Mike Stinson's Paranoid-Musician Nightmares

From time to time, Rocks Off thought we'd ask both local and touring musicians to tell us the worst gig they've ever played, in the hopes that the next one won't be quite so awful. We asked Houston honky-tonk transplant Mike Stinson, whose new CD The Jukebox In Your Heart is now in regular rotation on Sirius/XM's Outlaw Country channel, to help us get started. Tell us about your own worst gig (and your next one) at chris.gray@houstonpress.com.

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Markus Cuff
"I've discussed this topic with lots of musicians over the years, and I don't think any of our actual worst shows compare to the ones our minds create in our paranoid dreams. Every bit as terrifying as the "falling out of an airplane" dream or the dreaded "running for your life from a serial killer" dream, the paranoid-musician dreams come in many chilling variations, and startle us awake just as breathless and profoundly relieved.

"When I was drumming all the time, I kept having this dream that it was showtime, the whole band takes the stage, the place is packed and excited, and then suddenly I realize that the drums I had perfectly set to go are now disassembled and in pieces all over the stage.

The guys are looking back at me with desperate, pleading looks, begging me to count off the first tune, and I'm frantically crawling around the stage trying to reconfigure the kit enough to play something but I can't seem to put any of them in the right place. "It becomes a puzzle that I simply can't solve in my agitated state, knowing that everyone's waiting and we look like idiots.

"I still have that dream once in a while, but not as often. In the last ten years, since I mostly sing and play guitar, the dream has shifted somewhat. It's a beautiful sunny day and I'm playing a festival gig in a giant park full of people. I walk out onstage, wave to the smiling folks, pick up my guitar and the first chord I play makes me realize the guitar is woefully out of tune.

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"I pause, walk back by the amp for a quick tune up, then try again. This time I realize I'm not plugged in. Where's my cord? Oh, there it is, still curled up on the floor behind the amp. I gingerly step to the mike and say "Gimme a second here folks". The crowd starts restlessly shifting on their feet as I unwind the cord and plug in the guitar. Strum... nothing.

"I look behind the equipment and realize the amp isn't plugged in. Not only that, the power cord is missing. No matter what I try, I just can't get anything cranked up, and once again I'm crawling around on the stage in front of the crowd and can feel the collective 'Ugh... come on, guy... get it together.'

The topper on that dream is that I finally get the amp plugged in and the guitar roars to life, but I turn around to play and the entire audience has left to go see the band on the other stage.

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