Musicians never know if the crowd will feature a crazed stalker or jealous rival, hostile listeners or criminally apathetic partygoers.


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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