Post-punk pinball wizards, JJCnV
Post-punk pinball wizards, JJCnV
Courtesy of Dana Stern

The Pre-Show Rituals of 10 Phoenix Musicians

You’ve probably read numerous articles over the years that talk about the different pre-show rituals of popular musicians. For instance, Coldplay doesn’t take the stage without having a group hug (yes, you can gag if you want to). Others, who eat before performing, have specific things they like to ingest. Lorde eats only berries or seaweed on show nights and John Legend likes to down some roast chicken.

We asked ten area musicians what pre-show rituals they have, individually or with a band, so that now you can picture what your favorites are up to before they take the stage to deliver their tunes that rock your world. Here they are, in no particular order:

10. Mike Anderson (bass) - Resinator
"I won’t eat a meal the day of the show until after we play. Maybe I'll have a snack or something so I don't pass out but nothing big or heavy. Semi-starvation is my pre-show ritual. Our singer shares this same ritual with me."

9. Orin Portnoy (guitar/vocals) – Skink / (drums/vocals) – U.S. Depressed
"Honestly? A good poop and a cigarette."

8. Jackie Cruz (guitar/vocals) – Man Hands and Jade Helm
"I usually like to jam out to loud music and dance around while I'm getting ready. After that, I like to run through the set and then eat — so I don't get hungry and cranky at the show."

7. Ryan Avery (vocals) – Father’s Day
"I won’t eat anything before a show. However, when I get home from a show, I love to eat cereal. Usually, it is Honey Nut Cheerios or Honey Bunches of Oats.

Also, if my band is not opening the show, I will study all the bands that go on before me and take mental notes of what is working and what is not working with their set so that I can do better and not repeat their mistakes."

6. Seth Kasselman (multi-instrumentalist) – Warm Climate and solo projects
"If I’m playing with a band, I feel like it’s best to talk prior to getting on stage and get in the same headspace. Arriving to a show at the last minute and feeling rushed to load in and play aren’t ideal circumstances for a good performance. It’s nice to relax a little beforehand. I want to know how my bandmates are doing, what happened to them that day, and to have a drink together.

"I also try as best as I can to get on stage or record music clear headed and not bring any stress or baggage with me. Playing music should be what a musician lives for. Maybe I’ve had a shitty day; music should be a relief from that. If I’m constantly thinking about how my car is broken, bills aren’t paid, or any stresses, it takes away from a performance. However, that’s different from raw emotion. If I’m feeling overwhelming happiness, sadness, or whatever in my life, I definitely want to put that into my playing.

"Lately when preparing for a show, I’ve thought a lot about an Evan Parker quote, 'It’s not enough to just come to the table hungry, you have to bring something to eat.' Every show, every day, every venue is a different experience, and it’s important to embrace that and not just repeat yourself." 

5. Joe Golfen (guitar/vocals) – The Lonesome Wilderness / (keyboards) – The Breakup Society
"We don't do anything too elaborate, but when The Lonesome Wilderness was first starting out, Andrea (Golfen, bass), Paul (Golfen, guitar/vocals), who are also my wife and brother, respectively, and I would eat an ungodly amount of pizza. Probably out of nerves or something, but eventually we realized that if you want to move around on stage with any speed or grace, having five slices before the show is not the way to go. Nowadays, Andrea always makes sure everyone has a "show beer" right before we play. Paul has spilled his nearly every time."

4. Jim Andreas (guitar/vocals) – No Volcano
"In our band, we like to dress each other before the show, and I like lots of Coke. Coca-Cola, I like to drink lots of it before I play." 

3. Serene Dominic (guitar/vocals) – Multiple bands
"I always tell myself the show is gonna suck, no one will show up, and it will be, at best, an exercise at building character. I make sure to inform two people of this and I'm generally always wrong. The simple act of lowering expectations to an act of public loitering always seems to make the show way better than I'd imagined it to be. Some of the best shows I've had were as a result of pre-show despondency and it also helps to have a bad rehearsal where everything sounds like complete shit. People, listen, it works!" Editor's note: Serene Dominic is a regular New Times contributor. Normally, we wouldn't run something like this, but it was too funny to cut.

2. Mark Allred (vocals/slide guitar/harmonica) – The Haymarket Squares
"I try to eat a bean and cheese burrito an hour or so before a show. I don't on tour because of logistics but try to eat regardless. Also, I pack up my gear as neatly as possible, rolling cables and such. And without fail, I always pee just before I go on stage. Kinda like when your parents told you to go before you got in the car for a long drive." 

1. Dana Stern (guitar/vocals) — JJCnV
"Our pre-show ritual, as a band, mainly revolves around creating a set list. We usually choose what we want on the list at the practice before a show. We have a lot of songs, so this can be involved at times. The majority are agreed upon, but there's usually at least one (or two) that at least one (or two) of us would rather not play. A discussion, often more like a debate, of this ensues. Then we move to the putting-them-in-order process, which can also cause some dissent as we are three really opinionated people. That part of the process often happens over email and/or text. Pete [Hinz, bass and vocals] and I usually get the final list in order, then it goes to Jeff [Barthold, drums] for further discussion. Once that’s done, it comes back to me to write out a separate list for each person. Sometimes we have a horn section that plays with us, which involves more set lists being written, but if they are playing with us that’s another step that factors into the creation of the set list and its subsequent order. We do every single time. The same way. For every show. We also sacrifice a few beers or cocktails prior to a show – an important ritual sacrifice."

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