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Sunday, August 7, 2011

My Worst Gig Ever - Ian Anderson Of Jethro Tull

Every musician who has ever played in public has played some great gigs and some horrible ones, but it seems like the horrible ones are what we remember most. Usually the memories are of an extremely small crowd, or a hostile one, or circumstances either before or after the gig, but those of us who grew up playing in clubs always thought that once we graduated to touring then all of those terrible gigs would be left behind. That's certainly not how things work, as bigger gigs usually come with bigger problems.

In an article for The Guardian, Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson described a number of really bad scenarios that happened, surprisingly when they were one of the biggest acts in the world. He describes one especially unpleasant incident playing at New York's Shea Stadium in 1976.
"I stood with the rest of the band at the top of the ramp leading down to the field of Shea Stadium. As with The Beatles' Shea show 10 years earlier, this was not to be an artistic success, to say the least. Commercial jets on final approach to the adjacent La Guardia airport drowned out the sound, when it wasn't being drowned out by the firecrackers, whistles, hoots and hollers of the crowd.

In those final moments before walking out on to the field, I was suddenly drenched with warm, sticky liquid from high above, where some of the rowdy, 50,000-strong audience looked down on to the players' access ramp. Only as I began the inaudible first verse of "Thick as a Brick" on acoustic guitar, did I realise with resigned horror that the liquid I assumed to be beer, was not, in fact, beer at all. It was urine. The unmistakable pong wafting from my then-ample head of damp hair and freshly laundered stage-clothing would remain for the duration of the show. An unholy baptism from above.

I could have picked the gig at Denver's Red Rocks Amphitheatre in 1971, when riots and police tear gas threatened to stop the show.
Or being hit hard in the larynx by a baseball at Philadelphia's Spectrum arena.
Or anointment by the freshly plucked but seriously used tampon hurled with uncanny accuracy at another enormodome.
Or the 10in steel spike impaled in the stage next to me at soundcheck when "fans" climbed into a roof gantry over the stage at soundcheck.
Or the live rounds of automatic pistol ammunition thrown on to the stage during a show. But no – the bucket of piss, delivered with loving precision, wins out every time. You have to laugh. And count the money."
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