kopiototemmMarkus Toivonen, Strang3 Addiction

We were doing an acoustic set in some miserable small bar in Finland -- middle of nowhere, of course. Before going onstage, we were in the back room drinking beer. No chairs, only beer kegs to sit on. I had an extra battery for my acoustic guitar's active mic in my bag, and I used the bag as a cushion under my butt while sitting on the painful beer keg. Suddenly, there comes a loud BANG from under my butt, and a horrible chemical stench starts to ooze out. I had accidently exploded the battery by wiggling my ass trying to sit straight. Everyone ran out of the backstage in panic to protect their lungs. And I must say it burned, too. I hope I didn't absorb too much of those battery chemicals. My poor bottom. Live and learn.

 

Nubile ThangsLindsay Jones

My name is Lindsay Jones, and from 1990–2002, I was the lead singer and bassist for The Nubile Thangs. The band originally formed in Winston-Salem, NC, when Chris Eudy (guitar), John "Bootie" Noyes (drums) and I were students at the North Carolina School of the Arts. After we graduated, we moved to Chicago, where we ultimately added two more members: Jason Singer (saxophone) and Oscar Ybarra (trumpet). We released three records independently in our time together, and toured the US and Canada multiple times. We've gotten back together a handful of times since 2002, and we're all still good friends today.

This story involves the time that we played Toe's Tavern, which was a nightclub in Santa Barbara, Calif., as part of a West Coast tour. The date was May 13, 1997, and it was a Tuesday night. I booked this show (and all of the other shows as well) and was excited to play this place as I had heard that it was very popular with UCSB students. We had already had a pretty rough time on this tour as our van had broken down on our way out of Chicago, and we had to cancel the first three dates of the tour as well. We managed to get another van and get out on the road as fast as we could, but by the time we reached Santa Barbara, we were already exhausted, stressed out and broke.

We arrived for soundcheck at 4 p.m., as we had been instructed by the club. As we were loading in, the club's manager, who was working behind the bar, told us that the sound guy would be there at 4:30 p.m. We get all our stuff in the club, and pull up a stool at the bar to wait for him.

As 4:30 p.m. came and went, there was no sound guy. At 5 p.m., I said to the manager, "Hey, any word on the sound guy?" and he made a call. No answer. "He'll be here soon," the manager said. We continue to sit at the bar.

The manager gets us all beers (except for me, as I don't drink) and so we drink and wait.

Finally, at around 5:45 p.m., the phone rings and the manager answers.

"Hello? Yeah? WHAT! Are you kidding me? GODDAMMIT. Motherfucker. OK, yeah. All right. Thanks."

He hangs up the phone and I say to him, "Uh, everything OK?"

"Well, the sound guy's dead."

"WHAT!"

"Yeah, he had it coming. Any of you guys know how to run sound?"

Ironically, I am now a sound designer for theatre, and dealing with sound equipment is now a daily part of my job. But at that point I had minimal experience working with sound gear. Could I soundcheck my whole band? I didn't think so.

But, of course, I immediately said, "Sure, I can do it!"

I get my band onstage and slowly try to figure out the soundboard. It took us almost two and a half hours to get mic'd up and sound checked, but we did it! At 8:30 p.m., we tell the manager that we're all set to go, and he says great, he's gonna open the doors.

ABSOLUTELY! OPEN THE DOORS! LET THE FLOOD OF COLLEGE STUDENTS BEGIN!

An hour later, the club is still completely empty. No one is there at all.

The manager approaches all of us, who are now on our second or third beer, and says, "Hey, you guys ready to go?"

"Uh, should we wait and see if more of a crowd shows up?"

The manager looks around at his empty place.

"You guys should just go ahead and get it over with."

So we start playing our show to absolutely no one. We've played small shows before, but this was a new record. An audience of zero.

But, hey, you know, we just figure that we'll have fun and amuse each other even if no one else will see it. We finish each song by thanking the (nonexistent) crowd and asking if anyone has any requests.

About five songs in, there appears a shadowy figure at the back of the hall. A CUSTOMER! One person! We can't really make him out, but he's there! OK, things are turning around.

At the end of the next song, I welcome our guest and invite him to come on down to the front. He slowly shuffles to about halfway from the door to us. Sure, all right. We play the next song. When we finish, we encourage him to move closer. Come down front. We're all friends here. He starts to slowly shuffle towards us.

As he reaches us, I'm suddenly struck by an immense smell. It's coming from this guy.

"Hey," he says. "Do you all have a dollar I can borrow?"

Our one audience member is a vagrant. Perfect.

"Take a look around, my friend!," I yell. "Do I look like I am making a lot of money here tonight?"

"Aw man, whatever." He leaves.

We play the rest of our set and as we're playing, reality starts to set in. No one else is coming in here. It's just us. Ugh.

After we finish, the rest of the band immediately starts drinking heavily while I start packing up gear. It takes a while, but when I finish, I head over to the manager to settle up. I'm trying to brace for the bad news.

"Well," he says. "Obviously, you didn't have anything at the door tonight, so I can't pay you anything there."

"Right. I figured."

"On the other hand, you did your own sound. So, I could give you $50 that I was going to give to the sound guy ..."

"Hey! Great! I'll take it!"

"... BUT your band just drank $75 worth of alcohol ..."

I look over at the bar. The band is completely loaded. They're literally falling all over themselves.

" ... SO I'll make you a deal. You guys just leave now and I won't charge you anything."

Sigh.

I grab the guys and force them to pack up the van. We all pile in the van, and I'm now thoroughly depressed. Everyone else is laughing and jovial as we're driving out of town.

"Dammit!," I finally yell. "I can't believe we came all this way and killed ourselves to get here, and we made no money at all!"

"Well, now, there's no reason to get upset," said a very drunken Unnamed Band Member. "We may not have made any money, but I'm willing to bet that these microphones are worth some money!"

He pulls out three Shure SM58 mics out of his jacket pocket and pumps them into the air!

"You stole their microphones? Dammit, now we're never going to be able to play there again!"

"Lindsay. Think about this. Do you ever WANT to play that place again?"

We drive in silence out of Santa Barbara. We have never returned.

 

grant hart 2Todd Newman, Grant Hart

"We better practice for the St. Paul Saints thing in a couple of day."

I stared at Grant Hart, not having any idea what he was talking about.

I had been playing bass for him for a while. He had a new CD out and was attempting to put together his first band since the Nova Mob days. The drummer, second or third in a distinguished line of drummers who "didn’t work out" for reasons I could never quite get, was a really funny British guy named David, who struck me as more of an expert percussionist and John-Cage-book-writing intellectual than a traditional hard bashing rock and roll drummer. He had a beautiful wife, Heidi, and they lived in Wisconsin, so "we" (usually meaning "I") usually had to go pick him up for practice and bring him back to Grant's house in St. Paul, Minnesota. It was a hell of a jog and struck me immediately as insane.

"What St. Paul Saints thing, Grant?"

"We're going to play before the baseball game, right outside the stadium so people can see us while they're going in."

"When is the gig?"

"Two days from now. In the afternoon."

"OK."

I had started a new job just a week before, so I was already looking at a fraudulent sick call in order to make the gig. What the hell, I thought. It's all about band camaraderie, esprit de corps, shit, it's Grant Hart of Husker Du, I've got to come through for him.  

On the day of the gig, after we really didn't practice any in the days before hand, I went to pick up Grant and we headed, along with our amps and guitars, to the stadium. When we got to the reserved "VIP" parking, the guy at the entrance seemed to have no idea who we were. He didn't have our name on the list or anything. We wore him down with the old "they probably forgot to give you our names" bit, which got us into the "VIP" parking, which was just a section of the baseball stadium parking lot that was slightly closer to the entrance.  I felt a twinge of suspicion at this point but decided not to worry about it.

We parked and Grant went to find our contact somewhere in the area by the stadium. He was gone for quite awhile. When he came back he had an irritated look on his face.

"The lady says that I never confirmed the gig so they got another band to play. But I convinced her to let us play for awhile."

There was no stage or PA system in sight.

"Where and through what do we play, Grant?"

"I'll make some calls and get us some sort of PA, and we'll go get it."

At this point, I started rethinking that fraudulent sick call I had made to the new job, but I  shrugged and said, "Alright!"

David and Heidi showed up -- they had wisely traveled separately from Grant and I -- and they, too, talked their way into the "VIP" parking area, where we met them and filled them in on the situation. Their reactions ranged from confused to deeply concerned. David looked more nervous of the two. Heidi was always calm and slightly bemused, so I figured she was headed to where I was finally starting to arrive at, which was digging the craziness.

Grant made some calls and we headed out to his friend's house, which turned out to be, as one would guess, nowhere close to the St. Paul Saints stadium. Grant insisted on driving my car (he "knew the way there better"), and drove in a style no way within the usual driving norms. When we got there, the only gear they had was a tiny guitar amp. I happened to have a mic and a mic stand in my car, so we decided that since it was getting late, this was going to be the PA.

We raced back to the stadium and unloaded our gear onto the sidewalk outside the stadium. There was a small "stage," apparently set up for the other band, the band that "confirmed" the gig. We plugged the mic in and Grant tried checking it. It squealed uncontrollably, and his vocals sounded like the sort of unintelligible sounds an angry or wounded animal might make.

At this point, a van and some cars arrived and the replacement band for us showed up. It was a Mariachi band, with full Mariachi costumes and instruments.

It seemed like there were 10 or more of them plus family members or singers or whatever they were. They looked confused and slightly irritated to see us with our equipment set up. Grant tried talking to them, but they seemed to speak no English. They just stared at him, all of them sullen. Grant walked a ways with them toward the parking lot. When he came back, the Mariachi band wasn't with him. I asked him where they were. He said that he had convinced them to play out in the parking lot, telling them that's "where the people were going to be." I was laughing uncontrollably at this point, pretty much non-stop.

We took the "stage," a tiny box of Grant's new CD on the ground in front of us for sale. David, the drummer, looked physically sick , and I guessed that he didn't quite have the love of absurdist, insane scenarios that I did. We launched into our first song. The guitar-amp PA sounded like nothing I'd heard before. It was feeding back in some piercingly high frequency every time Grant sang into the mic. I was trying not to laugh and to look serious, as people -- families with kids, men and women of all ages, at the park for good times and baseball -- were heading into the stadium pretty steadily. I watched some of them, and almost all had their hands over their ears as they rapidly ran past us. No one stopped to listen nor purchase a CD from the little merch cardboard box.

After a song or so, the Mariachi band approached from the outer parking lot and stood right in front of the stage. They looked very, very angry. I looked at David and he looked like he wanted to hide behind the cymbals. The Mariachis obviously realized they'd been hoodwinked into playing for a bunch of empty cars and had come to take back their gig.

Grant didn't really react to them at all. We finished the song and then Grant approached the microphone. He said, "Come on up and join us!," waving at the pissed-off Mariachis. He then began playing and singing the Frito Bandito theme.

"Aye yi yi yi, I am a Frito Bandito."

The Mariachis looked even more angry if possible, but as Grant continued with the "I love Fritos corn chips, I love them I do," their expressions switched to completely baffled. I tried not to laugh so they wouldn't think we were making fun of them. I really wasn't sure if we were or not anyway.

Grant signaled them up on the "stage" again, and a few tentatively made their way up and started playing along, with their oversized guitars, basses, etc. Then a few more came up. Then Grant handed one of them the microphone and they started singing through it, but they were singing lyrics in Spanish. Apparently the melody had different Spanish lyrics. Perhaps it was an old song.

Grant, David and I left the stage, and the rest of the Mariachis joined their band mates in playing the Frito Bandito theme. A staff member from the ballpark then came out and told the band to stop as the pre-game stuff was going to start soon inside the stadium.

Grant said, "Let's stash the stuff so we can go down to the field."

I said, "Why are we going down to the field?"

"So I can sing the national anthem, of course."

"What the fuck! You're singing the national anthem?"

"Yeah, Todd, didn't I tell you?"

We were then escorted down to the field through some hallways. I looked at Grant and then looked at the field. I was thinking, "Jesus, this has been one of the strangest, most hilarious, and maybe just maybe most fun days I've ever had."

I gave Grant a hug. He took to the field and sang the hell out of the national anthem. I was proud to know him.

ceili mossLaurent Leemans, Ceilí Moss

In 2007, Ceilí Moss was invited to play a Halloween gig in a pub in Herentals, a small city not far from Antwerp, north Belgium. Halloween and St. Patrick's Day gigs are the kind we love, for even in small villages there are always lots of people waiting for just a small spark to get "out of their heads." So even when the technical or financial conditions are not perfect, I have no recollection of not having great fun at a Halloween gig.

That was until we came to Herentals ...

Or should I say when we tried to enter Herentals. Like I said, it's a small (27,000 inhabitants) city, so there are five main roads that lead to the center of the town. All five were blocked by roadwork. We had no GPS at the time, and not all of us had cellphones, so after turning around this impregnable city for about 30 minutes finding less way in than in a fossilized egg, we called the venue owner. He guided me (with a terrible Antwerp accent) through a mesh of tiny streets so we finally could squeeze ourselves into the venue.

That's when we realized the Lord in his mighty wisdom had perhaps sent us a sign when he prevented us from entering. The "Typical and charming Irish pub" we were about to entertain was in fact a filthy (really filthy, the soles of our shoes made a scratch at every step from sticking to the dirt on the ground) hole decorated with a few Guinness and Jameson posters. The audience was about a dozen youngsters only interested in the soccer match on the telly and barely noticed a band was about to play. So we started playing for no one but ourselves and the venue owner, who was happy as could be, but I suspect it was merely because he was beyond drunk.

We respected our contract and played for 90 minutes feeling transparent, guys passing us by to go out or come in without a glance at us -- not even from the barkeep who had long fallen flat on his back behind the bar. We could have snatched the cash register without anyone minding. The 20 people were all in an adjoining room enjoying what resembled more and more of an orgy.

We packed our PA, ate our sandwiches (which were tasty, the best part of the evening), asked the bartender for our money and left as fast as we could.

The name Herentals gives us shivers today still.

lindsey leighLindsey Leigh

My worst gig was when I was headlining a festival near Orlando, Florida. I was told there would be close to 10,000 people there that would see me perform, so I prepared for two solid weeks, added backup singers and choreography, and ran myself ragged over the show, even calling the sound guy the night before to make sure he knew all the details so things would run smoothly.

When we arrived, nothing was set up the way I was told it would be. There were wired mics instead of wireless ones, but we had choreography, so that wouldn't work. The stage was set up in this tiny corner of the festival and wasn't put in a central location. We were shoved off to one side where no one could see us, hidden among vendors, so the crowd was barely a crowd at all. I felt really mislead, but the people behind it were so nice that I don't think they realized that it was a terrible setup. But how can you tell me 10,000 people when knowing your stage is in a tiny corner? There wasn't even room for 100 people in that section. Things definitely weren't communicated correctly.

 I told the sound guy before we went on, "No matter what, don't let any dead air in the show. Play one song after another because I don't want to talk between songs."

The sound was so bad that I knew no one would hear me if I spoke between songs. So what does he do? After every song, dead silence for at least a minute. It was so awkward. I kept shooting him these glances like, are you ever going to hit play? He was too busy chatting with some girl sitting with him. To top it off, since we were squeezed in between vendor booths, there was a person in a hideous chicken costume who was promoting some chicken place lurking around the stage. That jerk started dancing up a storm when I started playing and didn't stop the whole time. It was so humiliating to have so much go wrong and then look over and see a chicken dancing to your music.

But the show's directors loved it. Actually, they loved it so much that it was mentioned on the radio the next day, and they invited me to play another festival. But I declined, fearing it would be set up the same way the next time, too. They were so nice that I felt terrible about not enjoying the whole experience and never said anything.

It's been more than a year and I still haven't received my check for playing that gig.

trewsJohn-Angus MacDonald, The Trews

Back in the day (late '90s) when we were fresh outta high school and booking ourselves our first tour, we found ourselves in a very unfortunate situation in Montreal.

Being totally independent at the time, I was the band's de facto booking agent. Internet access not being what it is today, I was selecting venues to cold call based on the recommendations of friends and relatives who knew something about the cities we were trying to book shows in. It turns out that sometimes they knew very little and this sometimes led to us to being booked into some not-so-appropriate-for-our-style-of-music type of venues.

One such venue was a hardcore punk dive in downtown Montreal which also doubled as a shelter for street kids. These kids were mostly very hard cases and their taste in music reflected that. They weren't so down with our brand of retro/classic rock. It was obvious that we didn't fit in from the moment we loaded in. We decided to play anyway since we'd driven all that way from Nova Scotia.

The venue was set up with a balcony that wrapped around the stage so people could watch from up above, within the first few minutes of our first number, then-drummer Ramsey Clark was having full beers dumped all over him from some hecklers watching overhead. It was clear that we were the wrong band, in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Immediately, every song sped up to double speed and led right into one another as not to leave any space for them to boo us off the stage.

Back in those days when faced with a small or indifferent crowd we always felt we had an ace up our sleeves to help turn some heads; We used to cover Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." No matter what kind of night we were having, this tended to get it back on track, or at least get people paying attention for a few minutes. So we whipped it out ... bad idea!

Not only were these hardcore punk rock street kids not Queen fans (big surprise) they didn't appreciate the humor or ambition of us trying to cover one of the most un-coverable songs in the history of recorded music.

This led one particular hard case to approach the stage, rip the mic out of our singer's hand and threaten him with a knife. If we didn't stop what we were doing and get the fuck outta there pronto, he was gonna cut him up!
Luckily, the local soundman was no stranger to this kind of thing in his establishment and managed to talk the knife-wielding maniac out of killing our singer. So that was our last number of the night, and we've never loaded out of a club faster. Within minutes we were packed up and back on the highway counting our blessings and trying to forget the whole ordeal. Of course, we never did.

heart-attackRuss Simmons, The Steve Miller Orchestra

I was performing with the Steve Miller Orchestra at a 50th wedding anniversary celebration when a man at the front table suffered a heart attack. The band immediately stopped playing, but as people rushed to the gentleman's aid, the host of the party came up to us and said, "Just keep playing, keep playing!"

As they were assisting him, I was belting out, "Life is a cabaret, old chum ..."

The paramedics showed up almost immediately. As they were taking him out on a stretcher, I was singing those classic Kander and Ebb lines, "No use permitting some prophet of doom/To wipe every smile awaaaay ..."

As is often the case when it is most inappropriate, the girl singer began to laugh. She stifled herself, jumped up and ducked behind our oversized floor speaker until she could compose herself.

marshall-ampLloyd English

I was leading a group of about eight amateur musicians during a church confirmation service in Edmonton, Alberta (Canada), and we were tucked into the tiny choir loft barely able to fit ourselves in.

Since there were about 250 in attendance -- and in order to be heard over the din of the old organ and other assorted instruments and banging things -- I decided to bring my 50 watt vintage tube gigging amp. There was so little room to move that I had to put the amp off in a corner and set the volume, and then climb into position amongst the other players as if in a music cockpit.

The program started and everything was going seamlessly with the music contributing overall to a moving service. Moms and Dads with siblings and babies were proudly watching their adolescent boys dressed up in suits becoming young men right before their eyes. It was at this most somber of moments of dedication that my close-yet-so-far amplifier decided to turn itself up to 10 or maybe 11 due to some electronic mystery.

So now at Woodstock volume -- complete with my archtop feeding back like a Strat through a Marshall stack and the crowd stunned and showing signs of going into shock with children beginning to tear up, and the previously soon-to-be-confirmed young adults now turning back into adolescents -- I knew I had to act. With before unknown athletic acumen I launched my now ninja-like 200-pound-plus frame in the direction of the demon-possessed amplifier, and after crushing some limbs and knocking over an autoharp (luckily), I managed to get my hands on the power cord which I yanked out of the wall from about 10 feet away.

The amp went silent. The crowd went silent, save for a baby crying and some sputtering wet giggling sounds coming from the confirmants -- all semblance of ceremony had been effectively destroyed. A 10-second eternity ensued, which was eventually broken by the Pastor saying only my name in an unusual and eerily articulated fashion with a question mark twist. This was followed by an additional 5-second silent purgatory that was finally broken by the remainder of his response.

Moving inches forward, his lips now touching the mic which served to magnify the remainder of his words for the now partially deaf congregants while at the same time enhancing the bass of the cheap mic, this, combined with him doing his best to deliver a measured response instead resulted in a starship commander kind of voice calling out: "Are you OK up there?" I knew that what he was thinking was: Is there the off chance that this event could be deemed a positive experience in that it may somehow have sent you to meet God.

This articulated question of course required no response from the "guitar player" for the damage was done. In the Pastor's eyes the guitar player had clearly demonstrated for everyone to see and hear that without a theological doubt electronic guitars and most likely their players did not belong in God's church. This only further proved that organists and wide-vibrato sopranos and baritones (and the occasional wooden recorder) had been chosen by God and His angels especially for ecclesiastical and liturgical purposes. Satan had sent an evil spirit in the guise of a "musician."

I think it was after this event that he asked that I no longer address him by his first name while in the church building.

kaleidoscopeMax Buda, Kaleidoscope

Cheetah was a short-lived magazine and a chain of go-go/psychedelia dance halls in different cities through the country. The Cheetah in Los Angeles was formerly the Aragon Ballroom on the Santa Monica Pier where Lawrence Welk sudsed. It had been given the "mod" treatment with an almost entirely stainless steel decor and some really unsittable pieces of "group" furniture all metal shiny. The word acoustic had no meaning in the ricocheting clang of every noise in the room.

But that was just boot camp for The Cheetah in New York City. Kaleidoscope had no business being in NYC in 1968, so of course that's where we were. Almost upon arrival our bookings collapsed when they realized what they had booked. The Cheetah couldn't back out though, because we had a contract to play three in the chain -- and this was the second. There was a rotating stage divided three ways, and three bands would set up and spin around after each set with the next one all set up ready to play. Ah, but the house policy was that the music being played by the disappearing band was to be continued by the new one finishing the turn. All the same tune without missing a beat. We asked why? Well, so the dancers won't have to stop.

We were on second, so the first band started and it's a rhythm and blues cover band. Sam and Dave, "I'm Your Puppet" by James & Bobby Purify, some Sly I think. They were not too bad doing covers, but holy shit the crowd. They slowly filtered in. They were almost all black and dancing in formation. By the time we ran to our spots and the stage started to turn, they went into the switch-over song "Funky Broadway" or "The Horse" -- something they assume we got to know -- and boom we were face to face with about 200 folks mid-movement. The sound that emanated from our collective hands was not funky funky anything. It was kind of like a Chinese Opera version of "Louie Louie." I never saw so many frozen people go into the instant "What is that shit?" mode.

Time and space stopped. As they began to shrink away like fog, we went into one of our dance tunes, the ones that made people dance in Arizona, San Francisco, Boston and other small burgs. We were feeling good, we were doing our stuff. Now somebody always was going to respond. The ones still there did.

Finishing the set we went through what we thought were all our winners but the room with the dance floor was entirely empty -- the crowd was everywhere else in the building you could squeeze. Until that merciful moment when the stage began to turn and we were cued to start up the turning tune -- something we knew they could never play.

They didn't bother -- the third band was a much larger R&B cover act with lots of horns, and they turned our little ditty into a roaring "Funky Broadway" which chain reacted into a sea of formation dancing almost instantly. The guy from the place came around and gave us a pep talk, lying and saying there were people who liked it and so on. By the time the wheel was ready to move again our stuff wasn't on it.

We were informed that next Cheetah stop in New Jersey was out of the question because we were entirely unsuitable, and they were much more of a dance place than this one.

wipeout2Eddie Crowe

I was playing drums at a condo block party with two good ole boys from North Carolina, Shifty Henry and Alley Bubba, and about a dozen of their musician friends. I had never met these guys, but someone gave them my number and they called me and asked if I'd do the gig with them. They told me they do a variety of classic rock: Southern rock, '50s, '60s, country. Pretty much anything goes.

While on the phone, Shifty said, "Oh yeah, there's one more thing. Can you play 'Wipe Out?'"

I said, "I've messed around with it some but never actually played it with a band, but I think I can do it."

Two weeks later I show up for the gig and set up my stuff in the back center of the deck we were supposed to play on. I was right in front of the stationary glass section of the sliding glass door.  As everyone else started showing up ( including two keyboard players), I was asked to move my stuff to the left of where I was. So now, there's a wall behind me. Free food and beer at this party. It was one of the 100 degree July days. I had a pitcher of beer next to me the whole time.

So we were ending the third song of the third set and Shifty says, "'Wipe Out' is next."

And I thought, "Oh Shit! I freakin forgot about that. I wouldn't have drank all that beer. Damn!" 

So I cracked my knuckles did a couple arm stretches and said, "Lets get it. So here we go."

I play pretty hard and use heavy sticks, and I was nailing the solo in "Wipe Out." I had already soloed on the snare, first and second toms. Then as I went to solo on the floor tom (a drum I rarely used), I had it raised up too high and I hit the rim of the drum with my knuckles on both hands, drawing blood ... so I immediately changed my angle by standing up. I didn't miss a beat.

After I finished the solo I went to sit down to finish the song, but the seat was gone! I didn't know it, but the seat fell over when I stood up. I felt the back of my legs hit it but I never knew it fell over. Talk about a train wreck. There were drums and cymbals, stands and sticks flying every which way. So my back is against the wall. I'm sitting on the deck and the seat is under my knees. The audience thought it was part of the show. They loved it. Truth is, I busted my ass. If they hadn't asked me to move my drums I would have fallen backward through the plate glass door.

I don't play "Wipe Out" anymore ever since then.

drivin southSam Turton, Drivin' South

I was in a blues band called Drivin' South back in the '90s, and we had a Saturday afternoon gig at a club in Niagara Falls, Ontario. We started to set up, and the owner informed us that a biker gang was having a barbeque in the parking lot to raise money for a kids charity. This set off our drummer, who had a long-standing fear of bikers.

The club was very long and narrow, and we were relieved that most of the bikers stayed outside or hung out near the back of the room. In the middle of our first set, a woman approached our singer and asked if we could play her boyfriend Tiny's favorite song, "Messin' With the Kid," for his birthday. No problem -- our singer gleefully announced, "And our next tune goes out to Tiny on his birthday!"

As the song kicked in, there was a commotion at the back of the room, and out of the mass of leather and sweat came a monster of a man. He had a filthy bandana, a dirty blond pony tail, a wing sauce-covered goatee and tattooed arms the size of legs. The guy was easily 6' 6" and 250 lbs, and he was drunkenly weaving his way toward us smiling and singing, "You can call it what you want, but I call it messin' with The Kid." The entire biker gang cheered and followed him toward the stage. Our drummer turned white as a ghost.

By the time Tiny reached the stage, I was into the guitar solo. I avoided looking at him, hoping he would go away, but in my peripheral vision I could see him getting closer to my side of the stage, deep into a whacked-out, air-guitar version of my solo. He was air-wanking right in front of me and then, to my horror, he placed his hands on the stage and started to lift himself up. As he wobbled like King Kong on the Empire State Building, his buddies roared. I backed up a bit, still playing, and was relieved when he found his feet. His face broke into a mile-wide grin. "Play that fucker!" he yelled, a fun-house mirror image of the truly tiny me (I'm 5' 6"). I looked up, smiled weakly, and then the unthinkable happened. Tiny came around behind, reached his mammoth arms around me and tried to play the guitar -- with me in between.

The bikers screamed like it was The Beatles at Shea Stadium, and before I could think twice, he lifted me in the air while "we" were still playing, and the world turned upside down. I fell backward through space as Tiny passed out, flattening my amp as he landed on his back -- with me on his belly in a tortured wail of feedback. The cymbals crashed and everything went silent. I stared up at the stained ceiling tiles with my Strat in a death grip, lying on the beached-whale belly of an unconscious biker.

To the gang it was the best thing they had ever seen in their lives. They swarmed the stage, picked me up, dusted me off, whacked me on the back and told us to take a break.

tonkaGene Burnett, Burnett & Cummings

I was in a folk duo with my buddy Victor Cummings in Seattle in the late '80s through the '90s. He was working at a group home for developmentally disabled adults. Sometimes the people who lived in this house would come to our shows. None were severely retarded or disabled -- most of them had day jobs and just needed help around the edges of life. They were super sweet and very enthusiastic fans and I was always happy to see them come.

One time Vic got us a gig at this place called Fircrest which was kind of like a mental hospital. We were somehow under the impression that the people we'd be playing for would be similar to the cool folks at Vic's group house. Wrong. The quietest person in the room was bellowing like a water buffalo. One guy was trying to eat a Tonka toy while another was trying to hump a beanbag chair. There was one supervisor guy for the whole room of maybe 20 or so people. He stood in front of the stage area and grabbed people as they came running toward us with their arms windmilling at full blast, often grabbing them just before they reached us.

We played very rhythmic extended "dance mixes" of all of our tunes and counted ourselves lucky to get out of there in one piece. This was clearly not the right venue for our kind of music.

For years afterward, whenever we were playing in some noisy-as-hell club with no one listening, one of us would mouth the word "Fircrest" to the other and we would just crack up. It was kind of scary and awful at the time, but I still laugh my ass off when I think of it today.

 

dog-no-pee-signDavid Strahl, Random Facts

We were playing  a small place in Brooklyn. There was a dog running around that just gave birth to some pups. One of the pups decided to come up onstage and pee on the mic stand. I, of course, commented, "Everybody's a critic."


 

vengeance and the verminVinnie Anglesey, Vengeance & the Vermin

Years ago (1990), I played our one and only gig at the Blackball Hall with my at-the-time covers band Vengeance & the Vermin, which was located in Blackball, West Coast, South Island, New Zealand (pop. 300). We were the last band on the bill. The crowd of 60 or 70 had had quite a few drinks at this time of night and were ready to hear some amazing loud rock music from the so-called main act. The scene was set, everyone was pumped and raring to go.

As the lead singer and bass player, I was looking very cool with my dark blue, shiny, Asian silk dragon nightgown and my long blonde hair flowing down, and was ready to give the audience something special. My knees were knocking and the adrenaline was definitely pumping. This was going to be my best performance in my 3 or 4 gig career at the time.

I had my back to the audience as the band started up the opening number and the crowd was very expectant and vocal. Once the vocals were ready to start I spun around as cool as possible ready to give them the ultimate performance.

To my dismay and horror I felt an enormous bogey that had somehow dislodged itself from my nasal cavity and was plastered from my nose down to my chin ...

Taking a few seconds to register what had happened my only option was to quickly turn around again and remove the uninvited guest from the performance. My credibility and dreams of superstardom were dashed in one gooey moment.

Once suitably attired, I spun around again and continued to rock on, and the audience had a good time. I'll never know to this day if they noticed anything or remembered it, but I certainly did!

I won't mention the nervous farting that occurred during the first couple of songs ... might save that one for another horror story.  Phew!

podstarJoJo Longbottom, Podstar

We played a show in Provo, Utah, on tour several years back. We show up and it's run by this Mormon couple. His wife makes us homemade mac and cheese. We have this great meal. Everything is nice. (The venue) is a half arcade and half regular show. We play a rock set with a San Francisco band called The Rum Diary. It all goes fine. Then we go to load out when the shenanigans happen. It's located in this little strip mall in the middle of Provo. As we're coming out, Ryan (Magnuson, drummer) opens the door to a shotgun barrel. Standing there are five cops. One is a "bad-ass" wearing a necklace badge, jeans, white shirt and holding a shotgun. Apparently, there are 17 cop cars surrounding the strip mall and two choppers going overhead because there are two escaped convicts in the strip mall. Cops come barreling through, searching through everybody. It's the end of the night. Most of the crowd has (left). So it's just the people that are working at the place and the bands. We end up having to stay the night at the place while they continue the search. I slept sitting up in the chair of a racecar game.

dumptruck-butterlipsChad Smith, Dumptruck Butterlips

We were at a festival -- which we will not name -- and someone had a tray of chocolates, like truffles. We all took one because the girls love chocolate. Then we went onstage about 30 minutes later.

About 15 minutes into our show, we all looked at each other and noticed we were all tingly. Everything was getting weird. My guitar neck started snakin'. These girls looked white as a ghost. We kept looking at each other and laughing. We didn't know if we were in the song or if we were still playing or not. Then we'd just bust into the chorus and all of us would sing together.

We ended the set, and people came up to us and said, “Wow. That was so amazing. I've never seen you guys play like that.”

We were totally freaked out. We thought we'd just played the worst show of our lives -- we still think we played the worst show of our lives.

We think it was psilocybin (magic mushrooms) or something. They were the best chocolates I ever had.

parksJohn Parks, Technique

One time when I was in Alabama I got called to play a job for a medical student reception. I was supposed to be drumming with this funk band Technique, who I'd seen a couple times and were really awesome. I show up at this gig, and it turns out Technique is not actually the name of the group that is going to be performing at that venue, rather it is the name of a "corporation" who books gigs with other people. If they can't play it, they hire people to play it in their name. So I get there, and there's no bass player or piano player, just an acoustic guitar player and a singer who is the quintessential lounge singer -- like Bill Murray singing "Star Wars" on "Saturday Night Live." They had told me the gig was going to be straight-ahead Stevie Wonder and KC and the Sunshine Band stuff. The guitar player tells me that he thought it was a straight-ahead jazz gig. And the lounge singer came in thinking we were doing Christmas carols. We have no bassist and no pianist, just an acoustic guitar with no amp. We didn't even know what to do, and everyone was waiting to dance -- and the people got so pissed off.

furcudlCliff Hritz, Fur Cudl

My old band Fur Cudl was playing what turned out to be our final gig at a club called The Firenze in Philadelphia. The dressing room was behind the stage, which was actually the kitchen. Before we went on, our new drummer said he was running out to pull a few of his friends to the gig. But what my bass player knew and didn't tell me until after the set was that he was actually going to score cocaine. When we hit the stage, he was unable to play, and my guitar wouldn't stay in tune. So instead of ruining the last/best 3 songs, I unplugged and just walked off with my guitar into the kitchen. Eventually, my bass player followed, but the drummer and singer continued to the end of the song ... sort of. Our singer didn't even join us in the kitchen. He walked off and went to the bar. Right then and there my bass player and I decided to fire the drummer and singer. That was the beginning of the end.

david_georgeDavid George, Moaning Lisa

Moaning Lisa was touring in probably 2003-ish. We played the Midwest Music Festival in Cincinnati. It was the first or second year. We were the headliners of this club called The Cavern. I can't remember the name of the band -- they're from Cincinnati -- but they go on before us. I thought, "Oh, that's crazy," because they had all these fans. We had people there to see us but not like they did. They had this amazing show. And I'm like, "We got to kick their ass. We got to show these people how to rock!"

I had an incident with alcohol at our CD-release party where I drank a little too much and the show suffered. That's a whole other story. So I was like, "I'm going to do one shot, and I'm going to drink some Red Bull" -- because it was sponsored by Red Bull.

I had six Red Bulls.

So I'm onstage bouncing off the walls. And this one song, ironically called "Crashing Down," I get up after the chorus on the little intro part before the next verse, I'm standing up there like, "YEAAAAAH." The monitor flips, and I go into the crowd head-over-heels. It's like a six-foot drop. I land on my ribs, break my guitar and crack my ribs. I get up, barely, and try to get lifted on the stage. I'm literally horizontal, and people are lifting me into position. My mic is gone. So I go to sing on Desmond (Ramos') mic, who's singing harmonies -- why, I don't know. I step on his pedal board right before his guitar solo, so there's nothing. Then our bass player and drummer are still playing, but they're laughing so hard they can't keep it together.

We finally get going again. We're on our last song, and I feel this wet spot, like when I fell, I fell into beer. ... I'm playing, and I'm really uncomfortable. I put my foot up on the monitor, and I reach my hands down there and notice my jeans are split from knee to knee, and I'm commando. My goods are hanging out to the world. The whole crowd is like, "YEAAAAAH." I'm doing a total Courtney Love. It wasn't until afterward that I realized my junk was all hanging out.

Columbia Records, Aware Records, DreamWorks were all at the show, and I don't think they were too happy with it.

frogpond2Tawni Freeland, Frogpond

It was the mid-'90s, and my all-girl band Frogpond was scheduled to play a show that night at The Hurricane in Kansas City, Missouri. We played there regularly, as it was a consistently fun venue in the popular Westport area of the city.

Quite often when scheduling bands, booking agents would place us into a chick band lineup, and tonight was no exception. An all-female band from Minneapolis was opening for us. We met them backstage, which at The Hurricane is actually located within the rabbit warren labyrinth beneath the club, and they were very polite.

I sincerely hope that being a girl in a rock band is no different from being a guy in a rock band now, but back in the '90s our group experienced occasional moments of sexism. Despite the best efforts of amazing women like Joan Jett to pave the way for female musicians, girls on a stage holding instruments still equaled an excuse to holler degrading things for some of the “less enlightened” among us.

We were sometimes greeted by audience members with cries of, “Take off your shirts!” It was insulting because we were just trying to play rock and roll. And if we wanted to be strippers, trust me -- we’d be making a hell of a lot more money than we were for playing music. (In short: If anyone reading this is still yelling sexist things at female musicians, please desist immediately and go back to shouting “Play Freebird!” with the other douche bags.)

As the band of three women we’d just met took the stage and began to play, we nodded in appreciation over the loud music. But the usual suspects were in the crowd that night, and soon raucous male cries of, “Show us your tits!” began to ring out between songs like irritating little Neanderthal gnats buzzing in the face of intelligent evolution. We cringed in embarrassment. They were opening for us on our home turf, and this was the best group of fans we had to offer? A bunch of meatheads yelling disgusting things at them?

Disappointed, we slunk over to the bar side of the building to brace ourselves with liquid courage for our impending time onstage enduring requests for clothing removal. Plus, we really liked to drink.

After a few songs, a strange thing began to happen on the other side of the bar. There was a collective gasp from the audience, a sudden charge of murmuring electricity across the crowd, and a surge of bodies from the back of the room toward the stage.

“What’s going on?,” I asked a stranger standing in front of me.

“The lead singer just took off her shirt,” the girl replied, wrinkling her nose. “She’s also not wearing a bra.”

I immediately walked to the side of the crowd to get a good look at the stage, and sure enough, there stood the half-naked lead singer amid wide-eyed, gawking people. She was a petite, thin blonde with a very small chest. She didn’t acknowledge her missing shirt -- she didn’t flirt or play it up -- she was just nonchalantly, unapologetically topless. She played the rest of the set sans shirt, oblivious to the stares. The lecherous catcallers in the crowd watched the rest of the show in stunned silence. If she was trying to get the guys to just finally shut up about seeing boobs, then mission accomplished. Even a modest A-cup-size seemed to mesmerize them. All eyes were on her. Well, part of her, anyway.

I felt kind of sorry for the other musicians in her band who were being upstaged by skin and nipples. Nobody would have noticed if they’d walked off the stage at that point for all the attention they weren’t getting. I wondered if they supported her actions, or if they hated it when she did this. I wondered what other commands screamed from a crowd she might also blindly obey. If I yelled, “Jump around like a bunny and slap yourself on the ass!,” would she do that too?

Standing there watching the set, I felt conflicted. On one hand, it could be interpreted as a brilliant fuck-you to everyone trying to degrade her -- a way of taking the power out of the suggestion. Nudity is natural and really no big deal, after all. The fact that she didn’t have the large breasts that guys accustomed to yelling, “Show us your tits!” at women on stages are used to seeing was also a delightful slap in the face. You want breasts? Okay. Here are some real breasts.

But on the other hand, the morons in the crowd requesting a striptease show from a rock band were never going to intellectually grasp a complex removal of power from “potential degrader” by “potential degradee,” if that was indeed her intention. And now she’d made our job twice as hard by rewarding these assholes with nudity. I felt overwhelmingly disappointed by the shirt removal for this reason. By exposing herself, she had effectively chummed the audience waters for teat-seeking sharks, making a harassment-free show impossible for our chick band.

I have no idea what she hoped to accomplish by stripping that night, as I never talked to her about the incident. Searching for her band on the Internet while writing this, I discovered that she later went on to start the second-ever live webcam on the Internet ... and got a boob job. I was disappointed to hear about the boob job, as I thought her smaller natural breasts were perfectly lovely. I wasn’t shocked to read that she had a webcam.

Because there is no place for my interpretation of her motivation within this story; I can only share how it made me feel inside, and that would be, in a word: dirty. If she’d gotten onstage topless, it would have been her decision, on her conditions, and would have bothered me less. But it wasn’t on her terms: She did as she was told and took off her shirt for the rude guys like an obedient little bitch. It made my authority issues tingle and raised my feminist hackles. And that’s what bothered me the most.

After the opening band finished, we got onstage and played our set. The expected amount of audience members shouted, “Take off your shirts!” A stripping precedent had been set before we even got on the stage, and we failed to live up to it.

Thank goodness.

stoned angelsDalton Hunter, Stoned Angels

I'm a 20-year-old musician from Wichita Falls, Texas. I've never played a bad show before, not even a remotely bad show, compared to the show I played with Stoned Angels, April 17, 2009, in Wichita Falls.

At the time I was able to just sit back and look at it from afar and think this is hysterical.

The band that opened for us (at our request) tried to screw us over running sound for us. The guy in the band who owns the PA equipment said, "Don't worry about bringing y’alls PA, we've got a pretty big one and we'll all just sound better running through that."

A few days later, the prick calls one of our bandmates and says, "Well, if y'all want me to run sound for y'all, it'll cost $150."

We tell him we have a problem with that, and that even if we did want to pay him, $150 is a bit steep for a night -- the equipment and himself would be there anyway (and not to mention we gave them that opening spot; they did nothing to earn it). The jerk has the audacity to ask us, "Oh well, how much are you getting paid?"

After a week of our band agreeing, "Screw that guy and his PA," the day before the show three members of our band decided to pay the douche to run sound.

Big mistake.

If people can mess up your sound, they will just because they can --
it's happened to me before. It just drives me crazy how people are competitive for no reason, I mean, it's not a god damned battle of the bands; it's just a show.

Well, everything sounded just fine when the opening band was playing, but when we got up there everything sounded horrible. I asked the douche what the problem is, and his reply was, "Oh the (venue) is a hard place to run sound." A likely answer from a likely dipshit.

Aside from the sound of the PA being askew, everything else was going wrong as well.

I couldn't tell from his guitar playing but as soon as our rhythm guitarist opened his mouth at the microphone, I realized he was drunk. Then about five songs into the set, his amp had a pretty big malfunction and stopped working.

When an amp gets fucked up at a show, it's customary to ask the other band for help, and as fellow musicians they are obligated. (Why you ask? If you want karma to stay on your side, you help your fellow musician on and off the stage!)

Naturally, what they were playing on that night was a big, bad, more-knobs-than-you'd-know-what-to-do-with Marshall amp, and a Peavey 6505 -- both great tube amplifiers that would compare to our Crate Blue Voodoo amps. But what does the douche offer? A $200 solid state Crate PowerBlock that’s not even half the size of a cinderblock.

And right after we gather that we’re not playing anymore, the opening band rushes their equipment back onstage. Where were those amps when we asked to borrow one?

The whole thing could have passed as an equipment malfunction deal if our guitarist didn't have to be a drama queen. I don't know what our singer said to our guitarist, but all that he heard was, "You're drunk, therefore your amp broke.”

Our guitarist ended up getting all huffy and puffy with our singer, crazy-eyed and sticking his chest out -- all the "I’m gonna kick your ass things" people like to do. And it got bad enough that the bouncer and even the owner had to step in and break it up.

So, so, so unprofessional.

actionmanSteve Buren, Action Man

While there are plenty of bad gig stories, this one could've ended very tragically. In '95 or '96 I was in Action Man, and we played a gig with Truck Stop Love in Topeka. The name of the bar escapes me now -- drummer Randy Fitzgerald or guitarist Chris Tolle might remember. Anyway, all us band guys and a few girlfriends were sitting around having a few drinks before we played, when these two white trash assholes showed up and immediately tried to start fights with just about everyone in the bar. They must've come there with the intention to get into a fight.

After nobody would bite on their taunts, they decided to get physical. They poured a beer on Brad Huhmann's (bass player for TSL) girlfriend in order to get him to fight them. They started throwing punches at Brad when he wouldn't punch first, and general mayhem ensued. One of the goobers fell back into Randy's drums, causing Randy to get pissed off and jump on the guy. Then it was really going. Me and two of the TSL guys jumped in and started wailing on these guys. In no time, they were down on the floor, pleading to be let go, saying, "Sorry we're drunk and stupid, just let us leave." So we gave them the bum's rush out the door, and the owner of the bar escorted them out with a baseball bat in hand telling them to never come back.

Okay. Excitement over, so we started our gig. While we were playing, we noticed cop lights through the front window. We stopped to see what was going on. Apparently, two cops were patrolling in their squad car and happened to notice two guys (the same two assholes) getting ready to enter the bar, and one of them had a pistol in his hand. We were just plain lucky the cops happened by when they did or this bad gig story could've been much worse. The dude was arrested, and we finished the gig to a couple of dozen people.

The bar owner was very apologetic and asked us not to hold it against him. Not that we did, but we never played there again.

blackcalvinCraig Comstock, Black Calvin

On my birthday ... some year, probably around 1995 or so ... Black Calvin went down to Little Rock, Arkansas. We proceeded downtown to where the show was to be ... a nice all-ages squat sort of place ... only to find that the Fire Marshall had shut them down for the night. I believe we were opening for some vaguely famous band on Dischord Records that none of us knew all that well. Somehow we ended up out in the country playing a show inside of a single or double-wide trailer -- I can't really remember. After the show some friendly folks offered us a place to stay. We gladly obliged, but as the night went on we were constantly reminded that there were some puppies suffering from mange ... as they were almost incessantly whimpering throughout the night. Finally around 4 or 5 a.m. we decided to hit it. We got in the van and headed through the hills of NW Arkansas back to KC. On the way back I felt like I was itching an awful lot. Ever since then for about a decade whenever it would start getting cold I could swear I was getting a case of Recurring Arkansas Puppy Mange.

johnny-b-goodeRick Huyett, The Right Time

It was a guy’s 40th birthday that I played way out off of K7 (near Kansas City). I was playing bass with a swing band at the time, and the agent told us we were perfect for this gig.

I was the first to get there, and upon arriving I noticed that there were hundreds of motorcycles parked all over the property. “Sweet Home Alabama” was playing on the CD player at a painful volume. I asked for William (the birthday boy), and a guy with maybe six teeth in his head said, "You mean Billy Joe?” I began to feel kind of sick at this point, thinking that perhaps there had been a miscommunication.

Billy Joe came out of the house with a can of PBR in his hand wearing bib overalls that were cut off just below the crotch, no shirt and a ball cap that had "smile if you're not wearing any underwear" printed on it. He was happy to see me and showed me the stage, which was (of course) a flatbed truck right by the pit where they were roasting the pig -- all the while “Sweet Home Alabama” kept playing over and over on the CD player.

Finally, the rest of the band arrived, and I pulled the piano player aside and pleaded with him that we just leave before we become Ned Beatty’s character in a new remake of “Deliverance.” The piano player said, "No, I need the money. We have a contract. We're playing the gig." So we started with "Take the 'A' Train," and before we got 8 bars into the song, the stage went dead and there was Billy Joe with the power cord in his hand asking us to play “somethin' gud” or we were going to suffer!

So we played “Johnny B. Goode,” and they loved it. In fact, they liked it so much that they all got on their bikes and rode in a circle around the stage, kicking up a ton of dust -- which, combined with the pig smoke, made the experience all that more surreal. When we finished the song they said, "Play it again." So we did, over and over. For the rest of the party we played “Johnny B. Goode.”

We finally left at about 2 a.m. when Billy Joe passed out bent over a picnic table with his butt in the air. Happy Birthday, Billy Joe!

redneck3Tiger Marion, The Works

When I was a young musician growing up in rural Kansas in the 1980s, I played in an incredibly average classic rock band called The Works. My bandmates loved it. They were all middle-aged, looked like 38 Special and loved classic rock. I, on the other hand, was 18, fancied myself pretty cutting edge, listened to bands like The Replacements and The Cure, and was less than thrilled playing “Don’t Stop Believin'” to make money. I should clarify that if you wanted to work as a musician in rural Kansas in the ’80s, classic rock was what you played.

The Works was your typical cover band. We traveled in a converted school bus, shared hotel rooms and ate a lot of fast food. We spent a lot of time on that old bus, driving to some of the strangest places and playing to some of the strangest people — farmers, cowboys, bikers, biker wanna-bees, drug dealers, strippers and hookers — that I’ve ever seen.

One night we were booked way up near the Nebraska border in a tiny little town called Sabetha. As we arrived, I was anticipating another typical, boring, drawn-out show. To my surprise, the place was packed by the time we started to play, and everyone seemed to be enjoying our little rock-n-roll outfit.

After three long hours of people dancing and ripping it up, we decided to take our last break of the evening. As I stepped down to tune my Telecaster, our guitar player, Mike, disappeared into the men’s room with a furry, little, cornfed farm girl that’d been dancing in front of the band the whole night.

About 10 minutes later all hell broke loose. The furry, little, cornfed farm girl came shooting out of the bathroom and right out the door, never to be seen again. At the same time, our guitar player came skittering back to the stage with his tail tucked between his legs and two gigantic -- and I mean GIGANTIC -- redneck cowboys right on his heels. Apparently, in not one of their proudest family moments, the two insanely large and angry cowboys had just caught their little sister (a.k.a. farm girl) in one of the stalls, ummmm ... “pollinating” with our guitar player.

A couple of good Samaritans from the crowd managed to run interference with the brothers long enough for us to start our final set, but it was painfully obvious that the situation was far from over. As we started playing, I noticed the mood in the bar had turned extremely ugly. The polite crowd of about 70 people who’d just been tearing it up with the band were now standing stage-side and down front, hurling insults and plastic cups. I leaned over to Mike and said very slowly and clearly: “The minute we play the last note of ‘Radar Love’” — always our BIG closer — “you know they’re going to kill us right?!”

We hit the last note and from the back of the room we heard this drunken, Neanderthalic scream “ARGHHHHHH!” as the bigger brother came crashing toward the stage with the younger brother in tow crying and shouting, “BUT IT’S FAMILYYYYYY!” like a battle cry. And just like a movie, a free-for-all broke out. Four people -- and it took every one of them -- managed to jump on the biggest brother and wrestled him out the stage door and into the street.

As the ruckus spilled out of the bar and onto the sidewalk, the one cop in town (we’ll just call him Barney) showed up to restore some semblance of order. After a few minutes of assessing the situation, Barney realized that he was in way over his head. No one was calming down, and the smartest thing he could do was get the band packed up and on our way before things escalated any further. Barney begrudgingly decided to stand watch while we loaded our gear.

As we finished packing and were just about ready to take off, I noticed two trucks with people actually sitting in the back waiting for Barney to leave so they could make good on their previous threats. I informed Barney of the two trucks, and instead of confronting the angry villagers, he stopped for a moment, looked directly at Mike, and with a really condescending tone said, “Well boys ya see, these here folks fer whutever reason, are perrty liquor’d up and pissed off. Instead of tryin ta sort this out, I think it's best if I jus gitcha fellas movin’. I tell ya wut, I’m gonna escort cha to the highway, and I don’t wancha ta stop er pull over ‘til yer the hell outta here. Ya unnerstan me?”

Acting extremely inconvenienced, and without another word, he jumped in his patrol car, turned on his siren lights and led us out of town. The headlights from the two trucks stayed up with us for a short while and then fell off into the night. And as we hit the highway on-ramp, with a huge sigh of relief, Barney slowed down next to us and waved us on.

I remember as we sat and watched Sabetha fade into the distance, no words were spoken; there were no sarcastic remarks and no funny shenanigans. The only noticeable sound that could be heard was the hum of the old bus as she drug her rusty, metal carcass across the hundred some odd miles of cold black asphalt that would lead us home. I also remember thinking as I sat there wanting to kill Mike, “This is the last time I’m going to play in a classic rock cover band ... ever again." And it was.

ladyfriendGreg Franklin, Ladyfriend

Last summer, my band Ladyfriend was offered a set at a large, free, outdoor music festival in Seattle. Just like every band that has been lured to play for free by the promise of hundreds of eagerly receptive new ears, a gargantuan stage with a sea of brand new monitors and a brilliant soundman who was anxious to dial us in perfectly -- and the promise of access to a VIP tent full of beer and carnival food -- we graciously accepted one of the earliest spots of the day, and anxiously practiced our little hearts out in preparation for the day that would put us on the map. I even volunteered my efforts to them, designing the festival's website, passes and souvenir poster.

When we pulled up to the load-in spot on our festival map, we couldn't find our stage. The only thing in our general area (toward the farthest back corner of the festival, right in front of a highway off-ramp) was a flatbed truck parked in a grassy yard stacked with speakers and monitors. We looked around for some semblance of a structure that we were supposed to play on, until the soundman grabbed one of us and told us, "Uh, that's your stage." A slab of wood on the back of a work truck with a couple PA speakers attached that could barely fit four people standing beside each other, much less a four-piece band's equipment.

After begrudgingly setting up uncomfortably close on the worn wood slab on the back of a rickety truck (which wasn't even level), we started in on our 35-minute set, my drums sliding back and forth on the uncarpeted wood. A teeming crowd of 14 surged forward to within 100 feet of the stage as we ran through a polished set of our jaunty indie-pop. Sitting back behind the drums, I started to hear a growing din of white noise that started in the distance. Given that thunderstorms don't really happen in Seattle, I wasn't sure what it could be. The noise quickly grew until I realized that storm was actually a fighter jet from the nearby Boeing factory, and we were in its practice path. The jet passed over us three times during the course of the set, each time getting lower (and deafeningly louder).

The third time he swooshed over us, he enveloped our entire musical output with a giant cloud of white noise that made it so that I couldn't even hear myself drumming (let alone our maxed-out crowd of 27 people, most of whom were in the beer garden sucking down free IPA's). I just stopping playing mid-song, held up my sticks and waved at the bastard, smiling at the ridiculousness of it all.

Also, playing the gig made me miss out on seeing MC Hammer at a casino in Tacoma, and I'm still bummed out about that.

heartbrokenJim Bredouw, Daybreak

In 1970, I played bass in a 5-piece rock band called Daybreak with Ann Wilson of Heart. I don't remember the other players much -- the guitarist was, I believe, her boyfriend at the time, and the drummer was named Chris and had blue eyes. (Ann and I both graduated from Sammamish High; she in 1968, me in 1969.)

The worst gig of my life (and likely Ann's as well) occurred in June, 1970, when some Graduation Party Committee mom from neighboring Lake Washington High School thought that after the seniors graduating that year came home from their post-commencement all-night party, that it would really top things off to have a real live "rock" band greeting them when they returned to head home. I'm sure she sincerely believed that this was a brilliant, forward-thinking notion. Not so much. Why?
A) The kids' mode of transportation were not limos nor buses but a big-ass boat. This meant that we had to play at the dock at which it was arriving, meaning that we were near water and outdoors. Being near water in the morning in June in the Pacific Northwest meant it was cold. Colder than hell. And cold is conducive to neither good playing nor good singing, as any working muso will tell you.
B) Performing outdoors with our marginal little P.A. system and cheap amps also meant that all the sound and energy was sucked up straight into the atmosphere with none of the attendant room reverberation on which we and every rock band that has ever played rely so heavily. Room ambience can cover up a multitude of sins and, under these circumstances, they were aplenty.
C) The students arrived at this chilly dock not at a reasonable rock 'n roll hour like 11 p.m. or 2 a.m. but rather at 6 a.m. in the morning. Note to committee moms: This is not the best possible time to either hear a rock band or to ask one to perform.
D) All-night teen parties, particularly after graduating from high school, tend to attract alcohol and lots of it, which subsequently leads to a lot of hung over drunk people. Loud noises tend to be unpleasant to hung over drunk people.
E) As do cold, long, bumpy boat rides.
To summarize, we had to get up at 4 a.m. and dress up (add makeup for Ann), load and haul gear, set up and play in a freezing, outdoor, wet venue for a bunch of hung over, seasick kids who would rather have had a root canal procedure than listen to us at that moment.
My worst gig, bar none.

acoustic-guitars2Dave Stephenson, Kank Twins

I am not a famous rock star. My current gig is as FOH engineer for a very successful Beatles tribute act, which has given me some great touring experiences, but the worst gig I have done was a side project with my studio partner/guitarist in my local cover band.

Andy and I have been playing together one way or another for nearly 30 years, and opened a recording studio in Akron, Ohio, in the early '90s. (Andy had a full scholarship to study music at Kent State but opted for medical school instead. When he complains about insurance companies not paying him, I tell him he should get his guitar chops back up to speed, in case that Med School dream doesn't pan out for him.) At some point, we sort of fell into doing topical, humorous folkie-type music at college coffeehouses, an act we dubbed the Kank Twins for no reason other than we needed a name to put on the posters.

Eventually, enough people seemed to like our stuff well enough that one guy offered us a paying gig in a nightclub he was opening in Ashtabula, Ohio, called the LA Cafe (LA for "lower Ashtabula" don't ya know ...) and he was willing to give us $300 to bring our acoustic guitars and entertain his patrons for a few hours. We had no pride, so we took the deal.

Well, it started off OK, but it soon devolved into the Typical Lounge Gig From Hell. We noticed that no one seemed to be paying much attention to us, and the jokes in our original songs were falling flat. Eventually, we just started playing acoustic versions of the classic rock stuff we usually played in our cover band. It soon became apparent, however, that we were rapidly running out of material, and we were scheduled to play for another hour at least. we started getting nervous, and started playing more and more desperate "filler" songs to pad our set.

By the time we butchered our way through a "Ziggy Stardust/Suffragette City" medley we were absolutely out of songs to play. As we sat onstage frantically trying to come up with another song to play, or worse, what song to play a second time, we heard a lone voice from the darkness of the back of the club plaintively call out, "Please, stop! We hate you!"

Andy and I looked at each other, broke into huge grins and said to the voice, "Your wish is our command!" The club owner was so embarrassed that his patrons "abused" us that he paid us anyway.

Tub RingRob Kleiner, Tub Ring

We were playing a show outside of Indianapolis. It was one of those dreaded seven-band bills that lasted all day, and, of course, we were the headlining act (last). To make it worse, we were the only act that was not from the hardcore straight-edge music genre. We were outcasts all day backstage.

There were around 200 people in attendance. The audience consisted of 100 of our fans, and 100 kids that were there for the hardcore acts. So to add to the depressing prospect of having to wait seven hours to perform, 100 of our fans had to wait all day as well, as one hardcore act after another did their set. Most of our fans weren't really interested in that style and sat on the floor in the lobby twiddling their thumbs the whole day awaiting our set time.

When we finally took the stage, I looked out in the audience to find a lot of tired, drained faces. Though excited to see us, it had been a long day. To lighten the mood, I grabbed the mic and with a joking tone said, "We're all going to need to listen to Elton John for a week to get all that hardcore out of our system." The statement garnered laughs. Unfortunately, the playful humor of the statement was somehow misconstrued by a few of the hardcore fans that hadn't left the venue for our set. What I was told then happened was a kid  ran backstage and shouted out to the bands that had played earlier, "These guys are talking shit about hardcore."

Our set started, and shortly after we began getting small objects like empty plastic Coke bottles thrown at us. All sorts of stuff was being lobbed at us as we played. We were punk so we didn't care much. We played through without so much as a flinch. We did however notice that the bombardment wasn't coming from the audience -- it was coming from both sides of the stage behind us. The culprits were the other six bands (25 or so thugs).

As our set went on, the objects that were being thrown at us began to get larger, more dangerous and potentially harmful. A 10-pound metal lock box hit my keyboard, knocking it over. Next thing I knew, something even bigger was coming our way. Our guitarist was hit (mid-song) by a bar stool, snapping the neck right off the body of the guitar. Once that happened we stopped playing. Our bassist dropped his instrument and ran over to the mob. "Hey, what the hell was that?" His question was answered by the singer of one of the hardcore bands. "Hardcore forever!," he exclaimed, and then preceded to headbutt our bassist right in the face, which sent our bassist's tooth through the skin between his lower lip and chin. He later needed stitches and still has a scar. The singer of the hardcore band, now with a bloody head, then screamed, "No one talks shit about hardcore" as he raised his hands in a sort of barbaric victory cry straight out of Braveheart.

The police came and Braveheart was arrested. When the police asked members of the mob why they had started this violence, the unanimous answer was: "Tub Ring was talking shit about hardcore." The police would then follow up by asking what exactly had been said. Not a single person knew.

I guess the moral of the story is: Hardcore music fans hate Elton John.

drumsticksGordon Gilges, Grariots R.P.O (Rally Pack Optional)

There was a band of extremely seasoned blues/jazzmen headed by Sonny Kenner that had held down Sunday and Monday night gigs in a small venue in Kansas City, Missouri, for many years. They were old school, and their blues/jazz/funk set rarely changed even slightly -- even the comments over the mic between songs were the same, night in and night out. But the crowds loved them, and they filled the dance floor almost every night.


My good friend (and frontman for our band Grariots) Chris Berry, a scrawny white kid that blows a mean harmonica, had over the years worked his way onstage with these guys for a few songs a night. Chris convinced these old guys to let Grariots step onto the stage and play three songs during their set break. We didn't really need anything, as they were going to let us use their instruments, but, our guitarist, Chris Cosgrove, decided to bring a distortion pedal that would easily plug in to help us get more of our "signature" sound.
The final portion of said sound came from our bassist, who often made his way through whole sets using his brain more than his musicality. Think mathematician, not musician.

The Sonny Kenner band finishes their first set, the capacity crowd cheers, and these old guys who had witnessed the Chitlin Circuit entrust the stage and their classic vintage instruments to us. Cosgrove plugs his guitar (adding distortion pedal) into the tiny 1x10 guitar amp only to be confronted with a high feedback squeal that he would never quite escape, and somewhere in the first verse or chorus, our bassist gets either ahead or behind the rest of the band by a half a verse. And he doesn't know it.

Cosgrove looks back at me, and we both know that there will be no correction. We are ghost-riding this hobbled wagon, in front of a capacity crowd, down the longest mountainside east of the Rockies.

By the time we figure out how to try to end the song together, the drummer for Kenner is already there at the side edge of the stage, three feet away from me, with his hand out, waiting to get his drum sticks back.

crokerJoe Croker

I was down in Wichita with a band from Lawrence, Kansas. Outdoor concert -- LIVE on the radio. The sound guys were earnest but hapless. We never heard ourselves onstage. I had the drums in my monitor -- nothing else. That's it. A huge set of drums. I might as well have been wearing a spacesuit. This was in the days before guitar tuners. Our lead guitarist went flat, did a solo, and from where I stood, I thought it had gone down pretty well, so I kept urging the crowd to "give it up" for the man. In retrospect, it was like asking the audience to applaud as the dude shot himself. I don't think he ever forgave me.

sieggenChris Sieggen, The Filter Kings

While playing at The Crossing (in Lawrence, Kansas) and waiting to start our show, a customer of the bar brought her dog in. The German Shepherd promptly wandered over to where my guitar cables were neatly coiled up on the floor and defecated all over them. I showed her and she simply shrugged and went back to drinking her beer. I had to clean it up myself and she never said, "sorry" or helped in the cleanup. Nice!

anniversaryAdrianne Verhoeven, The Anniversary

I think it was Fall of 2000 in Richmond, Virginia. We were on tour with The Get Up Kids and Koufax -- amazing, whole U.S. tour. The scene was kind of already a bit crazed when we arrived. The Get Up Kids had (over)sold the venue out, and on top of that, we had a few fans starting to come out, as well. Straight-edge hardcore scene -- the area code in Richmond, I guess, is 804, so they were calling themselves "Hate-04." Yikes.

Things were already "lively" when Koufax opened, and as we started to play, all hell broke loose. The stage-diving scene got super heavy intense, and people were getting jacked up in the crowd. So our guitarists/singers Josh and Justin asked the dudes to chill it out, which was definitely not heeded ... in fact, it made the situation worse. So we asked one of the dudes to leave the show because he was standing onstage arguing with J & J. Super ugly ...

Fast forward to conclusion of the show as things had become total chaos inside and outside of the venue as the show went on. A 16-year-old kid we had "kicked out" of the show approached us. While Justin tried to reason with him, he punched Justin in the face! No!

Major parting of ways. We get in our van to head to our hotel, and the dudes followed probably 10-15 miles out of town to our hotel in the suburbs, throwing beer bottles and cans at our van on the highway. Or, maybe since they were straight-edge(d), they threw sodas?

dangerbobAndy Morton, Danger Bob

Suffering from massive hangovers, Danger Bob is driving through the excruciating Kansas summer heat from the hole-in-the-Earth known as Wichita to a music festival near another hole-in-the-Earth known as Newtown. Karl (singer) notices that our temperature needle has jumped off the charts due to the heat. He wakes up Kenny (drummer and van mechanic) and pulls over to the side of the highway to have a look.

We don’t know if the water pump had blown or if it was a faulty thermostat. We only know one thing that Karl had told us earlier on the trip: We were delinquent on our insurance payment so the van had expired tags.

As Kenny’s checking under the hood, this young woman pulls up in a Monte Carlo. She looks like she’s had a rougher night than us, but she’s extremely nice and proceeds to talk a mile a minute. Somewhere in her flurry of words, she offers to take Kenny and Jason (bass player) to an auto parts store about 15 miles away, and off they go.

The girl starts tweak-speaking about how much she loves bands and how cool bands are, but then to how she has secret compartments in her dashboard -- these are needed in her “business” as a drug dealer.  Then she drops the bomb: “I can take you to the auto parts store but first I need to make a drop-off.”

Uh-oh.

They stop at a truck stop and she disappears into the upstairs apartment for quite some time …

Meanwhile, we’re back on the side of the highway praying that the Kansas Highway Patrol doesn’t roll up … which they do about five minutes later. The trooper goes through the basic rigmarole: "Where you boys headed?" "Has someone gone for help?" "How long have we been stuck there?" Easy questions to answer until he asks “So, which one of you boys drives a Mazda?”

A Mazda? Where the fuck did that come from? We’re driving a Dodge right now; Karl has a Mazda but it’s at home …

Uh-oh.

Karl winds up in the police car, works some incredible verbal magic, and the trooper lets him off with a warning -- even though we had no insurance, and Karl had tried to remedy the expired tags situation by using the plates off of his car instead. Dumbfounded, we nurse a couple of beers and try to collect ourselves while waiting for Kenny and Jason to return.

When they finally get back, everyone has this look on their faces that says, “You’re not going to believe what just happened to us.” Stories are swapped, the van is repaired, and Newton, Kansas, gets a rock show that says, “Sorry, we’re really hung over and we’ve had a long day.”

And we don’t even score any drugs.

red-masqueLynnette Shelley, The Red Masque

My band had gotten asked to play the 2005 Rogue Fest in Atlanta. From Philly, this is about a 14-hour drive. We had been rehearsing a lot for the gig, up to and including the night before we drove down.

That morning I wake up at dawn with a sore throat. I assume it's from rehearsing and maybe my throat is tired. On the drive down (which we got lost at some point so it ended up being more of 17-hour journey), I come down with bronchitis. I mean my voice is SHOT. I try various remedies at convenience stores that we pass on the way down but there is nothing that can be done about it. Exhausted, we get to the house where someone is putting us up for the night at about 3 a.m. or so.

We play the next evening. Still pretty tired/frazzled, we go to play and I attempt to make it through the first song and I suck horribly. My voice is an octave lower than it normally is and just sounds like absolute crap, and I can't hit sustained notes without coughing. So, what to do? I stop singing and just stick to doing percussion while we do an instrumental version of all of our songs. The crowd is supportive, but really, it was not a good show by any stretch of the imagination.

After the show the guys are hungry and want to check out Atlanta. I’m feeling miserable as I’m pretty sick at this point, but I have to go along with them. They end up finding some all-night eatery, and I’m falling asleep in the booth.

Our guitarist has to get back to work by Monday, so we leave to drive back to Philly the next day at about 4 p.m. On the way back, our guitarist asks to switch driving with me as he's falling asleep. (This is about 6 a.m. after having driven straight through all night). Five minutes after I switch, a car comes zipping up beside us on I-95 (outside of Baltimore), and races past and then cuts us off in front. I had started slowing down when I saw them zipping by us, and I had a feeling they were going to cut us off. After they cut us off, I break some more and at this point, their car goes out of control as we go around a curve and begins flipping over multiple times in front of our station wagon, which is loaded with all of our gear (and us obviously). The car flips once more then comes to a halt right in front of our car. I get the car to stop maybe 10 feet from their car. Miraculously, the guys in the car get out, and start dialing their cell phones. I'm thinking we should get out of the car to see if they are OK, but the guys in the band are now screaming at me to move the car before we are rear ended by the oncoming traffic. So I move the car around their car and go. About a mile down the road our tire goes flat (apparently we hit some glass or something) and now we are stuck on the side of the road. Due to sleep deprivation/general crankiness, everyone is yelling at everyone else as one of the band members, who shall remain nameless, had gotten it into his head that the other car’s accident in front of us was somehow my fault and was yelling at me about it. (He had been asleep in the passenger side seat and had just woken up as the car was flipping in front of us while I was breaking hard and had gotten freaked out by it). To be fair, he apologized later on, but everyone was generally in a pretty dispirited/cranky mood at this point.

A police car comes by and stops and helps us jack the car up and change the tire with a donut. We get off the next exit looking for a tire place so we can put a new tire on the car. We find one, but they don't open until 8 a.m. (it's like 7 a.m. at this time). So we wait and then get the tire changed. Eventually, we move on, and by the time everyone is dropped off at their respective places, I get home at about noon, where I pass out.

outhouseBill Latas, Outhouse

Playing in front of 18,000 people can make a guy a bit nervous. It's a "good nervous" but things definitely happen that let you know you are about to open an adrenaline floodgate. Matter of fact, this tends to happen to me whether it's 200 people in a club or an arena full of Kiss fans. Let me explain:

It was the spring of 1997, our debut (and only) record had just been released and we got picked up to open for Kiss for about 15 shows. Our single, "Welcome," was getting great airplay across the country and things were looking up. This was a huge deal for us and for me personally. At age 12, I had opened up my double-fold copy of "Kiss Alive II" and decided right then and there that being in a rock band would be the right job for me. Here I was, opening for my childhood heroes every night and getting a chance to actually do what I had imagined doing when I was just a kid.

We got off to a great start. We killed it the first night. Everyone was looking at these newbie yahoos from Kansas City, wondering why we were still traveling in a van and not a bus, and probably thinking, "And these guys are ...?"  We quickly gained the respect of the crew and had a blast with them each day.

So things are rolling along and we get to Ames, Iowa. One of the best nights of the tour: Our girls all came up to meet us and see the show. Needless to say, we each had our own rooms that night. Turns out that my girlfriend, now my wife, was coming down with a wicked chest cold and therefore, in about 36 hours, so was I. She still claims that she just "forgot" to tell me. I don't blame her … it gets lonely on the road. I don't think it would have stopped us had I known.

Now we come to Topeka, Kansas. This is as close as we came to K.C. on this tour so that meant everyone and their dog wanted to come and see the show. We obliged and wound up with quite a crowd backstage.

Our dressing rooms in the Topeka Expo Center were nothing more than a big locker room. So picture this: In between rows of lockers is our catering table which is being picked over like its bridge night at the Hendersons and we're all trying to entertain while getting ready for a show. There is a small crew filming our every move for a local music TV show, which makes me entirely uncomfortable, and by this point, I'm f-ing sick as a dog.

Not being in the best of moods, my adrenal glands kick in right on time, about 20 minutes before show time. This is what I was talking about earlier … I have to poop before every show, no matter what.

No problem, you say? Just duck out and do your biz, man. How hard could it be? You wanted out of there anyway, right?

Yes, I did. But the problem facing me now was that in our glorious locker room palace, there were four stalls with the half-doors, facing that catering table and all of our guests ...

Next time you are sick as a dog, you go to take your daily constitutional and you are about to perform for an arena full of people, picture 20 people in your bathroom with you and one of them has a huge television camera with him.

Come to think of it, if that's my worst gig, I guess I had it pretty good.

And then there was the time we played with Tonic somewhere in Iowa to about 30 people in a club. I bought everyone in the bar a drink from the stage during our set and everyone bought me a drink back. That was awfully nice of those folks. And it was nice of bassist Brad and drummer Shawn to carry me out of the bar and to the van. At least that's what I'm told happened …

scrapplefest04Lynnette Shelley, Copperthrush


I was in an earlier band with my bassist before my current band, The Red Masque, called Copperthrush (we played a kind of folk/psych type of music). Soon after we had formed, the violin player told us that a friend of hers could get us a show at the TLA in Philly opening up for actor Kevin Bacon's band that he was in with his brother. The TLA is an 800-capacity theater in Philly, a very good venue, and regardless that our music sounds nothing like the Bacon Brothers' music, it would be pretty sweet to play at the TLA. She tells us the gig is the next weekend. So we start rehearsing. The next day she says she has more info and it's a festival that we are playing, and the Bacon Brothers are the headliners, and that we would have a short set. OK, no problem. We don't have very many songs at this point anyway! THEN another day later she says the Bacon Brothers will not be there, but the festival is a Scrapple festival hosted by a radio station.

For those who don't know what Scrapple is, it's a local "delicacy" made by the Pennsylvania Dutch that sort of resembles a fried meat brick made from odds and ends of leftover pig parts (i.e. pig lips, etc). It’s usually eaten with eggs at breakfast. The violinist then tells us the bands are supposed to have a song about Scrapple.

Well, what to do?

We make up a one-minute silly song about scrapple with a refrain of "Scrapple! Scrapple! It’s brains and pig's tails!" The day of the show arrives and we arrive at the venue and THERE IS A LINE AROUND THE BLOCK to get in. There are people dressed up like chickens and pigs outside the venue. We go inside and the mayor is there as well as Miss Pennsylvania and other local celebrities. It's PACKED. There is even a live pig in the room.

The violinist's friend who got us the gig is the emcee, a transvestite named Mr. Sparkles. We go up to the green room and change into our costumes. ALL of the other bands are only doing scrapple songs. It's our turn to play and we go downstairs. I have to get pushed out onstage because it's literally the largest crowd I have ever been in front of, and this is my band's first gig ever. Mr. Sparkles introduces us and we launch into the silly song -- which is surprisingly well received -- and then we play one of our own songs, which is an original psychedelic/folk song that is almost 10-minutes long. I can see the radio announcer, who is the host of the show, getting antsy at us taking up so much time. When we finish we get a big round of applause out of the crowd, and he tries to get us off the stage. The crowd wants to hear one more. We do one more song and it also goes over very well.

So what could have been a horrendously awful gig turns out to be pretty fun, even if very, very weird!

Oh, and payment was 11 pounds of raw scrapple for a band that was half vegetarian!

stompersStephen L. Gilligan, The Stompers

Back in 1982, The Stompers played and won the National Rock to Riches battle of the bands contest, sponsored by Miller beer, at The Palladium in NYC. We celebrated far into the night and then had to hightail it back to Boston for a scheduled outdoor concert at Boston University. The stage was placed at the end of Buswell St. -- the street being lined with nice three-decker brick apartment buildings. It was a beautiful spring day, the road between these building was packed with college kids, and the band and crowd were rocking!

Unknown to the band there had been a noise complaint, and the police had visited the soundboard and asked the soundman to turn it down. He complied, until they left, and then the volume crept back up. We were into our encore, and our frontman, Sal Bagio, was up on the piano, arms raised, spurring the crowd to a frenzy, when onto the stage walked three of BU's finest. This was a shock to everyone as a policeman went to each band member and physically made us stop playing. Our drummer, Mark "Cooch" Cuccinello, was up on a drum riser and had been tackled from behind. His drumstick inadvertently hit the cop on the head so he was immediately arrested for assaulting a police officer.

The crowd went wild and an all-out riot ensued. The Boston and Brookline police joined in with dogs and mace. Sal, myself and our keyboard player, Dave Friedman, were ushered into the back of the equipment truck, and we would peek out from time to time so see the total chaos as kids were running everywhere trying to avoid getting maced and arrested. In all, 50 students were arrested, along with Cooch and Kevin Marshall, our soundman. We all ended up down at the Precinct 5 headquarters bailing our guys out, just in time to make our 11 p.m. gig that night. Looking back on it, it was exciting and a new experience, but at the time it was a total drag.

ashley davis dbts pic1

Ashley Davis

By far my worst gig ever was when I was the new lead singer for Michael Flatley's "Lord of the Dance." Flatley was opening a new show at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas and had a BBC crew following him around the 2 weeks leading up to a documentary. I had been hired in Dublin at a cattle call audition to be the new singer for the show and was flown to Vegas. On the day of the opening all of the major British, Irish, and American press were in town to cover it. Flatley's staff had many "pep talks" with me on how I had better not screw this up.

"Lord of the Dance" had cut back and were using backing tracks instead of live musicians. Unlike "Riverdance," there is not a chorus of singers, just one gal who goes out three times a night and sings three songs sprinkled in between the dancing. That night my first song went really well and I felt much better after going out to the full house and the press, etc and got the lay of the land. My cue to come on stage for the second song ("Carrickfergus") was when the music started, I should start walking onstage. Only, the music never started. I waited in the wings, waited, heard the crowd start to murmur and get restless. Finally the music started but was skipping and was really distorted. I was mortified. I had been told so many times that day that I had better not screw this up, I was sure that I would get the blame for the track skipping. So I thought to myself: Screw it. I had better go out or they'll fire me either way.

So I began walking out to the skipping track and saw Flately's manager running to the sound booth. (For this particular number, the lights were up fairly high on the audience so I was getting to witness their discomfort, too.) I see Flatley's manager give the throat-slicing signal to the sound guy, and in turn the sound guy gives me the keep-going signal and turned off the track. I walked to the front of the stage and sang the song a capella. I received a standing ovation from the press and many congrats from Flatley after the show on how I had "saved it." It was a nightmare. Nine months later they fired me for "not being the singer they needed for the show." I was relieved.

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