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December 2023
Vol. 23, No. 3
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FYI

Strange Stage Stories

by Bart MendozaApril 2023

No matter how prepared a musician is, sometimes things don’t go as planned at showtime! This month we ask Riston Diggs, Alicia Previn, Joel Kmak, Sidney Merritt, Patrick Yandall, Dave Preston, Allison Adams Tucker, and more: What’s the strangest thing that’s happened while you were onstage?

John Borack at the Beatles Fair. Photo by Bart Mendoza.

John Borack (Author, Goldmine magazine/The Armoires): I was playing at a church carnival with Mike Simmons in our cover band project, Popdudes, when a bunch of folks in full-on clown costumes began line dancing in front of the stage… to a Beatles song. Strange days, indeed.

Riston Diggs (The Gravities): I was performing at one of the earlier shows in my career at a place called City Pub off El Cajon Blvd., formerly known as The Last Call. Everything was pretty normal until about halfway through the set when a man in the audience started walking toward the stage. As he continued to walk closer, I began to worry, like, man is this guy coming to attack me or something? Maybe, he’s offended by something I said in one of my songs. He then walked on the stage and reached his hand out to grab my microphone. This is all happening at the outro of the track I was performing, so I’m done with all the vocal portions of the song. Something in my mind told me to just hand him the microphone to avoid creating any more issues to go along with the fact that a stranger is now occupying the stage with me. He would go on to unleash a free-style rap that was actually pretty good. He even stopped rapping right at the time the track ended. He then handed me back the microphone, proceeded to walk off stage, and left the venue. I continued my set, and the night went well. But I never quite understood this strange interaction or saw the guy again.

Joel Kmak (The Farmers/The Hitmakers): In 1978, at a gig in Port Costa, a tiny town northeast of San Francisco, the Hitmakers were playing. The club/restaurant was small and a small contingent of punks had followed us up from East Bay and S.F. The Hell’s Angels showed up and a fight broke out. An Angel threw a punk into the dairy case and broke the glass doors. Both the punks and Angels started throwing quarts of milk at the stage! As we were playing we were dodging the containers that were splashing against the wall behind us. We exited the stage, took the gear off the stage, and ran to our hotel across the street and watched the carnage that had spilled out into the street from our second-floor rooms until the cops showed up and dispersed the crowd.

Sidney Merritt (Swive/Weenie Roast): When my band Weenie Roast was playing at OT Prices in Santa Cruz in 1988, Rebecka’s drum pedal broke in the middle of a song. We stopped, and she said, “I got this pedal at the Musicians’ Trading Post” and then the house lights turned off because the sound guy worked there. Everybody was laughing; it was pretty hilarious.

JT Moring: That time I played the Fair and they put me back in the garden area at sunset, then turned off all the lights. I was in the dark, playing for absolutely no one. Candye Kane, whom I had never met before, was around for some reason, and we later walked out to the parking lot together, her graciously letting me know that everybody in the business has had those kinds of days.

Omar Musisko (Spiritual Motels/The Peripherals): I kind of partially set up my strangest stage experience, but that didn’t make it less ridiculous. At a show with my college band The Makeshifters in Morgantown West Virginia, we gave the audience a barely functional pink toddler’s bike and set up the most dangerous launch ramp ever constructed in the center of the floor. Five full-grown men tried to one up each other and went full steam at the jump. Each one crashed harder/got injured/was vigorously celebrated by the rest of the crowd more than the last. This was all while we foolishly commentated and played some kind of psychedelic polka. After, we gave the last guy (the winner?) a band t-shirt that was just a white t with our name written with a sharpie.

Dave Preston: Shoot, it’s more like what hasn’t happened, ha! One time, while performing on stage in Arizona, an open carry state, a couple of Hell’s Angels jumped up and started hooting and hollering, singing along on a Stone’s tune. The one that was right next to me was so animated, jumping around and getting so excited, the gun in his holster came out and flew onto the dance floor. He didn’t realize it had come out of the holster and started yelling at me that I had taken his gun. That would be when the bowels failed.

Alicia Previn (True Stories): It was 1985. I was working with a publicist [a member of the all-female hit makers Toto Coelo] and I had to sing two songs at the Hippodrome in London, which had a wooden dance floor and a stage that rose up from the center of that floor. Unfortunately, people dance on it before it rises, and someone left ice on the floor. As I was coming around to the front, I slipped on the ice. All I could think was, ‘Great! I haven’t even sung one note and I’m blowing it.’ So, I thought, ‘What would Mick Jagger do? I fell over but landed on my knees with my hands outstretched. If you watch the video, no one really noticed what happened, but I figured that from now on I’m going to fall down first, because nothing worse can happen on stage after that.

Allison Adams Tucker: Back in the ’80s, I played Midwest dive bars in a new wave band, and during one of my songs, an enamored and inebriated woman walked up to the stage, grabbed my face while I was singing, locked lips, and wouldn’t let go. I spent the rest of the set singing behind the guitarists as a barricade.

Richard Whig (Thee Allergic Reaction): The band’s vehicles were towed while on stage! We were playing in a storefront and were parked in front; you could see the tow trucks load up and pull away with our cars in tow right behind us while we strummed away!

Patrick Yandall: I was performing at a club for one of my shows. I like to open with “Affirmation,” the George Benson version. I had just started to solo and looked up and sitting at one of the front tables was George Benson. Thought I was tripping. Ended up talking to him later, and he had nothing but compliments. I was on high for a long time from that encounter!

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