Musicians talk about their preshow rituals, from tequila shots to naps

Published May 3, 2013 12:15 pm
Music • The Salt Lake Tribune asked scores of international, national and local performers what they do in the 15 minutes before they hit the stage.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

In the hour before we begin work, most of us will ease into the day with a cup of coffee. We'll "like" a few things on Facebook and gossip with co-workers about what happened the night before on TV. Only then can we properly begin our day.

Musicians are no different, even though their job usually begins much later. Most bands have a required routine, which includes a soundcheck, media interviews and meet-and-greets. But what do these performers do in the 15 minutes before they hit the stage?

The Salt Lake Tribune asked musicians from around the world to tell us about their preshow rituals.

The answers are varied and in some cases aren't that surprising. However, not a single musician mentioned last-minute cavorting with a groupie or — as in the movie "Spinal Tap" — getting lost in the bowels of the arena trying to find the stage.

Utah musicians

DopeThought, rapper • "Go off alone, definitely pray. I'm spiritual. I practice natural breathing, ask God to help me spread the positive message."

Thierry Fischer, Utah Symphony music director • "My only superstition is to have no superstitions. Being alone is very important for me. Sometimes I eat dark chocolate, eat an orange, asking people for extra cufflinks, drink a Coca-Cola. Sometimes I need to be in a dark room. Sometimes I sleep for 10 minutes."

Kyle Henderson, Desert Noises singer • "Sometimes I take my shoes off. I play in my socks. I want to feel comfortable when I'm playing."

Joshua James, singer • "We like to have a little powwow. We try to clear our minds."

Codi Jordan, Codi Jordan Band singer • "Maybe we do a pep talk, and yell something [about Utah], like 'Go Utes' or 'Go Jazz.' We're weird."

Alex Koehler, Chelsea Grin singer • "I usually take 30 to 45 minutes to eat ginger root and do vocal warmups." Do you like the taste of ginger? "Hell, no. I wouldn't go out of my way to eat it [otherwise]."

Neal Middleton, Royal Bliss singer • The lead singer of the local rock band said the routine has changed over the years, but one thing has always remained — the band drinks a shot of either Jameson or Jägermeister together.

Wayne Sermon, Imagine Dragons guitarist • "We like the quiet and we mentally prepare. We don't brood too much. We [tell each other] to remember where we were in the first place when we wrote the songs."

McKay Stevens, The Vibrant Sound singer • "For our band, we usually listen to three Macklemore songs ("Ten Thousand Hours," "Same Love" and "Can't Hold Us") and dance around and sing along to the words."


Hoodie Allen, rapper • "I rush to get my clothes on. We do a circle-of-life group huddle."

Elvin Bishop, singer • "I get nervous. I think it means I don't take [the show] lightly. I quit drinking 26 years ago. I thought I needed that, but I found out I don't."

Alex Clare, singer • "I do vocal warmups. I push my voice hard. I pray three times a day, and sometimes before a big show, pray to help get me through this."

Darwin Deez, singer • "Sometimes the band will do calisthenics and core exercises." They often recite skits from Busta Rhymes albums.

Emancipator, DJ • "No occult rituals. I have some water, stretches, check out the [opening acts]. I have a Patrón shot before going onstage."

Juicy J, rapper • "I say a prayer before I go onstage. It's like a shot of gin. I wouldn't be here without faith."

Robert Earl Keen, singer • "Make sure my zipper is up. When I'm on tour, I like to play the guitar all day, so I feel ready."

Yu Kosuge, pianist • "I always [wear] some golden shoes. I always have a banana beforehand."

Louis Lortie, pianist • "One should rest as much as possible, [be] as inactive as possible."

Janiva Magness, singer • "A regime of warmups [that begin] two to three hours before. Meditation, prayer that I can get out of the way and let the muse come through me. The job is connection."

Bobby McFerrin, singer • "I like the idea that the show is just part of my day. I finish sound check, I have dinner with my sound engineer, I walk onstage, I'm just myself with people."

Jenny O, singer • "I try to take a moment to hold a collection of items that feel sacred," such as an arrowhead or a "small rodent's vertebrae."

Phillip Phillips, singer • "I have a lot of cough drops. I always pray, to have a good time and not screw up."

Todd Rundgren, singer and guitarist • "I space out three hours before a show. I take three Advils and one Tagamet [which prevents heartburn]. It pre-emptively keeps me from belching throughout the show."

Curtis Salgado, singer • "Vocal exercises. Eat and chit-chat with the fellas, sitting around and bulls——ing. You go and relieve yourself."

Salvador Santana, singer • "I listen to Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley — music that is motivating and uplifting. I may say a prayer and thank my grandparents and parents."

Todd Snider, singer • "Some nights we make a [setlist], and then we abandon it. I look at an archive and see what I played the last time I played there."

Dirty South, DJ • "I come in 30 minutes before a set. I try to be relaxed [by] not having too many people in the room. When I stop having the nerves, it's time to stop deejaying. If it's a really big show, I have some shots of tequila to calm the nerves."

Tech N9ne, rapper • "My guys help me laugh before a show so I forget it is going to be a hard show. We all pray."


Jeff Austin, Yonder Mountain String Band mandolinist • "An hour before, I call home and say goodnight. [Next] I will lay down and shut down. It helps me get focused. I visually [perform] the set in my mind."

Tommy Benedetti, John Brown's Body drummer • "We do a little bit of stretching and have a few beers. We stay at the venue between soundcheck and the show, to stay in the zone and think about it."

Jon Bon Jovi • "I like to go to the venue at 5 to sing a little bit, smell the air. Sometimes I get a bite to eat. I get on the right foot."

Brandon, Brandon & Savannah singer • "We are Christian, so before [the concert] we pray and ask Him for help. We like to talk to fans beforehand, so they know us."

Willy Braun, Reckless Kelly singer • "Sometimes I have a cocktail and watch a concert film on DVD, like from The Who, Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen."

Ritzy Bryan, The Joy Formidable singer • "I stay away from milkshakes. Nothing fishy or curry. We like to wrestle beforehand, to get the adrenaline pumping."

Patrick Bristow, Henson Alternative's Stuffed and Unstrung emcee • "I remind myself that I am lucky to be in front of 500 to 1,500 people. My last thought is, 'This may be the night where I really blow it.' "

John Campbell, Lamb of God bassist • "I start my ritual about an hour before. I warm up on the bass, drink a lot of water and get focused in the dressing room. About 10 minutes before, I find myself a Red Bull. I gave up drinking last fall."

Charly, Dirtyphonics turntablist • "We usually have a shot of vodka."

Bill Davis, Dash Rip Rock singer • "We usually get together and I'll tell the band what the first four songs are, Patrick [Johnson, bass player] and I will do a shot of Patrón [tequila]. It is a special blend of chemicals in Patrón that make us do a good show."

Sallie Ford, Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside singer • "I have to put on my lipstick. It's become a ritual. It sets me in the mood." She also drinks Throat Coat Tea.

Paul Hoffman, Greensky Bluegrass mandolinist • "We are anti-ritual. Sometimes we write a set list, sometimes not. Sometimes we eat dinner, sometimes we don't."

Jay Gordon, Orgy singer • "I like taking a leak. You don't want to pee your pants onstage."

Lzzy Hale, Halestorm singer • "If you need a nap, take it. I put on Judas Priest, Pat Benatar or Cinderella, and I literally shadow-box. I'm a girl, so I put on my heels and makeup."

Vince Herman, Leftover Salmon singer • "In other states, medicinal marijuana."

George Hinchliffe, The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain • "I was reading that Rihanna has a prayer that she and her crew do — 'Bless the notes. …' There's quite a lot of things she does that we don't do."

Patterson Hood, Drive-By Truckers singer • "I don't want to be drunk, but I don't want to be too sober."

Anna Horton, Don't Stop Please multi-instrumentalist • "Sometimes we play improv [comedy] games to heighten the group focus."

Brittany Howard, Alabama Shakes singer • "I do some stretches. I do some vocal warmups. One sounds like a pack of coyotes."

Tom Hunting, Exodus drummer • "I do a few stretches. I breathe and try to relax. I am high-strung as it comes to performances. I still need to tell myself, 'You can do this.'"

Keith Jeffrey, Atlas Genius singer • "We do make a point of going into a huddle, to hype yourself up. Generally, we dedicate [the] show to obscure actresses from the '80s, to keep fun. The other night it was Molly Ringwald."

Matt Johnson, Matt & Kim singer and keyboardist • "Kim has a lucky style of underwear. She always needs a cough drop in her mouth."

Ira Kaplan, Yo La Tengo singer • No ritual, especially this year, when the band has been playing two sets at each show. "Doing the second set, we're more relaxed. No ritual smashing of property."

Ben Kaufmann, Yonder Mountain String Band bassist • "When I am in Salt Lake City, I will be sitting down eating Red Iguana."

Dorothy Lawson, ETHEL cellist • "I like to meditate. We quietly center ourselves and invite good energy in. [The motto is] 'Be here now.' "

Riker Lynch, R5 singer • "We play 'We Are Family' right before going onstage."

Alex Maas, The Black Angels singer • "We try to get in the same room and get the same picture in your heads. I drink some tea. We don't light candles or s—-. We're normal people."

Andy McCluskey, OMD singer • "The last thing I do is shake hands with each member in a counterclockwise circle." He tells each of them to "Have a good one" and "Kick a—."

Dave Pirner, Soul Asylum singer • "There is a certain amount of pacing you have to do. I have to have these certain socks on. I have to put in eye drops."

Luke Quranta, Toubab Krewe percussionist • The Afro-beat group congregates in a circle. "We bring in the spirits of teachers and others and bring energy in. We [tell one another to] remember to entertain as well as to educate. It's our job to have a party."

Keith Roberts, Young Dubliners singer • "I warm up my voice, ready to rock. … I remember the old days, before gigs at Piper Down and Zephyr Club, having two pints and a shot at Port O' Call."

Corin Roddick, Purity Ring keyboardist • "I just have a glass of whiskey and stretch."

Joey Ryan, The Milk Carton Kids singer • "No [ritual], but we should. We need one. It would probably help."

Claudio Sanchez, Coheed & Cambria singer and guitarist • "We put our hands together and tell each other to f—- themselves."

Bob Schmidt, Flogging Molly multi-instrumentalist • "Usually I have a backup mandolin and strum the heck out of it and get my wrist loose. Any ritual you have takes the nervousness out of it. It definitely takes the edge off."

Danny Seim, Menomena singer • "I used to have terrible anxiety, and I would pace. Now that we're in our middle-to-late 30s, it is better."

Sleep, The Chicharones rapper • "I try to avoid people. I try to get in my head. I still get butterflies, so it's painful the first part of the show." Sleep also sings "operatically" to calm himself and exercise his voice , while his partner, Josh Martinez, "sticks his tongue out as far as he can, and screeches, to clear his throat."

Davey Suicide, Davey Suicide singer •"We have a quick little huddle. We all come together. We stay in the zone."

Jimmy Tamborello, The Postal Service keyboardist •"I drink a couple of beers, to get out of my head."

Tobacco, Black Moth Super Rainbow frontman • No ritual, besides making sure "you don't have a booger."

Matt Tuck, Bullet For My Valentine singer • "I drink a lot of water throughout the day. The most important thing is to keep the pipes hydrated."

Michael Vampire, Vampires Everywhere! singer • "We put on Rob Zombie and get pumped on the bus. I drink Jack Honey [Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey Liqueur] for its curing and alcoholic properties."

Brooks Wackerman, Bad Religion drummer • "I suffer from a little OCD. What I do is warm up for about an hour, stretch."

Dake Wakeling, The English Beat singer • "I need to have three guitar picks in my pocket. That's the only thing that puts me off. Sometimes I walk around with three picks [even when a show isn't happening that day]."

Zakk Wylde, Black Label Society singer and guitarist • "Try not to psych yourself out."

Ricky Young, The Wild Feathers singer • "A lot of times, we'll hum a song together. It gets your mind off the nervousness. Whiskey always helps us to loosen you up and make you more comfortable."



Twitter: @davidburger


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