If you play enough concerts, some of them are bound to be turkeys. Maybe the guitar player is having an off day or the singer is battling a cold. Or maybe it’s freezing cold outside, the cops are raiding the place or the crowd is so drunk they don’t know if you’re playing well or not. We’ve been collecting “bad gig” stories for years.

 

Let’s share them:

Charlie Starr, Blackberry Smoke

“We played in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, outdoors, and I think it was February. I remember seeing it on the schedule and thinking ‘what the hell.’ You don’t want to play outdoors anywhere in February. They were like, ‘Don’t worry, it’s a heated stage.’ That just doesn’t seem possible in Colorado.

“It was 14 degrees outside and they had these little gas heaters on stage and they only provided warmth for about a foot. We made it through about 45 minutes before we couldn’t even move. The promoter was furious. I don’t think we could physically play another note of music. I think we were frostbitten.”

Starr, whose band plays a raucous sort of Southern rock, also had a story about a mismatched double bill.

“We were part of a country festival show out at The Gorge in Washington State and we opened for Luke Bryan. His fans hated us, all the teenage girls. They thought we were the most disgusting thing they had ever seen or heard. I think that might be the closest we ever came to being booed. He was nice about it and we all laughed it off, but that was brutal.”

Herb Alpert, The Tijuana Brass

“We were traveling from Bangor, Maine, to St. Petersburg, Florida. We were traveling with a chartered DC-3. The plane takes off and I hear this crashing sound, look back on the runway and the guy forgot to close the baggage compartment and all I saw was marimbas and drums and instrument cases. Some of the instruments were a little banged up but playable, so we put them back in the cargo.

“We took this terrible trip from Bangor to St. Petersburg and the wind was blowing from east to west. So the plane was not dipping up and down, the plane was dipping sideways. We all got kind of sick. By the time we got to St. Petersburg, the show was like a half-hour away. It all worked out, but it was a lot of things happening.”

Robert Lamm, Chicago

“One that we still call ‘The Disaster in Nebraska.’ We noticed gathering clouds as the other band was wrapping up. They changed the stage over; it might have taken them 20 minutes. We got on and started playing, and we were hit with something like a combination hurricane and tornado. The wind came up and blew over the sound columns. The light rigging came crashing down and we just barely made it off the stage.

“It rained so much, so hard, so quickly that we couldn’t even walk to the buses, which wouldn’t have done us any good anyway because the buses were completely stuck, so most of us had the shoes sucked off of our feet as we walked up to the highway. We hitchhiked and a guy who was coming from the concert in a pickup truck picked us up and put us into the bed, and drove us into town.”

JJ Grey, JJ Grey & Mofro

“We had a gig in Orlando and it was, like, on a Sunday night. We showed up and there was crime scene tape everywhere and a Health Department sticker on the door.”

After a call to the promoter, Grey learned that punk rocker GG Allin had played the club the night before and relieved himself onstage, then threw it into the crowd.

“After hearing that, I didn’t really want to go on that stage anyway.”

Grey also had a story about playing in a tornado.

“We were in Virginia and a tornado hit the festival. We were playing ‘Walking on Air.’ I’ll never forget that as long as I live. We got about ¾ of the way through it. I looked up and I saw a lawn chair about 10 feet off the ground; it flew off out of sight. You could just hear this roar. I ran and got in the RV, and a bunch of people jumped into a tractor trailer.

“The band playing after us was Little Feat. It destroyed all their gear and every piece of our gear didn’t even get wet.”

Duane Trucks, Widespread Panic

Trucks, who grew up in Jacksonville, was playing a frat party in Tuscaloosa, Ala., with a band called Highly Kind.

“We got there and we could just kind of tell that this was going to be a rowdy bunch of kids. We’re all kind of like ‘This is gonna be fun, but I don’t want to get beaned in the head with a full beer can while I’m playing.’”

A half-hour into their set, Trucks noticed flashlights bobbing around the back of the room

“There’s just cops everywhere. They bust this entire party of all these kids underage drinking. It’s just mayhem with them trying to clear all these kids out. “

The band had been contracted to play all night, so they were worried they wouldn’t get paid for their abbreviated set. He needn’t have worried.

“These are a bunch of kids who are spending Mommy and Daddy’s money. We got full pay for playing 45 minutes and got to grab all the leftover beer — and there was a lot of beer. I can’t say that it was a bad gig because it was a lot of fun.”

Michael Glabicki, Rusted Root

“We had just gotten signed and this marketing guy at the record label was real adamant about us taking a day off our tour and flying to Texas for spring break. They kept working us, telling us it was going to be this huge gig. Finally, we gave in because they were going to get us this private jet. We’re like 22 years old and thinking this is great.

“We get there and there’s maybe 25 people on the beach. The stage is too small and the generator is broken, so we’re not sure we’re gonna even play. We played for the 25 people and got back on the private jet. Somebody asked him who was paying for it and it was us.”

Gary Rossington, Lynyrd Skynyrd

“We did it right there in Jacksonville. It was at the Coliseum, one of the first or second times we played there. Ronnie (Van Zant, the band’s singer) got really sick the night before and was doing even worse the day of the show. Come time to go to the show, he couldn’t even talk. He couldn’t sing that night. We went over there and played some music and jammed some, and we got Charlie Daniels to come out and sing — he opened for us — and we barely got through that gig and it was in our own hometown.

“When you show up and you’re lead singer isn’t there, it’s pretty bad.”

Butch Trucks, The Allman Brothers Band

Trucks, who died earlier this year, said one of his most disappointing shows was one of the Allman Brothers’ most famous — closing night at the Fillmore East. The epic version of “Mountain Jam” that takes up two sides of the “Eat a Peach” album was recorded that night. It was a really long night — Albert King, the J. Geils Band, Edgar Winter’s White Trash, Mountain, the Beach Boys and Country Joe McDonald all played before the Allmans. The show was by invitation only, so it was filled with record company execs, not fans, and there was an open bar. By the time the Allmans took the stage in the wee hours, many had left or were too drunk to appreciate the band’s set.

“I would have to say that was the biggest disappointment,” Trucks said in an interview last December. “Being selected to be the last band to play at such an iconic venue, then having it turn out to suck so bad.”

Tony Bennett

“Funny enough, despite singing and performing for nearly seven decades, nothing comes to mind. We did have some disastrous conditions when I performed at the big music festival Glastonbury in the U.K. It had been raining the whole time and the site had turned into a complete field of mud — the audience was literally covered in it. I was the only guy on the bill wearing a suit and tie so the promoters created a trail of hay stacks I was able to step on and get to the stage. So I played Glastonbury in a suit and tie with not a speck of mud anywhere on me and, to this day when I go to the UK, someone will always bring that up. It actually was a wonderful crowd and a great night, so I guess that doesn’t really count as a ‘bad gig,’ does it?”