One More for the Road
This time every year, we ask all the bands on our Music Awards ballot about their best, worst and most unusual gig tales. Last year, the inquiry spawned a cover feature, in which we discussed musicians -- many in various states of chemical intoxication -- bleeding, peeing and rioting, among other things, on stages all over town and beyond.
We thought we had all the best ones then, but we just might have been wrong. Since there are a bunch of new bands on this year's ballot, we got tons more stories to tell, so without further ado, here we go:
Arthur Yoria: "In Beaumont at the Vortex a hooker got up and sang with me. Strange thing was, she could really sing. Very nice voice. If they hadn't kicked her out of the place for soliciting the patrons, I would have asked her to do another number." Yoria also recalls traveling all the way to London to play a very small room that was packed all the way to its capacity -- which was five.
Brandon Stanley: "At a festival I played in Clear Lake, I once was asked to announce the free face painting and donkey rides -- in the middle of my set, might I add." Also, after a show at the House of Blues in New Orleans, Stanley went out with some newfound fans. "One of them freaked out all of a sudden and assaulted my CD on Bourbon Street at 2 a.m. Needless to say he was a little intoxicated -- he cried after the fact about how he missed his lost puppy."
A member of Modulator passed along this unsettling tale: "On the way to L.A., Ronnie -- our guitarist -- had been complaining about having to urinate very badly. Of course, we eventually stopped along the way to allow him to relieve himself. A day later, while still in L.A., Randy -- our drummer -- was cleaning out the van, when he discovered a water bottle three quarters of the way full with an orangey-yellow liquid. [Singer] Julie remembered Ronnie's bladder issues from the day before, so she immediately turned to look at him to read his face for any signs of guilt. He just looked at her and shrugged his shoulders as if to say, 'Yeah, I did it -- so what?' Of course, she freaked out at the discovery that the group had a vile member within its ranks. Then, a few minutes later, Julie recalled having sprinkled a packet of 'Emergen-C' orange drink into a water bottle the day before, and having never finished drinking it. Once she explained this, everyone breathed a sigh of relief -- everyone but Ronnie. He just laughed in a most disturbing way."
The band also recalls motoring all night long from Little Rock to Dallas through a driving rainstorm, all to play a morning show for five transit workers on their lunch break. "We still brought the rock, and we were rewarded with lots of Krispy Kreme doughnuts."
Miss Leslie and Her Juke Jointers: Miss Leslie recalls Borski's 60th anniversary bash with fondness. "The place was packed, and when we got there at 8 p.m., everyone had been drinking since about noon. After about 15 minutes, a bar fight broke out and somebody got thrown out. Before the end of the night, I'd been proposed to twice. Now that was a party." Not so warmly remembered was this road gig up in Temple: "On the way up, the RV had a tire that was about to blow, so we switched it out with the spare. When we got to the gig, we set up and started practicing a little bit with the substitute bass player. It started sprinkling and then raining a bit. All of a sudden, I heard this weird sound -- I thought there was some feedback coming from one of the amps. No, it was a tornado warning siren going off in the town. I grabbed my fiddle and headed for cover. Ten minutes later the gig was canceled cause there's word that there's a hailstorm about 30 minutes away and that a tornado touched down about ten miles away. We packed up, and 20 minutes outside of town we had a tire blowout. We spent the next three hours trying to find someone to change the tire, but no one had the right size. We spent the night at a rest area in the camper. The funny thing is that it stopped raining after they announced the gig was canceled -- and it never rained again the whole night By the way, we bought four new tires the next week."
Tody Castillo has a similar tale of Lone Star State road woes: "Did a West Texas tour a few years ago. The band was excited and the tour was a success. But we came home broke. One of the guys went to jail. I had to call home for a cash wire and that led to a heated discussion on the way home. We were almost home, but the tension proved to be too much. One of the guys got out of the van at a traffic light and said he was walking home. I'm the only one still playing my gig from that bunch of great guys."
Yet another, this one from the Mighty Orq: "We did an overnight 12-hour haul for the gig the next afternoon. About six hours in (around 5:30 a.m.) we ran out of gas. I say 'we' but it was me. It was my shift, and everyone else was asleep. So we were stranded on the side of the highway in the middle of nowhere. Finally the cops show up with a wrecker, but instead of ticketing us or even chastising us, they ask for autographed CDs. Then all the wrecker driver had was a tow line, so he pulls this one-ton van, like, ten miles at a pretty fast pace up and down hills and stuff to the gas station. It was a little nerve-wracking. We were early to the gig."
And then there was this romantic night of drinking by electrical-fire light: "The power went out at the club, but they wanted us to stay and play if possible. We ended up hanging out drinking, with the only light coming from the two transformers outside that were on fire. They never did get the power back on."
Satin Hooks: This band enjoys playing nontraditional venues, and thus their stories are a little outside of the mold. Here are a couple from singer-guitarist-turntablist Kerry: "We once played a show at the Polk Street Warehouse where a half-naked drunk older Salvadoran dude enjoyed our set so much that he came on stage with us and sang gibberish on the mike during and between a few songs."
Another was at an anime convention at a little college out in the country. "Everyone was dressed up as characters. Most of them weren't watching us, they were sword-fighting and pretending to be in one of those movies or a video game or something like that. They also paid us not money but with shitty-ass pasta."
Brian Gibbs from Kemo for Emo implies that improvisation can be your salvation on the road: "Our first show was with a bunch of metal bands, so the crowd wasn't too impressed by what we were playing -- until we played a cover of 'Eye of the Tiger.' Then everyone rushed in I think no one can resist Rocky." Likewise Metallica. "We played a song a different way for the first time and our old drummer screwed it up so bad that Larry and I walked off stage (leaving him there alone) and started playing 'Enter Sandman.' The crowd had no idea we messed up, and they thought it was one of our jokes, so they screamed real loud."
But beware road food, he warns: "We were driving to Dallas to play a show and we were really hungry, so we stopped at Taco Bell on the way there. That was the worst mistake we've made so far."
Things get downright eerie when you talk to Gilbert Alfaro of Spain Colored Orange, who passes along this spooky tale worthy of Edgar Allan Poe. "This lady asked us to play a show on the 13th floor of some hotel downtown, and it was Friday the 13th of that month. Anyway, when we stepped on the elevator, there was no 13th floor. We asked the front desk to verify the lady's room number, and it turns out that she had died there two months earlier. But she really loved our band. So now there's this ghost groupie that goes to all our shows."
Chrome 44's David Nicholas remembers the Splash 2 Festival in Dickinson as being no fun at all. "The place was about as rough as they come. The entire venue held almost four teeth for the entire crowd, no a/c in the middle of summer, and we had to improv four songs because the owner demanded we play longer but we didn't have enough material and a brand-new guitar player." A gig in College Station with fellow locals Linus and Salting Job was more pleasurable. "Someone got ahold of some absinthe, and we had a huge crowd back at the Motel 6 and people just starting going crazy -- wet towel fights, cops showing up, security guard threatening to beat us all down, random people passed out on the floor and parking lot, and Brent managed to lose his keys and had to wake up a locksmith early Sunday morning to make him another set so he could get home. Also Joey from Salting Job invented Rockin' the Faucet. Ask him about it sometime."
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.