Once, I was asked to do a REALLY weird gig. I declined, saying "That would be a little too weird for me.... and, I've done some WEIRD gigs!" So, it occurred to me to list some of my weirder gigs.....
(They just keep gettin' weirder... and, yep, they're 100% true stories.)
I've played a four-hour gig in a bar that was so dead I literally fell asleep in the middle of a song and hit my forehead on the microphone. I awoke with a snort... and, the lone guy at the bar with his back to me didn't even notice the music had stopped.
I performed a full concert at a youth retreat, only a few hours after breaking two ribs, a finger, and seperating my bicep, in a full-tackle football game with said youth. When I was 30. After the retreat, I was hospitalized with pneumonia. Prolly should have took it a little easier. (everyone refused to tackle the star varsity fullback to whom they kept giving the ball. I decided somebody had to do it-- repeatedly. Some things are more important than music)
A mall in Goteborg, Sweden, booked me and a friend for a concert, and they said they'd provide the PA. We showed up, and the stage was outside in the snow, and the PA was a home boom-box with one little plastic microphone (for two guitars and two voices). So, we duct-taped the microphone to a Christmas tree, both faced into the tree from 3" away, and did the show. We were laughing so hard, and the crowd was laughing so hard, it turned out to be a good show.
Two quaint-looking little old ladies at a street cafe in Utrecht, Netherlands, had me come over to their table and sing to them, and then asked me to sit down. In my mind, I was patronizingly thinking of them as leading simple, grandmotherly lives knitting doilies... then I found out they were both, literally, rocket scientists working for NASA. A good lesson in not pre-judging people.
I’ve played in a wedding with an amateur singer, who when I played the wrong chord, kept singing the same word over & over ten times (so that I had to keep playing the chord over and over) until she finally gave up (sounded exactly like a skipping LP on a record player).
I played for a communist party meeting in Torino, Italy, after which, members argued about whether I had the right to have performed a Christian song there.
I played a Swan Festival in northern Japan, where they gave me a special tea ceremony and presented me with a gorgeous ningyō doll in a glass case (that is now on display at Red Bento in Moscow, Idaho).
I played in an orchestra in front of two hundred people, and as the conductor tapped his stand for silence to start the concert, I pushed my rear chair leg off the edge of the stage and flew onto the floor with guitar and music stand, landing on another guitar, dislocating my shoulder.
I played in a hotel room, where the entire audience was the head medicine man of the Sioux Nation and Willie Nelson’s son Billy. They invited me to take a sweat lodge with them, which I couldn't, because of work.... and two weeks later I read in the news that Billy had killed himself.
I had a person dancing, bump into my mic stand so hard that she chipped my front tooth, and then get huffy with me because the music that she was dancing to (me) had stopped.
I've played on a 500 yr-old cobblestone street for hours, in falling snow in Goes, Holland, to make $10 worth of guilders.
I've had Governor Mike Huckabee play the bass in my band at a rally.
On the morning of Sept 11, 2001, I was scheduled to play in a tent for about 300 people at the Iowa State Fair. So, two hours after we had all seen the Twin Towers came down, I was sitting on a stage staring at 300 people, and tasked with showing them a good time. I started by singing Amazing Grace... and, I pulled out other songs that we could sing together... and, it actually worked. We ended up having a very nice time.
I’ve sung in a maximum security prison in Amsterdam, and received rave reviews from the prisoners, because the last concert had been a trombone quartet.
I had a street gang leader in Paris steal my hat off my head, while I was in the middle of a song. I needed it for collecting on the street... so, I found him with six of his guys... took a huge chance... acted confident... walked up and snatched it off his head, turned and walked away. And, they didn't come after me.
I've kicked a drunk in the chest to protect myself and still finished the song I was performing without dropping a beat.
One night Mike Huckabee played the bass in my band. He was super tight, didn't miss a note.
I played in a monastery in Chestachowa, Poland, for 150 priests (all in their collars) because they wanted me to share with them how to relate to today's youth in the church.
I've sung a pop song in a church and had the lady who booked me leap up, stop the performance and send me home. It wasn't that the song was inappropriate at all-- it was just the fact that I was playing a non-religious song in her church.
I've been featured on a prime-time national TV show in Holland called "Vrouw Zijn" (To Be A Woman). Don't tell the guys.
I got to play at an old theater in Truckee, CA, that went back to the cowboy days. I got to perform on a tiny little stage that Charlie Chaplain, Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, and countless others had performend on. I am so obsessed with history-- that to be standing where Charlie Chaplain had performed almost brought tears to my eyes. Very surreal.
I played many times, passing my hat (yep. same hat) at a Dunkin’ Donuts in Sendai, Japan, dodging permission from the manager.... to earn enough money to make it back to Seattle.
I played for a blind children's school in Warsaw, Poland. Wonderfully poignant moments with very cool kids.
I played and sung eight 45min sets in a row, ‘cause I needed the money. (still do)
I played for change on a ferry boat to Tallinn, Estonia two weeks before the boat went down, taking 800 lives. It would have been some of the people I played for, chatted with, and sat on the floor playing dice with.
I had President Bush’s people call and try to book me for a dinner party with the President at Tamarack Resort in Idaho, and then not discovered the written phone message a volunteer left in a weird place, until after the dinner party was over.
I was arrested for street playing in Sweden, and if my friend wouldn't have bailed me out, I would have spent the night in jail, and then been put on a ship to New York, whereupon I would've had to pay for the ticket (and I was playing on the street because I was penniless and homeless)
I’ve played the same song, repeatedly, going back and forth between two Paris subway stops for hours and days, with a street guy from London passing the hat. And, sleeping each night under a cardboard box in an alley.
I've had the US Ambassador to Denmark walk up to me after a show and invite me to dinner at his house in Copenhagen. A marvelous gentleman, whom I know to this day.
I've been hired to play for a guy dressed like a gorilla and his two buddies in ballerina tutus at a train station in Malmø, Sweden.
I've played for a Swedish opera singer on a couch in Gothenburg.
I've auditioned for my childhood idol, Randy Stonehill, in an airport bathroom, and the toilets flushed so often, we both couldn't stop laughing.
I've performed in the front row of an orchestra only to realize at the end of the show that the fly of my black pants had been wide open the whole time with the corner of my white shirtsticking out.
I've sung a song in Dutch about how much I love peanut butter (pinda kaas) with 5,000 Dutch teenagers singing along.
I’ve sung at a very famous best friend’s daughter’s huge wedding-- tried to put her name into a romantic song to personalize it, and got her name wrong.
I've played with a torn fingernail and blood dripping down my guitar and onto the floor.
I’ve been the headliner at a festival in a hockey stadium in Helsinki, Finland, for 10,000 people, and afterward had a young guy tell me I’m "uglier up close".
I’ve sung in the locked-down yard of a prison in Honduras where gang guys had a special tattoo commemorating the accomplishment of personally killing 20 enemies.... and, the only guards present were other prisoners with sticks. Fortunately, they all liked the concert.
I've sung a song with a 12-string guitar and then had two guys from Wisconsin wearing short hot-pants, tights, and logging boots grab my guitar from me and jump on it, smashing it to bits.
I've been given a chance to showcase my talent in front of 800 Dutch people who might book me in the future-- one three-minute slot... one song... one chance... and then broken a vital guitar string on the first few beats of the song.
I actually commuted, weekly, by air on SAS Airlines, from Gothenburg, Sweden (where I had a room), to Stockholm to play on the street for change, because I could make so much more money in Stockholm.... and, SAS had a mid-week special round-trip fair for only $20. Possibly the world's only street musician commuting by plane.
I played a concert at a large high school in Warsaw, Poland. It was the first time I had ever been to Warsaw. After the show, dozens of kids came up with blank-looking cassette tapes, asking me to autograph them. I said "why do you want me to sign a blank tape?" They replied, "No, it is your album!" I had never been to Warsaw, I had only played far away, in Poznan, two years before. My album had been bootlegged, and made it all the way to Warsaw!
~ "It was the best of times... it was the worst of times." ~ Charles Dickens