Truly Rotten Gigs From Hell – The Funny, The Sad, The Unbelievably Bad – Edited by Patricia Shih (Xlibris) book review –
We’ve all fantasized about being a famous musician, singing and playing our hearts out while legions of fans roar in approval. But, those who’ve actually chosen music as a profession realize that there is a lot more to it than that. For a successful show to happen, there’s a whole list of things that have to go right; many of which are beyond your control. In Truly Rotten Gigs From Hell, Patricia Shih compiles stories from where things went terribly wrong performing live.
What makes this book so unique is the wide array of musicians who participate. Instead of being just a list of “rock n’ roll road stories”; this collection features performers in blues, folk, opera, symphony, comedy, and more. The rock aspect is covered by tales from the Smithereens, who had a hit in 1989 with “A Girl Like You;” and folksters Peter, Paul & Mary, but the large majority of musicians are relative unknowns to the pop music world. Shih and her husband, Stephen Fricker, specialize in children’s music, and the stories that they and their friends tell are extremely entertaining (having a performance interrupted by a belligerent Elmo, or being upstaged by the Easter Bunny!).
Also quite interesting are the memories from Peter Paul & Mary, especially during their help with Dr. Martin Luther King’s marches of the mid Sixties. Shih & Fricker’s story of playing Woodstock ’99 (children’s music at Woodstock!) is quite a hoot. What truly comes out from this book is the commonality that all performers have, whether it’s an audience of 6 or 6,000; something could and probably will go wrong at one point or another.
Essentially, these stories are as much about the musicians themselves and how, the majority of the time with quick thinking, they turn a bad situation into a good one. Recommended reading for those of us who still play air guitar in the mirror: it might give you a better appreciation for what they really have to go through. –Tony Peters