Continuing our series My Best And Worst Gigs Ever, Fall Out Boy guitarist Joe Trohman talks about one show that stands out in his mind as being the greatest he's ever played – and one that didn't work out so well.
“There's a bunch of great shows I could choose, but one gig kind of beats them all. A lot of my musician friends wish they were comedians – for some reason, they’re more interested in comedy than they are other musicians. We’re probably no different. After all, the name Fall Out Boy is a Simpsons reference, and as you can imagine, we’re all huge Spinal Tap fans. So all of that means we're big Harry Shearer fans.
“When we played Conan O’Brien’s TV show last year, we decided to do our own Spinal Tap thing. We worked it out with their people that we were going to pay homage to the Derek Smalls scene from the film in which the bassist, who was played by Harry Shearer, got stuck in his pod. We had pods built, and we even got in contact with Harry and asked him if he wanted to be part of it. Luckily for us, he was super into it.
“It was for our song Light Em Up [full title: My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up)]. We came out of our pods and started playing, only of course the pod that Pete [Wentz] was in, because he’s the bassist, wouldn’t open. But there was Harry Shearer to the rescue – he came out and started playing. He wasn’t in costume as Derek Smalls, which was a slight bummer – I would’ve loved that – but he still performed with us, so that’s all that mattered.
“We also had a little Stonehenge built specially for the show, so we were able to pull off that part of the Tap tribute, as well. A bunch of dwarves came out as tiny Druids and danced around – we did the whole bit.
“It was like a dream come true. Truthfully, it was more amazing for us to play with Harry Shearer than with any other musicians we could think of. He was unbelievable. He was super-cool and so into the whole thing. I can’t say enough good things about him. Plus, he told us a bunch of SNL stories and that kind of thing, so that was awesome.
“The only weird thing was reading the reactions we got from some of our fans. I guess a lot of them are pretty young and they don’t know Spinal Tap, because they thought the whole thing was real: ‘Pete got stuck, and some other guy came out and played with them. What was with that?’ They thought it was all a big mistake, and some random dude jumped on stage with us. [Laughs] 'Hey, who was that old guy?' I mean, c’mon, people – pick it up a little. Go watch Spinal Tap. You’ll love it.”
“Actually, my worst gig is kind of Spinal Tap-esque. We did a tour at the height of our pre-hiatus fame, and one of the dates was at the Charter One Pavillion in Chicago, our hometown. We had this big stage set up with all of this production stuff. The drums were on this super-tall riser – it must have been 10 feet or something – with these ramps that went up to it. It was very, very 'rock.'
“We started the show with Pete, Andy and me underneath the riser, and the deal was that we’d get shot out onto the stage from these big toasters. They were literally that – they’d shoot you out like a piece of toast. You could either stand there and let it shoot you out half a foot in the air, or you could jump at just the right moment and get some serious air. That’s what Pete and I would usually do. We were into the big entrance thing.
“It was a big deal for us to play Chicago and be the conquering heroes and all that. Only problem was, the weather was bad all day, and as we were in the toasters about to get shot out, the power died. The toasters got us out about halfway, so using our upper-body strength – or lack of upper-body strength, I should say – we had to pull ourselves out of this hole. The power was back up by now, but it didn't matter – we made the slowest, most anticlimactic entrance of all time.
“I was already frazzled as we went into the first tune. I went up one of the drum ramps to try and get into it, and as I was walking backward from it I tripped and fell right over my monitor. Come to think of it, I don’t even know why I had a monitor, because I had in-ears. [Laughs] I guess it looks more real to people: 'He's got a monitor - cool!'
“So I did this not-very-awesome exit from the toaster, and then I fell on my ass backwards on stage – things were not going well at all. The rest of the gig was fine, but when the first song goes completely haywire, it can really shoot your mood. The thing is, you have to recover. If you’re lucky enough to be able to do this professionally, you’ve got to be able to laugh off the fuck-ups.
“I can’t lie, though: Stuff like that stays in my head for a long, long time. If the rest of the set gets better, I might just forget it and keep going, which is the best-case scenario out of the worst-case scenario. So even while screw-ups can get in my head, I have to act like they’re not. It’s a very weird dichotomy to be playing the part of a cool, smooth rock star while I’m really thinking, ‘I’m the furthest thing from a cool, smooth rock star. I’m a fucking idiot.’ [Laugh] Luckily, that doesn’t happen every night.”