, 'Bam!' You know that feeling when the Patron hits the bottom of your stomach? Then it was just like, 'Ohhhhh ... wuhhhh.' ... All the equipment stopped (because) I threw up on the mixer and turntables. That's a bad gig."

— 12th Planet

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12th Planet Worst Gig


Brooklyn's Rubblebucket sports an overflowing bucketful of influences, with horn-laden dance material meeting indie rock whimsy. The 8-piece act -- which made its Bonnaroo debut in 2012, aided by surprise guest Foster the People -- is piloted by vocalist/saxophonist Kalmia Traver and songwriter/trumpeter Alex Toth. Its revisionist version of "Michelle" recently made Paste Magazine's list of Best Beatles Covers of All Time.

"We were playing a small 'American festival' in New Jersey. It was a campground festival with a mix of hippies and Bruce Springsteen-loving types. At the time, we had a couple vegans in the band, including our guitar player. Backstage, they did not have any vegan food. But what they did have was 10 different choices of flavored vodkas. So instead of eating food, our guitar player grabbed a plate of tortilla chips and tons of vodka. By the time we hit the stage, he was blackout drunk.

"The venue had three HD cameras and was doing a full-on filming with a super-fancy soundboard recording of the gig. At first we thought the guitar player being drunk was pretty funny. But quickly into the gig we realized he just couldn't play his parts. And that wasn't funny. The guitar parts are crucial to polyrhythmic, super-locked, funky music. We didn't have that on this night. There was one song where he started everything, and he couldn't play the part at all.

"At one point he left the stage and disappeared. Then he'd periodically come back. If you watch the video, there's a lot of footage of him sitting onstage smoking cigarettes.

"He had a microphone as well, and he kept talking nonsense to the crowd. Words that didn't go together. I've never experienced any drunkenness that extreme before. It was pretty debaucherous."

— Alex Toth, Rubblebucket

fitztantrums1Fitz & the Tantrums

Few modern bands have so effortlessly captured the sound and feel of 1960s Motown acts better than Fitz & the Tantrums. The noticeably guitar-free ensemble features the emotionally charged interplay between vocalists Michael "Fitz" Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs, buoyed by the stellar musicianship of saxophonist James King, bassist Joseph Karnes, keyboardist Jeremy Ruzumna and drummer John Wicks. The band's 2009 full-length debut, "Pickin' Up the Pieces," spawned the hit single "MoneyGrabber," leading to live performances on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," "Conan" and "Jimmy Kimmel Live."

"We did a whole tour through the Midwest and the Northeast when it was the dead of winter. ... There was one night we played in Columbus, Ohio, that was one of the greatest shows we ever did because the crowd was just raucous, and insane and into it. But as soon as I stepped out on the stoop -- I had never been in an ice storm before because I'm from California -- I didn't know what was going on. I had my sax on my back, stepped out on the stoop, went backwards, landed on my horn and then bounced on my ass down 10 steps. So that sucked. ... I had to get through two and a half more weeks of tour with a bad back. ... I had sprung on fancy Sorel snow boots. I thought I was the pimp. But they're useless against ice. I gotta get the ice-climbing gear next time we go to Ohio in the wintertime.

"But that's really not a bad gig; that was just a bad fall. Other gigs I can tell you about were from when I did a lot of touring with hip-hop artists. ... We were out with the Hip-Hop Live tour in 2007. We were backing Ghostface Killah, Brother Ali and Rakim. ... We were in Baltimore -- roughest crowd of the tour and a rough part of town. We were backstage waiting to go on. Ghostface slayed it. Brother Ali came out and did a good job, but the whole crowd was chanting 'Rakim. Rakim. Rakim.'

"They wanted him onstage now -- and he wasn't coming. Didn't show up. Twenty minutes went by, half an hour went by, 45 minutes. Same deal. We were playing our songs and they wanted nothing to do with that. They were booing us off the stage. Finally, the promoter had to come on and say, 'Rakim won't be making it tonight because he's stuck in traffic' -- which is total bullshit. We all knew Rakim had taken the opportunity the night before to hang at his house in New York and left with not enough time to get to Baltimore.  

"They started rioting. (The promoters) locked us backstage in the green room until the cops could show up and clear it out. We couldn't come out to see what was going on, but we heard everything. That was kind of surreal. ... I think it was full-blown rioting outside. The security couldn't handle it. There were people throwing bottles. The cops finally had to come and break it up. But they are like, 'You are not to leave this room until the situation is under control.'

"It was a good couple hours before we could leave there."

— James King, Fitz & the Tantrums

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Fitz & the Tantrums Worst Gig

tori_amosTori Amos

Poised somewhere between vulnerable debutante and femme fatale, Tori Amos is an odd mosaic. Her records are entangled, diverse offerings of highly skilled piano and studio wizardry that have managed to deposit some of the most unusual material ("God," "Cornflake Girl") ever to be hits on commercial radio. In concert, it is often just Amos, perched as a terra cotta-haired torch singer whose intellect is as promising as her libido. The singular enigma that is Tori Amos has generated a healthy fanbase, fueled in part by her mesmerizing, intimate live show.

"It was during the taping of my MTV 'Unplugged' performance (in 1996). … What happened was I just couldn't harness the energy. And I got really mad at myself because I couldn't harness it. And I do this every night and I can usually harness something, and I couldn't understand why. What was wrong? What was I missing here? So I walked off (crying).

"It was the best thing I could have done because what I did was I acknowledged what the truth was – and the truth was I wasn't harnessing it; for whatever reason it wasn't happening. Because I acknowledged it, it gave me power. It gave me my strength back again. It's funny that in that moment of 'this is a mess,' you begin to kind of find the pearls.

"So when I walked offstage I went down to the dressing room and just was pacing.

"My tour manager said, 'So I guess that's it then. Should we order some food? Should we book a restaurant?'

"I said, 'What are you talking about?'

"He said, 'That's it then, you've obviously finished for the night.'

"I said, 'Not necessarily, I'm just pacing right now.'

"He said, 'Okay. I’ll pace with you.'

"We started pacing beneath the MTV thing.

"Then my soundman came in and said, 'What’s going on? It sounds fucking great out there. … I'm telling you, it sounds better than most of your shows.'

"Then my L.D. (lighting director) came down and said, 'Something just doesn't feel right. I can’t put my finger on it.'

"Then my tour manager looked at my L.D. and they looked back at each other. And they go, 'Hang on a minute. Give us five seconds.'

"They walked outside the room and came back in smiling and said, 'The lights are up. We're going to bring the lights down.'

"For 700 hundred shows over the five years (prior to that), I'd played with the lights down. So all the lights were up to catch the audience and I felt like somebody was watching me take a shower. So they dimmed the lights, I felt better. By that point because I'd made the choice to stop it and make some changes, I felt like I began again. And I turned the whole show around."

— Tori Amos


Since forming in 1991 while merely scruffy high school students, Incubus has gone from a commonplace funk-metal outfit to one of the more ambitious rock acts to achieve radio dominance. With multiplatinum albums to its credit that feature perennial singles such as "Nice to Know You," "Wish You Were Here" and "Drive," the Los Angeles five-piece incorporates heavy guitar riffs and turntable club sounds when putting a new spin on a weathered style.

"The worst show that we've ever played was probably in a snowboard park on a piece of plywood. That was probably the worst show we've ever played, and we've played a few really bad ones. ... (That was) in 1993. ... We were playing in a snowboard park and nobody cared that we were there. We were playing on a piece of plywood with no PA. Our singer Brandon (Boyd) had to sing out of a bass amp. It was funny. We were told there was going to be a stage and a PA and we were going to get paid and all this stuff. We didn't get paid, but we got free burritos and we thought that was cool."

— Mike Einziger, Incubus


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presidentsPresidents of the United States of America

While the 1990s were politically synonymous with Bill Clinton, the decade's music scene was equally receptive to The Presidents of the United States of America. The Grammy-nominated, multiplatinum-selling band racked up quirky rock hits such as "Lump," "Peaches" and "Kitty," and provided the version of "Cleveland Rocks" that served as the TV theme song to "The Drew Carey Show." The Seattle trio is equally remembered for its witty videos that ruled MTV back in the day.

"There was a show at a hockey rink in Medford, Oregon, where we got there and the guys putting on the show were like out of a movie. They were just trying to get in and make a quick buck in the concert promotions business. They didn't have any resources or anything. They were literally there to grab the money and run away -- which they did. So we were left with this dark, leaky skate rink with a really angry manager and hundreds of kids who had just been ripped off. So we basically played a benefit that night. That was a Spinal Tap moment. But as far as bad shows musically, it doesn't happen. We're too good for that. When things go wrong, like equipment or tuning, that makes the show stronger. We excel at going off-map, off-script. It's easy with a three-piece band and to have a guy like Chris (Ballew) in front who's brilliant when he just starts winging it. That's why there is never a dull moment at a President's show."

— Jason Finn, Presidents of the United States of America

chely_wrightChely Wright

Kansas native Chely Wright first earned her place in Nashville's elite after being named best new female vocalist in 1994 by the Academy of Country Music. She followed up her early promise in 1999 with a No. 1 country hit in "Single White Female." In 2001, she even landed on People magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People list. But she made national headlines in 2010 when she came out as a lesbian -- a declaration that caused major ripples within the country music industry and the world of pop culture. The announcement coincided with the release of her first book, a memoir titled "Like Me."

"Before I had a record deal when I had a band called County Line when I still lived in Wellsville (Kansas), I played a show in Greeley, Kansas. The total number of people who showed up was zero. Nobody. It was at a venue with a restaurant on one side and a dance hall on the other. No one showed up, so we talked the owner into opening the door and letting people come in for free. It ended up being amazing. People stayed all night and drank a lot. What they sold in beer alone ended up paying for what we cost. But the first couple of sets were pretty miserable. So that was a bad beginning and a good end. But I've got this optimistic thing in me where I try to block out the bad."

— Chely Wright

wallflowers02The Wallflowers

The Wallflowers frontman Jakob Dylan is, of course, the son of legendary troubadour Bob Dylan. Since 1992, the younger Dylan has issued nearly as many albums of fresh material as his father, occasionally outselling the elder songwriter. (The Wallflower's 1996 effort, "Bringing Down the Horse," moved 4 million copies.) His Los Angeles quartet is known for a radio-friendly blend of alternative roots rock, characterized by the Grammy-winning single "One Headlight."

"It takes all kinds as they say. The shows where there isn't anybody there, it just doesn't get worse than that. So as long as people are there, any type of fiasco that goes wrong, it's all part of it. I've played at every type of show possible. I've played with some horrible people, like as an opener. When we were younger you got times when you look back and wish you weren't in the place that you were. I did fall on my back in Osaka, Japan, once. Thankfully, it was the end of the show and I just happened to fall back and step over a monitor. It was a great finale, and thankfully I couldn't read the papers to read about it so I wasn't embarrassed." 

— Jakob Dylan, The Wallflowers

that1guyThat 1 Guy

Despite performing under the stage name That 1 Guy, Mike Silverman is proud of the fact he utilizes as much gear onstage as an entire band. Silverman is best known for performing on a gigantic instrument of his own design, which he affectionately calls the "magic pipe." The device is fashioned from steel pipes and shaped like a harp Dr. Seuss might envision. Each pipe has its own string on it. One is pitched high, the other low, and both are played in a percussive manner. Oh, and smoke billows out the top. A classically trained upright bass player, Silverman paid his dues in the California jazz scene of the '90s before reinventing himself as That 1 Guy. He has since expanded his skills to include playing bizarro instruments known as the magic boot and the magic saw. And in 2008, he also released a collaborative CD under the name The Frankenstein Brothers, which teamed him with avant-garde guitarist Buckethead.

"I played at this country-western bar for this country-western radio station in Florida. ... It was a welcome-home party for this big country star who was going to be the new morning DJ. It was a party for all the listeners, so it was packed with country music fans -- and I've got nothing against country music. I just showed up and thought, 'I'm so out of my element here.' Not a single person had any idea who I was. I didn't think anybody knew what to expect. I got up there to play, and it was the first time I was really scared. They were all staring at me like, 'What the hell is this guy doing? Who is this dude? Where is he from? He ain't from around here, that's for sure.' It was a little, weird town, too -- a funny little city that was not even on the map. It was packed and I was scared to death. But by the end, they were really, really friendly. It was a great lesson for me. It made me realize that people just want to check out and see good music. And if you can play all right and kind of get to them, then they're gonna dig it. It doesn't really matter geographically. If you're playing from your heart, it's gonna reach folks."

— Mike Silverman, That 1 Guy

wynton-marsalisWynton Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis is the most acclaimed trumpet player in the world. Not only has the musician earned nine Grammys spanning jazz to classical, he is one of the few to ever earn a Pulitzer Prize for Music (for "Blood on the Fields," his oratorio about slavery). The New Orleans native (and son of jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis) released his first album in 1981. Since then he's recorded dozens of projects and collaborated with icons ranging from Eric Clapton to Kathleen Battle to Willie Nelson.

"I try to forget them. I don't really know. I've got some I could nominate for it though. We did a Louis Armstrong show once at Jazz at Lincoln Center. It was the Hot Five and Hot Seven. That was a rough one. Nothing about it sounded good. It was painful. Painful. Nothing blew up or anything -- just our egos. Sometimes that type of (explosion) is the most painful of all. ... But you get past the bad gigs quickly. I always wanted to be a musician. And sometimes not everything goes where you think it should. My father told me, 'Do it because you love to do it. Don't put a lot of ulterior motives on it.'"

— Wynton Marsalis

aimeemann2Aimee Mann

Singer-songwriter Aimee Mann first had to fight to free herself from the glossy image of her post-New Wave band 'Til Tuesday, which won MTV's Best New Artist award in 1985 on the strength of its hit "Voices Carry." Then she was tied up in court for years by a bankrupt record label that prevented her from releasing solo records. But the musician persevered, crafting a string of records that earned her both Grammy and Oscar nominations along the way, notably for her work on the Paul Thomas Anderson epic "Magnolia."

"I remember playing a show at The Troubadour (in Los Angeles) where there was something wrong with the monitors and I kept hearing a really loud, weird rumbling noise onstage. I felt like I was singing so poorly that I offered to reimburse the audience. It was kind of a fun show, and people in the audience were like, 'No. It was a great show.' But the onstage sound was so weird. Nobody took me up on the offer. ... I almost like when stuff goes bad because it gives you something to work with. It may give you the opportunity for comedy or to just goof around -- to do something that's not just playing a set. I can't really think of a time where I was totally miserable. I've played shows where I was sick. But audiences are just very supportive if you come out and try your best."

— Aimee Mann