Crazy Gig Stories

I’ve written a lot of gig stories over the years. Check out mine plus several contributions from other folks here.

My Favorite Gig Stories

I started writing Crazy Gig Stories 10 years ago.  Though sharing gig stories was never my intent, as the blog grew in popularity I decided to put out some tales from my past.

The response was great, and I started writing these tales weekly. If you really think about it, strange stuff is happening to musicians all the time.

I finally started to write crazy gig stories again after a long hiatus, which has been super fun.  I’ve got many new ones to share, including several from the world of teaching, but for now I present you with some of the stranger ones from the past.  Enjoy!


My Car Caught Fire and Exploded!

In what may quite possibly be the worst gig story ever, I attempt to recall a very surreal night several years ago in words and hand-drawn pictures. Sometimes you drive home from a gig listening to the radio and smiling. Sometimes your car starts on fire and exploded on the south side of Chicago as you run screaming down the Interstate. This story is about the latter.

burning car

I Have No Pants

Sending a bass section into a hysterical fit of the giggles during a performance is not exactly the hardest thing to do, but I remember a moment a few years ago that will definitely stay with me for years to come.


Angering Conductors 101 

I probably shouldn’t have put the exact orchestra in which this happened in the post (I stopped doing that eventually).  This is one of my second-hand stories (but from a credible source). This documents a very funny series of events surrounding a performance of Mahler’s Second Symphony with the Louisville Orchestra. Contains some…ahem…adult humor.

Angering Conductors 101

Symphony on the Swamp

Some places just aren’t built for classical music concerts. This story is about a curious tradition of the Spoleto USA Festival–an evening concert on the edge of a massive swamp. Darkness…bright lights…giant swamp…read the story to find out what kind of a horror show these factors produce when combined.

Symphony on the Swamp

Extreme Gigging: All-Night Drives

Kind of precursor to Road Warrior Without an Expense Account, this story documents some of the complete insanity that I went through as a freelance musician, documenting my nutso drives from Memphis to Milwaukee in the middle of the night.  This is an early post of mine, and my writing certainly got better over time, but it’s describing a pretty surreal experience.

All-Night Drives

I Fly Plane!

Sometimes Russian musicians take over commercial airliners and fly them. I’m not kidding.

I Fly Plane

Grant Park Symphony Audition Story

I heard this great audition story a few years ago firsthand from the people who were involved. This was one of the rare times where I actually knew both the committee members and the audition candidate in this story.

Grant Park Symphony Audition Story

More Stories…

The above are just a sampling—I’ve written many more:

I’ve also done This American Life-ish audio versions of some of these stories.  I had a great time putting these together and might tackle more audio renditions in the future.


Who Knifed Me In The Face?

I’ll admit it—I had been under a lot of stress.

It seemed like everything in my life was all of a sudden coming to a head. I was living 2600 miles apart from my wife in what may very well be the world’s worst bachelor pad. My school orchestra was performing at the Midwest Clinic, the world’s most prestigious pre-college music event. I was gigging like a fool. And I had decided to leave my job but not tell anyone just yet.  I was in hardcore orchestra director mode, recording rehearsals and listening back while furiously scribbling notes, trying to keep my temper in check and my outlook positive so as to not go postal on the kids.

Layers upon layers of pressure…

I collapsed most nights on the couch, intending to watch a little Netflix but falling asleep in some contorted position moments after kicking up my feet.  But I always made sure to set my multiple iPhone alarms the moment I walked in the door, knowing that, if I didn’t, I would be likely to fall asleep before even thinking about it.

My Brush With Surreality

One morning, with a wooden taste in my mouth and a feeling of unease creeping into my mind – my circadian rhythm felt off – I was asleep in a vampiric pose, arms crossed over my iPhone.

I glanced at the clock—7:30 am! That was a full two hours past my alarm. I’d never slept that late. What the heck?

I got up and staggered groggily into the bathroom to brush my teeth. As I turned to face the bathroom mirror, I gasped at what I saw: my face was covered in blood! And not “cut yourself shaving” polite little blood spots but more like something out of a horror movie: thick, ropy blood was all over my face, neck, ears, and hair!



Deep wounds! Why? How?

My initial panic at simply being late to work took on an aura of surrealism as I washed off the dried blood, revealing two wounds of surprising depth and length.

What on Earth had happened the night before? I hadn’t been staggering around like a drunk idiot the night before. I had pretty much just gone to bed when I’d gotten home.

Could I have been sleepwalking? Well, I’ve been together with my wife for the past 16 years, and she has never once seen evidence of me sleepwalking. Neither had my family growing up. It could have just started happening, of course—it had been a really stressful fall, after all, much more so than normal… but was that how stress was going to manifest itself? Also, what the heck in my place would have cut me exactly like that? I did a quick glance around the place but couldn’t find any sharp corners spaced like that, nor anything with dried blood on it (which I’d imagine there would be plenty of given the condition of my face).

Could it have been… the cats? Our cats aren’t declawed, and it had been a while since I’d trimmed their nails, so they were both sporting a pretty fearsome set of talons. Also, they loved to sleep on top of my chest at night. Usually, one cat would sleep on my and one would sleep on my wife. Since my wife had been in San Francisco, the cats had taken to fighting with each other over who got to sleep on my chest.

The likely scenario suddenly became clear, and as I came to this realization I also noticed some other wounds that, while not as obvious as the facial lacerations, were actually more puzzling.

  • I had a few other short lacerations (though not as deep) on each hand
  • I had strange cuts and scuffs on the inside of my wrists
  • Both of my knees were rather badly skinned.


Never in my life have I wished more for security camera footage to consult (footage of my car inferno would be a close second).


Crazy Gig Stories!

Story TimeWe are featuring a series of crazy gig stories that I had recorded in the first phase of the podcast. I had a total blast doing these back in the day and hope to do more of these in the near future.

You’ll be hearing four of my own stories on this episode:

The last story is from podcast guest David Cardon, a fellow bassist from my time at Northwestern University. He’s a cool guy and incredibly funny, and I think that you’ll really enjoy this tale from him!

My fancy dancing

I had an amusing and somewhat embarrassing incident happen at a teacher event that I attended last year.

I was at an all-day music teacher workshop and was having a great time, like I usually do at this annual event.  The whole day consists of hour-long clinics and sessions on a variety of topics, from teaching motion in string playing to score study for the busy conductor.  Probably not the most scintillating material for all you bass players out there, but really cool stuff for me now that I’ve shifted career gears.

One of these sessions was taught by a dance instructor and was intended to get us more tied into body awareness (and just to break up the monotony of  endless music education clinics).

For this session, we were lined up in parallel rows (there were about 70 of us at the event), and we were being instructed in various dance moves.  This is not exactly one of my usual activities in life, but it was a fun diversion and I was having a good time with it.

A young female teacher who I happened to be standing next to leaned over to me early on in the session and whispered to me

“Hey Jason!  You’re a really good dancer!”

This caught me off guard and was certainly flattering.  I mean, I was just doing a line dance with a bunch of other music teachers, quasi-zombified  after hours of clinics.  I wasn’t aware that I was cutting such a slick stride across the dance floor.  I smiled and thanked her.

A few minutes later, she asked me something that really threw me.

“Do you have a background in dance?”

Flattery on the educational dance floor was an unexpected thing for me, and like an idiot, I responded (quite untruthfully, by the way)…

“Why, yes!”

I have absolutely no idea why I uttered a boldfaced lie like that.  It’s totally unlike me.  I think that I was just caught off guard by her complimenting my dance moves so much.

I though I was safe with my little untruth, but of course, a few minutes later, the next question came…

“Hey Jason… what kind of dance background do you have, exactly?”

Uh oh.

I responded with something really unconvincing, like “you know…a little bit of this and a little bit of that.”  Misrepresenting myself as an experienced dancer was becoming more uncomfortable with every passing minute.

Note to self: don’t lie.  And if you do lie, it had better not be about something like your dance background!

I also like that there is a string teacher out there that thinks that I am a trained dancer.  What was I thinking?

A Tale of Double Bass Destruction 1

A painful tale from a reader:

Dear Jason,
Inspired by stories of bass destruction in your blog, and especially Adam’s latest story, I felt an urge to share my own personal trauma.

A few months after I bought my first bass, I was on my way home from a gig as a young jazz player.

I parked the car parallel to the sidewalk, with the passenger side toward the road.

When I took the bass out of the passenger side, I realized that I left the engine running and the keys in the starter switch. As tired as I was, I leaned the bass against the car and went to the other side of the car to take the keys. I was not worried because it was the middle of the night, and the only car around was a police car far down the street. Because the bass was leaning on the car upright and only stuck into the road a bit, I also did not worry when I saw the police car start backing up in my direction.

When I sat in the driver’s seat and turned off the engine, I saw the policeman began driving backwards quickly, the way you can only do when it is the middle of the night and you are sure there is no one around. Before I knew what was happening, the police car came too close to the side of the road where I parked, and with great speed hit my new double bass and sent it flying in the air, and for a distance of about ten meters.

Without being able to think about anything I stormed out of the car yelling “What did you do?” and “Oh, God!” The face of the police man, who had gotten out of the car in the meantime, was white as a sheet and he only mumbled “What happened here?” a few times.

When I saw his panic, I was even more frightened, and I began to understand what happened and yell at him with greater force. It took him about half a minute to understand it was a huge instrument in a large black case, and not a relative, and then the tables were turned and he began yelling at me, releasing all the strain he was under in great relief.


I eventually sold the fragments shown in the picture fairly cheaply, and together with the insurance money from the Israeli police department, bought the bass I play to this very day.