In honor of Stereogum’s post about the Top Ten Onstage Meltdowns, I thought I’d humbly submit the ten worst performance disasters from my years of playing music. Yikes!
10. Baking Like a Fish
The Basics played in Corpus Christi at Cole Park. Think Party on the Plaza near the beach. It was a swealtering July afternoon and we were in a concrete pavillion facing the setting sun. For some stupid reason, I had on a long sleeved button down and a freaking vest! They gave us small bottles of Ozarka water to drink. After the set, there were 16 empty bottles on the amp behind me that I drank. Oh, yeah, we had a gig right after this one at a club nearby. Oy.
9. Da Critta Goes Down
Anyone remember the stores MediaPlay? No. Me either. Well, I remember the incident when the Surrealtors were doing acoustic in-store performances to promote the new CD release. They didn’t really help sell CD’s, but they led us to see one of the funniest and most bizarre incidents in my musical history. During our set, this giant beaver-like thing (aka: some dude in a mascot uniform) was dancing around while we were playing. This was weird enough, but it got stranger. As “Da Critta” (his name) spun around, he lost his balance and fell knocking over our entire display of CD’s literally right in front of us. We stopped and our guitarist tried to help him up when the guy in the costume said, “Wait a minute…wait a minute” obviously dazed by the whole thing. Children were terrified. We laughed until we cried.
8. Playing the Grand Opening of a Jack in the Box
Seriously. I got a free chicken sandwich.
7. The Bash That is Still Remembered
One of my good friends had a party every year for like forever just called The Bash. One year, it was held at a warehouse out off of Harwin. To sum it up, the guys who got up and jammed (me included) played several songs very badly with all of us in different tunings and playing at different times, WAY too many people showed up and decended into a mosh pit in front of the stage and the cops eventually showed to shut it down. It was an event. As recently as 5 years ago, I had someone come up to me and say, “I think I saw you play at this huge warehouse party years ago. You guys were awful.” Yay, I’m famous!
6. Apartment Party Gone Wild
Years back, one of my bands (Under the Sun) somehow decided playing an apartment party would be fun. Considering we were an original band with no covers to speak of and a set that was probably only an hour long, I’m not sure how much sense this made. We played until we ran out of material to pretty much no one – they all stayed inside the apartment activity building – then played the songs again. A fight broke out as people got drunk and that turned into a mini riot. All I remember after that was my drummer walking around with half a drum stand in his hand looking like he was going to clock someone and people being hauled off to jail – not me, fortunately.
5. We Have Great Timing
Did I mention that the Surrealtors had gigs booked both the night of the Olympic Park Bombing AND the night Princess Diana was killed? Well, it’s true. As you can imagine, our audiences weren’t so enthused, but at least we had alibis.
4. Fitzgerald’s Downstairs Gets a New Celing, I Get a Chipped Tooth
Years ago, Fitz Down used to be called Zelda’s. One of the earliest gigs I ever did there was with the band Under the Sun. As anyone who played there at that time can attest, the ceilings were very low AND the stage was 6 inches off the ground. The mix led to me sticking the headstock of my bass right through the ceiling during a set. If that wasn’t bad enough, later in the same set, I turned around quickly to sing back-up vocals not realizing the mic was extremely close. I nailed the mic with my front tooth chipping it, but that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was that the mic stand lurched forward, but (unfortunately) didn’t fall. Instead, it came sailing back and him me in the forehead while I was looking down trying to compose myself from the chipped tooth. I’m such a rock star.
3. Sick Drummer, No People and A Blue Norther…in May
Last year, orange is in drove to Ft. Worth to play the Mayfest the first weekend of May. We were excited because we had a Saturday 7pm slot and figured it would be a good crowd. Um, not really. A cold front blew in that day and our drummer was deathly ill. We played about 40 minutes of the most brutal set ever with our drummer moaning in pain in between each song. We finished the last 20 minutes acoustically (something we never do) to exactly two people including the guy who runs the fest and a 20mph wind blowing 40-degree air right in our faces.
2. Rockefellar’s, New Year’s Eve and the Flu
Let’s make this simple. My band at the time was playing on New Year’s Eve at Rockefellar’s – great gig – with Trish and Darrin. I had a 102-degree fever and spent most of it sitting down on the drum riser trying not to pass out. After the show, the band told me about another gig, which I specifically said to them to tell me about it later because I wouldn’t remember. They forgot. I forgot. The argument that ensued caused me to leave the band. End of story.
1. Playing for People Who Just Got Fired
My favorite all-time music disaster wasn’t the performance or the heat or an equipment malfunction or a band member freaking out. No, the biggest disaster was when the Surrealtors were invited to play a Cinco de Mayo show on the Richmond strip for employees of the Post who had just found out the paper was closing and they were out of jobs. The people who did show up – bless them – had zero interest in us as we performed probably 150 yards away from them on a flatbed truck. It was so embarrassing.
There are more disasters including George and I having so few people watch us that we watched a basketball game instead of playing, blown fuses in the middle of shows, stolen equipment (multiple times) and really bad performances. But, these are the best of the worst until I think of more.