4 Completely Bizarre Gig Stories That You Need To Read To Believe

steve nixonAs I’m sure you can imagine, doing music for a living can be very fun.

Although, 95% of the career has been really enjoyable there have been times that have not always been filled with sunshine.

In fact, after over 1,700 gigs in 15 years there has also been a fair share of completely bizarre and utterly strange moments too.

The type of moments that make you say, “Of all the places that life can go, how the hell did I end up here?”

So, in today’s post I thought it would be fun to share with you 4 completely bizarre things that have happened to me in my music career. You may never think of a music career the same way again.

This is a follow up to my 19 Things I’ve Never Told You article.

1. Wild Dogs

I once was chased by wild dogs in Italy. Yes, you read that correctly.

I had the night off from a gig and was staying about 50km outside of Cisternino, Italy. It was midnight and I decided to go for a run to get some exercise and work off some of the delicious Italian food I had eaten all week. BIG MISTAKE #1.

As I’m running I start to hear what I thought at first was yelling behind me. So, I stop to running to see what the commotion was all about. BIG MISTAKE #2.

To my complete horror there are 4 wild dogs sprinting toward from about 30 meters away. Their teeth are showing and they’re growling and barking up a storm. They’re getting closer by the second.

I was either getting to close to their territory or they thought I was a sheep and needed to be herded.

My heart starts pounding and I immediately turn around and start sprinting the other direction. Now, I ran track when I was in junior high but I can assure you that nothing ever prepares you to run when you’re scared for your life.

I’m in all out run for your life mode and they’re getting closer and closer…25 meters…20 meters…15 meters….10 meters.

I start contemplating my demise when out of the corner of my eye I spot a chain link fence on the side of the road just ahead. The dogs are now 5 meters behind me as I throw my whole body toward the fence and forcefully start to ascend it.

I finally make it to the top and proceed to spend the next 10 minutes hanging on to the top of the fence as the dogs bark and snarl below me. After about 10 minutes they eventually retreated and I was miraculously left alone.

Apparently, I wasn’t an exciting enough “sheep” to chase for longer than that and eventually they decided to retreat. Phew!!

Lesson Learned: Don’t eat so much Italian food. It could lead to later being attacked by dogs.

2. Blood, Sweat, and Flying Beers

So, later that same summer I was on a festival gig in Canada. We were performing in the slot right before David Clayton Thomas.

He was the Grammy Award winning singer from Blood, Sweat, and Tears. You know…the guy who sings this song….

Now, to be honest I’ve always enjoyed Blood, Sweat, and Tears music but I never knew much about the band’s history or about David.

I didn’t even know what David looked like. So, this would all be a new experience for me.

Ok so, around 5pm we do our set and the crowd gets really rowdy and into it.  Normally that’s great news when you perform.

Unfortunately, though they didn’t do an awesome job with security at this festival. They actually left open a backstage entrance unsecured and people were pouring in through there and taking all our food and beer.

On top of that a few people even started smashing beer bottles. It started getting rowdy.

I’m a little bit freaked out at this point. I just wanted to relax for a few minutes after the gig and eat a sandwich. But now there is no food left and I’m concerned that a beer bottle is going to hit me.

I decide I need to exit the backstage area ASAP.

The Crasher

Right as I’m trying to escape some dude walks up to me and starts talking very fast to me.

He starts saying things like, “Hey man, I loved your set. The solo you took on the second to last number was really nice! Who do you listen to? Do you like Al Kooper? Where you from? We should jam. Is there anymore drinks back here?  Do you have a CD I can have?”

Thinking he was one of the backstage crashers I politely decline him. “Uh…thanks man. Real kind of you. No more drinks that I know of…ok gotta go.” and quickly make my exit.

So, about 10 minutes later after I find a nice secure area elsewhere and a delicious chicken sandwich to eat. I proceed to sit down and wait for David Clayton Thomas to hit the stage. “I wonder what he’ll sound like”, I’m thinking.

As the band walks out on stage my jaw just dropped. The backstage crasher grabs the microphone and starts singing. Apparently, this “backstage crasher” was not actually a crasher. In fact, he was David Clayton Thomas! Whoops. 🙂

Did I just blow off a Grammy Award Winner? Yep. Mistake #4 Did he ask me to jam with him and I declined? Yep. Mistake #5.

It all ended up working out and we laughed about it after the gig but to think I didn’t even recognize the guy. 🙁

Lesson Learned: Know your Grammy Award Winners!

3. The 100 Kroner Miracle

gig storiesSo, earlier this year I was on a gig in Norway. The rest of the band I was playing with was British and they were taking a flight back to Britain the next day.

My flight back to Chicago was leaving early the next morning so I actually had to leave immediately after the gig by myself.

The promoter handed me 100 Kroner to take a cab to the airport. He said the cab ride was about 20-25 minutes.

Now, a 20-25 minute cab ride in Chicago will usually run you about $20-40. So, I’m thinking that I just hit the jackpot since this guy just gave me 100. I’ll have some money left over. How lucky I thought I was at the time and what a nice guy!

The only problem is that 100 Kroner is definitely not $100. In fact it converts to about $17 US money. Also, Norway is quite an expensive country (as I’m sure those of you who live in Norway or have visited can attest to).

Kroner Crisis

So, I jump in the cab and proceed to the airport. The cab driver and I talk for awhile and he asks me what I do. “I’m a performer and I teach people piano over the internet”, I said.

He proceeded to tell me he’s always wanted to learn piano. I reply, “It’s never to late to start. You should give it a shot.” “Maybe but it’s probably too late for me” he says and then doesn’t say another word for the rest of the cab ride.

So, we sit in awkward silence for a while. Finally, after about 15 minutes the cab stops and the driver says, “OK we’ve arrived. That will be 437 Kroner.”

What???? My heart skipped a beat. “Um…I…umm only have 100 Kroner”, I say as I begin to swallow hard. The cab driver begins to stare me down.

Now, in Chicago there is a strong possibility that taking a cab ride without enough payment will A) get you beat up or B) land you in jail. So, I’m super nervous right now of what may happen. I only have 100 kroner on me period. I’m in trouble.

I’m thinking I’m about to spend the night in a Norwegian jail or a ditch somewhere. The cab driver is continuing to stare me down and he seems to be studying me intensly.

Finally, out of nowhere a big grin erupts from his face. “Ok”, he says. “I give you my email and you send me my first piano lesson when you get back home to make up for it.”

I couldn’t believe he said this and I let out the biggest sigh of relief. I thanked him immensely and we exchanged info.

To this day this is still the most bizarre way I’ve ever met a new student. None the less I’m grateful. Andreas, if you’re reading this. Thank you again!

Lesson Learned: Cab drivers in Norway are awesome!

4. Phantom Voicemail

A couple months ago I got hired to do a gig in San Francisco.

It was a long commute to get to the gig (about a 5 hour plane ride from Chicago) but I was being compensated well for it so I figured why the hell not.

I can pay some bills and hang in San Francisco. This should be fun I thought.

So, gig day comes and I get on the plane. The flight attendants came around and asked everybody to immediately turn there phones off for takeoff. As I went to do this I looked down at my phone and noticed a voicemail message.

Unfortunately, there was no time to check it because the plane was taking off. I thought to myself, “OK, if it was that important they would have called twice or texted. I guess I’ll just check it when I land in San Francisco.”

Fast forward 5 hours later and the plane lands. It was a brutal flight with a lot of turbulence and I was in a middle seat. I groggily grab my bags and exit the plane.

As, I’m exiting the plane I turn my phone on and decide to check that phantom voicemail message.

I dial in to my voicemail and enter the password. “You have 1 new voicemail. First voicemail…“Steve, I hope you get this message. Under no circumstances should you get on the plane. Sorry man. The gig is cancelled. I repeat, the gig is cancelled.  I’ll call you later to talk more about it.”

Now, I’ve had gigs cancelled before but I usually would get a couple weeks notice. Never when I was literally en route on the plane to get to the gig.

So, I’m now 2,000 miles away from my home, I’m stuck in San Francisco, I have no gig, and I’m probably not getting paid. This sucks!

Eat A Lot Of Lemons Or Something Like That

There is an old saying though that when life gives you lemons sometimes you can make lemonade. Fortunately, this was one of those situations. While out there I made some calls and somehow picked up another gig for the next day. Phew. Saved! 🙂

The gig the next day turned out to be surprisingly good too. It actually led to this video as we were warming up backstage.

I hate it when a gig gets cancelled but at least I got a cool video out of it. You guys know I love to shoot video so not too bad of an outcome I suppose. 🙂

Lessons Learned: Always check your voicemail before you leave for the gig and try to drink more lemonade. 🙂

I hope you guys enjoyed hearing some of these stories. (If you want to hear more stories like this you should check out the 19 things I’ve never told you post as well)

Also, if any of these stories resonated with you please let me know by leaving a comment below. If you have a crazy gig story please feel free to tell us about it  in the comment area too!

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