From time to time, Rocks Off thought we'd ask both local and touring musicians to tell us the worst gig they've ever played, in the hopes that the next one won't be quite so awful. We asked Houston honky-tonk transplant Mike Stinson, whose new CD The Jukebox In Your Heart is now in regular rotation on Sirius/XM's Outlaw Country channel, to help us get started. Tell us about your own worst gig (and your next one) at firstname.lastname@example.org. "I've discussed this topic with lots of musicians over the years, and I don't think any of our actual worst shows compare to the ones our minds create in our paranoid dreams. Every bit as terrifying as the "falling out of an airplane" dream or the dreaded "running for your life from a serial killer" dream, the paranoid-musician dreams come in many chilling variations, and startle us awake just as breathless and profoundly relieved. "When I was drumming all the time, I kept having this dream that it was showtime, the whole band takes the stage, the place is packed and excited, and then suddenly I realize that the drums I had perfectly set to go are now disassembled and in pieces all over the stage. The guys are looking back at me with desperate, pleading looks, begging me to count off the first tune, and I'm frantically crawling around the stage trying to reconfigure the kit enough to play something but I can't seem to put any of them in the right place. "It becomes a puzzle that I simply can't solve in my agitated state, knowing that everyone's waiting and we look like idiots. "I still have that dream once in a while, but not as often. In the last ten years, since I mostly sing and play guitar, the dream has shifted somewhat. It's a beautiful sunny day and I'm playing a festival gig in a giant park full of people. I walk out onstage, wave to the smiling folks, pick up my guitar and the first chord I play makes me realize the guitar is woefully out of tune. "I pause, walk back by the amp for a quick tune up, then try again. This time I realize I'm not plugged in. Where's my cord? Oh, there it is, still curled up on the floor behind the amp. I gingerly step to the mike and say "Gimme a second here folks". The crowd starts restlessly shifting on their feet as I unwind the cord and plug in the guitar. Strum... nothing. "I look behind the equipment and realize the amp isn't plugged in. Not only that, the power cord is missing. No matter what I try, I just can't get anything cranked up, and once again I'm crawling around on the stage in front of the crowd and can feel the collective 'Ugh... come on, guy... get it together.'
The topper on that dream is that I finally get the amp plugged in and the guitar roars to life, but I turn around to play and the entire audience has left to go see the band on the other stage. "My friend Don Heffington played drums on my first two records, and is one of the most in-demand drummers in L.A. Apparently being at the top of your field and having worked with the likes of Bob Dylan, Lucinda Williams, Dwight Yoakam and Emmylou Harris does not make you immune to the drummer's nightmare. Don told me he has a recurring dream in which he's on stage playing with Emmylou, but for some reason the bass drum is attached to a pendulum type thing from the ceiling. "Each time he kicks the drum, it swings away from the kit and out over the audience. Then as it comes back toward him he's trying to time his next kick to match the music somehow but as you'd expect the drum is not cooperating. He's missing beats all over the place and the ones he hits are out of time. That sounds good for some cold sweats. "I've saved the best for last, though. My craziest drum nightmare is as follows. As I'm driving to the show the weather turns nasty and starts to sleet. By the time I turn in the parking lot of the club, there's a thin layer of ice on the asphalt. The door to the club is up a slight incline in the pavement. "Each time I try to carry a few cases up to the door, I make it about halfway and then slip and fall and slide all the way back to the car. I figure there's gotta be a way, so I try again and get a little closer but each time I'm approaching the door I lose my footing, the rolling case falls over on its side and we all slide back down the hill in a heap. This drags on and on, with this totally helpless feeling of not even being able to get my drums in the club. "Plus it hurts each time I fall and it's freezing cold out. "Welcome to my world, darling come on in..." Mike Stinson plays 9 p.m. Thursday, April 29, at Blanco's, 3406 W. Alabama, 713-439-0072 or www.houstonredneck.com. No cover.