The Music Awards showcase is right around the corner July 29, in fact. Every year, we ask dozens of the city's top bands to tell us what they love, hate and are astounded by about being musicians, and every year they don't disappoint. Especially when we ask them about their worst and weirdest gigs.
Here's a sampling of some of the most out-there freak-outs and calamitous train wrecks H-Town bands have experienced the last few years.
Some stories were brief and deliberately vague, as if to avoid reliving the experience. "Man, I don't know where to start," says Tony Vega. "There was this one icehouse..." Peekaboo Theory's sounds like a bad acid flashback. "We vaguely recall a show somewhere, there were horses, lights and lots of pedestrians...and fountains." LL Cooper says he has had several shows that were "on par with Puppet Show and Spinal Tap." Bring Back the Guns were privy to some bizarre condiment-related fun in Austin one time. The band played a conference room at South By Southwest which featured "a mustard slip and slide amongst other things," while Ragged Hearts painfully recall a show at a since-failed cupcake shop in Marble Falls. And Adam Burchfield is still wondering how he managed to get drunk playing at a Unitarian church on New Year's Eve.
performers' worst gigs
Sean Reefer, chief toker in the Resin Valley Boys, calls playing Henry's Hideout in Magnolia "a mistake we will never make again." For Sharks and Sailors, Des Moines on the Monday of a long weekend was the vortex of despair. "A local resident told us that there is not much to do there if you are not into meth or sheep." The Midwest was also unkind to Indian Jewelry, which has a vivid code for their weirdest show ever: "Race riot frat party destructibus in Kent, Ohio, Halloween Weekend 2005." And blues harmonica ace Steve Krase spoke for many when he said, "That's a long story. Let's just say it involved two professional wrestlers, a crackhead, a lot of screaming, an alleged gun-toting psycho and, as all 'worst gig ever' stories end...the police."
Others with longer stories were willing to tell them in more detail...
Karina Nistal: Nistal's worst gig ever was her first. "I was opening for a local Tejano band at an icehouse, and I was so nervous. I could sense something was going to happen. I got on stage and tried to loosen up, so I thought if I could start dancing, I would get the crowd into it. I ended up stepping on one of the band's pedals and it started playing a Tejano loop. The combination of my R&B song and the Tejano was awful, but I just tried to play it off until one of the band's members finally came to turn it off."
Wayside Drive's worst-ever gig was at the Last Concert Café. "We arrived and they made us pay them to rent their P.A. The door guy didn't bother showing up until halfway through our set, and began taking the cover charge while we were playing. Apparently the venue had just become 21-and-up the week before, but nothing was posted on their Web site, and we were certainly not notified. So the door guy took the belated cover and also kicked out everyone who was underage. We had three people watch the remainder of the show from outside the gate!"
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The Handsomes' disaster came at the hands of a slave-driving, accusatory club owner. At an unnamed venue, the band "blew out their miniature and dilapidated P.A. on the first song, and Jordon had to sing through a miniature keyboard amp for the rest of a two-hour set. We are a small band that doesn't play too loud, but the owner somehow tried to blame us for what was obviously already broken and inadequate. As remittance, he wanted us to play even longer through the rest of the night. As if somehow that would replace his P.A."
Jim Henkel of The El Orbits recalls the first time the band played the Art Car Parade as a strange experience. "The band and others were towed on a flatbed trailer, and it was surreal in that there was a constant panorama of stuff in front of my eyes while I was trying to perform in a scenario where just standing up was a challenge."
Surreality visited Tony Vega in Germany. "We played a cavernous church in Stralsund. It was hundreds of years old. There were about 50 people there, most of which were senior citizens! Nothing wrong with the elderly, it was just surreal."
Nick Gaitan of The Umbrella Man remembers the last Los Skarnales gig ever (at the Continental Club) as both the best and worst of his life. "What a fucking crazy bunch of people. They were all dressed up because it was Halloween weekend. Kids, young kids jumping the back gate because the place was sold out. Felt like I was at a funeral, but a really drunk, dressed-up funeral. My zipper fucking broke right before we went on and I could not get through this place. After it was all done, there was some drunk chick standing on a bar bench by the cooler saying, 'Let me sing one to y'all!' with a little white ring around her right nostril, her slut-red lipstick smeared on like the Goddamn Joker. A guy was crying out front 'cause he got his ass beat and bloodied. This wasn't cool, but I heard he was bawling out front. I think I saw him when they had him by his hair, but we couldn't stop playing, this was our last show. I suppose what made it the best was that there was more going on in that room that night than so many other places at the time. Like an old carnival, just with drugs and booze and fighting fuckers. What made it the worst was the fuckers jumping on stage and disconnecting shit, the four big fights, and you couldn't get this one goddamn drunk to stop asking, 'But why????'"