Music News

Thriller Night

Even in South Florida, signs of autumn abound: The bountiful cocaine harvest is over, kids carve up German tourists for jack-o'-lanterns, and the goofballs at NOAA run out of alphabet. Another of fall's many rituals that local music lovers have come to expect is Moonfest, the annual costume-studded bacchanal that for one night turns Clematis Street into the thriving cultural corridor we all wish it could be. And what could be more terrifying than navigating the random construction of downtown West Palm Beach? In honor of this creepy season -- and to get your blood simmering for Moonfest's 14th incarnation on October 29 -- a few participating musicians offer spine-tingling tales of their scariest musical moments:

Pete Stein, singer, Truckstop Coffee

Our goriest moment on stage happened at the Surf Café. I somehow slashed open the thumb of my strumming hand and pretty much bathed my guitar in blood. Before I realized what I'd done, I must have wiped the sweat off my face with that bloody hand. After the show, wide-eyed friends kept asking me "What happened?" Having not seen myself, I just said I cut my hand. When I finally got a chance to look in a mirror, after loading out and drinking a beer at the bar, I cracked up -- my face was smeared with dried blood. I looked like goddamned Rambo or something!

Our scariest song: "Ghost or Angel." It's about an eerie encounter I had with a ghostly character after getting really lost deep in a Louisiana bayou late one winter night. That Crash Test Dummies song "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" is pretty scary too. Always reminds me of what Frankenstein would sound like as a pop singer.

Patrick Boggs, drummer, Telefiction

A few years back, while on tour with my former band, I was on the road to a show along the East Coast somewhere. We were all in the back of our trusted RV watching Scarface when suddenly it felt like the wheels dropped off the motorhome. Sparks were shooting from the back. Our driver managed not to wreck, and we pulled over to see what happened -- the trailer hitch had come unwelded from the RV. If you're unfamiliar with towing trailers, you hitch them on and chain them up, so the trailer was unhitched but still chained to the RV, and the trailer tongue was dragging and sparking. Luckily, a cool trucker came by and helped us out.

Christopher Baker, guitarist, Dixie Hustlers

We opened up for Lynyrd Skynyrd back in Michigan probably two years ago, and that was our first show playing in front of a sold-out 30,000-seater. And it was really weird, because when we went out on stage, I couldn't see because the lights were so bright and it was all dark inside. You just couldn't see anybody. We went back to back, first two songs, and after that, the crowd just went nuts. And that was really, really scary -- it was kind of one of those surreal moments that kind of made you queasy and wanna pass out at the same time.

Casey Buckley, singer, the People Upstairs

One of the scariest times on stage was at Moonfest about two years ago. We were performing at Spanky's but nonetheless decided to wear costumes. The drummer was wearing a full gorilla suit, and I was wearing a grim reaper getup with the full facemask. Halfway through the set, we both about passed out from dehydration. But being the rock stars that we are, we never let on and continued to rock the place. After the show, we said we would never do it again. We don't learn -- we're going to rock Moonfest again this year! Although maybe not in full costumes...

Aaron Gentry, singer/guitarist, the Freakin' Hott

We were playing at a place -- I won't say where it is, because we'll probably wanna play there again — but they have really bad electrical grounding. We're playing literally the first chords of the first song, and my left hand's kinda tingling, and I'm like, I'm just nervous, I'm excited for the show. So I lean forward to put my mouth to the microphone to sing and --pow! -- I got the crap zapped out of me. Like, really bad -- I staggered back and stuttered. We kept going, and I found out later that there was this terrible ground between their sockets and my equiment and I was getting a current all night long through my guitar strings. And the stage was soaking wet, and all night my left hand was vibrating and warm, and I couldn't figure out why. And the next day, I couldn't move my hand -- it was all swollen up and gnarly from being zapped all night long. That's the scariest gig -- not like the ghost of Bobby Load haunting us, but pretty terrifying for me.

Russ Moore, drummer, the Remnants

I thought of two things. The first one was an experience that we had maybe two years ago. We got asked to play as the backup band for Andre Williams. He's probably in his late 60s; he used to write for all sorts of Detroit artists back in the '50s and '60s. He wrote "Shake a Tailfeather," things like that. Songs that got famous by Ike and Tina Turner. So we got asked to play, and we had rehearsed a bunch of his songs, but we'd never played with him. So he shows up, and, dude, he's already had at least a fifth of rum. So we're onstage, in the middle of the set. Things are going OK. We're at the end of "Proud Mary," and he turns to us and says, "We're gonna play 'Mustang Sally' now." But we'd never rehearsed "Mustang Sally." We'd never learned "Mustang Sally" in the least. And he, in the middle of the set, while we're playing in front of a large number of people, tells us we're going to play this song. That was relatively scary, but it went OK.

The other very, very scary thing is from Halloween two years ago. I wore a diaper onstage, and that was pretty scary. It was a freeing experience. I didn't make use of it, but maybe I will this year.

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Jonathan Zwickel