15 Drummers Remember Their Worst Gigs
Where: Late ’60s, “before we had big strong drum stands.”
What: I was right in the middle of my 20-minute drum solo. I did this thing where I would play little melodies on my cymbals by bending them. So there I am bending the cymbal and the cymbal stand snaps and now I’m holding the cymbal in my hand. The drum solo came to an abrupt halt. I was sitting there totally embarrassed and didn’t know what to do. Time just stopped. So I threw the cymbal off the riser and continued the solo. This was pretty bad because all motion on the stage and energy in the arena stopped. I was really embarrassed.
Brandon Saller (Atreyu)
What: I was sick and starting to get worried about not only having the energy to play and put on a good show, but having the voice to sing. I warmed up my hands, arms, and voice as much as I could. When it came time to go on, I still was iffy about the situation. I got on and as I assumed, my arms felt like they weighed a ton. We played all our songs a little slower that night. Then my right kick pedal breaks — so I’m playing all our songs lefty! While my drum tech is fixing my pedal, my microphone stand falls on me, messing up the whole song. I think at the end of the night we had to start a song over, I kicked over about three mike stands out of anger, and it turned out to be the worst, most embarrassing show ever.
Jason Mackenroth (Rollins Band)
When: “Very early stage of my Rollins Band experience”
What: Following Mötörhead was not a task to be taken lightly, and I had something to prove. Our usual Rollins Band set consists of “rock blocks” that link our songs in groups of four or five tunes, leaving the audience only moments between these relentless assaults to catch a breath. At the end of the first rock block, I bust the bass drumhead. There are no bass drumheads or bass drums to change with, plus, there is no stopping. During the song, our road manager tapes a spare floor tom head backwards against the bass drum where my foot pedal hits. It only worked for two more songs. He finds a smaller tom head, and after a song or two I go right through it. An even smaller tom head then gets taped on. By this time, there are layers of shredded drumheads at my feet, and all the while I’m trying to kick Mikkey Dee’s ass. By the end of the set, a 12" head was the last to be taped to this pile of shredded bass drumheads and the foot pedal is going through the mess like paper! That was my introduction to the real world of live rock and roll, right there with Lemmy and Mikkey watching.
Cam Bordignon (The Reason)
When: Stanley Cup, Spring, 2004
Where: The Embassy in London, Ontario, Canada
What: We were playing our second to last song of the set. I didn’t really know what happened at the time, but I guess Adam [White] — our singer — had tripped on something and came crashing down on my kit. But it wasn’t like he tripped and caught his balance as soon as he hit my drums. He fell right on top of them trying to grab anything he could to regain his balance. When he finally hit the ground my kit was everywhere. My cymbals fell and my toms were all over the place. We kept playing, so I had to make do with what I still had left. There’s a little break in the song where the guitars play for about 20 seconds, so that was the only chance I had to put my kit back together.
Robbie Mardo (Mardo)
When: June, 1998
Where: The Viper Room in Hollywood, California
What: The band I was in at the time was doing a showcase for all the major labels. We decided that we were going to put an instrumental solo section in the middle of the last tune, during which I would jump over my drum kit and play some snare rolls on a separate snare I had set up at the front of the stage. It is not that easy to jump over a drum kit and keep the time of the song while intoxicated. I nearly ate it jumping the drum kit, barely kept the time of the song, and when the instrumental section was over, I was supposed to return to my drum kit, but instead I got upset and kicked the snare drum off the stage because I thought the section was a disaster. The drum ended up flying right into the knees of one of the biggest record execs in the room. He spills his drink on his assistant, curses at the band, and leaves.
Jonathan Bucklew (Copeland)
When: April 27, 2004
Where: The Norva in Norfolk, Virginia
What: We were playing a sold-out show opening up for Switchfoot, and it’s my first show ever with Copeland. Their previous drummer quit abruptly only two nights prior, so I flew out to help them finish the tour. We’d had only about an hour to practice together before the show, so I’m already a bit edgy and feeling self-conscious. We just finished our first two songs and I reached for my sweat towel and water. Just as I’m taking a big old swig of water, Aaron — our singer — belts out, “We were walking downtown,” and that’s when everyone is supposed to start this particular song. Needless to say, I didn’t quite hit that downbeat. Everyone stopped and 1,300 people were looking at me. I’m thinking I’d be fired, but we all shared a laugh and I’m still jamming out with these boys.
Dirty Arya (Skindred)
Where: New Oasis club in Reno, Nevada
When: Summer 2004
What: We had never played “Tears” live before, and were toying around with the arrangement to do something a little different from the record. We had a go of it in sound check and I kept messing it up. We get on stage, crack into the first number, and the lighting rig goes down and we are playing in complete darkness! The gig is going pretty well even though we are in the dark, but then I look down and see “Tears” is the next song! I’m trying to signal to our singer Benji that I didn’t want to play it, but of course he couldn’t see me. We get through part of the song but then I mess it up and the song grinds to a halt. The lights came back on and I had to sheepishly count the song back, in front of a thousand people!
Deen Castronovo (Journey)
Where: Keystone Club in San Francisco, California
What: My metal band Wild Dogs had just finished our encore. I came out from behind the drums to take a bow and the lighting director blacked out the stage, I tripped and landed face first right in front of my drum riser. Trying to be the teenage metal God didn’t quite work that evening.
Jordan Burns (Strung Out)
Where: Garage Club in Barcelona, Spain
What: My drums were set up on a riser, on an already fairly high stage, and I barely had any room behind my throne to the end of the riser. My tech had warned me to be careful getting on and off my kit. Well, once we were done with our set, I turned around and stepped right off the back of the riser and fell about six feet down behind the stage. I tweaked my ankle pretty good and ended up crawling out from behind the stage. I hopped on one leg over to a chair while my band was laughing. They seemed to get a kick out of it. Luckily, it wasn’t a serious injury. I make sure to watch my step on sketchy stages now.
Mike Dupke (John Mellencamp, Hair Of The Dog, Eric Sardinas, Black Holiday)When: June, 2004
Where: Madrid, Spain
What: I usually stand up on the throne and kick drum for an impressive effect, but one night I forgot to appraise the ceiling for height before I jumped on the kit. Up I went, and I cracked my head into a light at the top of the stage. Trying desperately to recover, I fell off the bass drum, pulling a few cymbals down and knocking the throne out from under me. I ended up standing behind the kit, trying desperately to scoot my throne back into place, wondering if my brain was oozing out of the crack in my skull. My bandmates didn’t seem to notice, but the clap-along I tried to get from the audience was replaced by concerned looks and spotty laughter. Oh well. Note to self: always check ceiling, or start wearing football helmet.
Chuck Comeau (Simple Plan)
Where: Detroit, Michigan
What: We were playing with The Suicide Machines in their hometown, and I guess one of their fans didn’t like us and decided to throw a bottle right at me. It hit me right over my eye and I started bleeding like crazy. We had three more songs to go and I decided to keep playing. I had to wipe the blood off between every song. It was pretty bad.
Longineau “LP” Parsons III (Yellowcard)
Where: Jacksonville, Florida
What: We were onstage playing the closing song. At the end of the song I tried to jump on the drum throne and jump on the last note, but I missed the throne and wiped out in front of 10,000 people in perfect time to the song. That hurt a little bit, but it’s all fun and games on stage.
Adam Shaw (Lost City Angels)
When: Summer, 2003
Where: Reno, Nevada
What: This place had no security and a stage two-feet high, and by the middle of the set, kids were dog piling on the floor. So I thought it would be a good idea to get the kids on the stage for a second. I had no idea every single one would get on the stage. Kids were crawling all over the gear and all over the stage. I was seriously getting trampled by ten pairs of Vans high-tops. I look to my left and witnessed the buckling of the bass and guitar cabinets, which then leads to about 15 kids falling into me and throwing the overheads right past me. It was a disaster, and not to mention that we were using Dropkick Murphys’ backline. After I got myself together, I saw all of DKM’s crew and players putting the line back up. The first thing that came to my head was, “[DKM bassist] Kenny is going to kill me.” After the set, I went directly backstage to apologize for being a total moron, and Kenny was the first person I saw. He had no idea. After the show we were all getting ready to go out and Kenny walked right up, hugged me, looked me in the eye and asked for a baby shirt for [his daughter] Emma.
Carl Palmer (ELP, Asia)
Where: Osaka Stadium in Japan
What: We had one of the most terrible rainstorms ever recorded in Japan on the day of the concert. The stage got flooded to the point where we could not carry on, but I was not aware of this because this was all being talked about when I was playing my drum solo. I was the only one on the stage at the time, and the next thing I see is three cars turning up at the back of the stage. Greg [Lake] and Keith [Emerson] get into cars, while I am still playing. The rain is coming down so hard the roof of the stage is starting to look very unsafe, but I kept on playing because it could be my last time playing a drum solo in a monsoon! I came to the end of my drum solo, stood up, said goodbye to about 14,000 people and jumped into my car. The others were already at a restaurant!
Adrian Ost (Powerman 5000)
Where: Grand Rapids, Michigan
What: Halfway through the intro tape, I ran out to the front of the stage to let the fans know we were about to start. They saw me for the first time and started screaming and throwing their hands in the air. I was like, “Hell yes, here we go!” Instead of going around my drums to get into place, I usually jump up on my kick drum, but this time I jumped onto my throne and missed. I tipped the throne over and totally landed on my ass into all my drums. There were 1,500 kids in that room and they all saw it. I didn’t feel like much of a rock star that day.
Tony Thaxton (Motion City Soundtrack)
When: March, 2004
Where: Minneapolis, Minnesota
What: We played an unannounced basement show — a last minute, just for fun kind of thing. Because of the fun atmosphere of a basement show, we decided not to write out a set list, we would just call them out during the show. Well, about halfway through our incredibly sloppy set, I look at our guitarist Josh, and I read his lips say “Cambridge.” I then counted off “Cambridge” and began to play the song … by myself. What I didn’t realize was that Josh said “Capital H,” not “Cambridge.” Realizing that I was the only one playing, I stopped. Everyone laughed, said “Capital H,” and we moved on.