Snow, rain, flooding, extreme cold, unbearable heat — these tend to be hell on performers.

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


Listen to the original interview.

Listen to other original interviews.


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