3 Musicians Who Took Insane Risks to Play Awesome Gigs

People like to talk about the power of music, but we're all pretty much agreed that in reality, even the most rocking Springsteen song can't stop a bullet or cure a disease. The musicians in these stories would beg to differ, though.

#3. Sarajevo Residents Brave Mortar Shells for a Rebooted Version of Hair

When Srdjan Jevdjevic and Amir Beso, two Bosnian musicians, staged a reworked version of the musical Hair that featured political statements and "James Brown meets Metallica" renditions of the songs, a description that you might recognize as the opposite of "commercially viable," they regularly drew sellout crowds.

How did they do it? By cornering the market on entertainment in their neighborhood. Where was their neighborhood? Sarajevo, during the Bosnian War.

If you're unfamiliar, for four years in the early 1990s, Sarajevo was subject to a nearly ceaseless campaign of mortar shelling and sniper fire in a territorial conflict that killed more than 10,000 citizens. People were eager to watch literally anything that wasn't something or someone exploding, even if the risk of said explosions was going to be terrifically high on the way to the show.

Odd Andersen / Getty
Who could have guessed that the most metal performance in history would be based on Hair?

With the help of a 20-person ensemble and car batteries and gas generators to keep the power on, the two brave musicians managed to crank out an astounding run of 70 performances.

And every single one of them was probably way better than that Spiderman shit Bono forced on us.

#2. Pat Spurgeon's Life of Sex, Dialysis Drugs, and Rock and Roll

Before Pat Spurgeon could get a kidney transplant in 2007, he had to undergo dialysis twice a day. Because it deals with a direct line into the abdomen, dialysis must be done under the most sterile conditions possible. Because Pat Spurgeon is the drummer in a relatively popular rock band called Rogue Wave, he somehow had to make "the most sterile conditions possible" mean "the disgusting rock and roll clubs of America."

Rogue Wave
Hell, that hat alone could cause a nasty staph infection.

In the best case scenario, he got a cheap motel room to himself, and in the worst, he did his dialysis in a moving van. When the band was in a rush to get to a show, Spurgeon would tell his bandmates that he had to "do a D," because even lifesaving medical treatments must sound edgy when you rock for a living. At that, the band would roll up the windows, turn off the A/C, and put on surgical masks.

If that doesn't sound like a "rock and roll" thing to do, you've clearly never seen Purple Rain.

Doctor Fink
"I'll perform any operation on stage, as long as it isn't a blood transfusion."

#1. Isaac Stern vs. Saddam Hussein

Modern classical music is not especially known for generating badasses, but if you had to choose one among their ranks, Polish-born violinist and conductor Isaac Stern would be a strong contender.


Don't be fooled by the fact that he looked like your 50-year-old menopausal aunt.

While touring Israel during the Gulf War, which by itself is pretty brave, Stern had to briefly halt a performance of a Mozart concerto when air raid sirens started going off. Saddam Hussein was regularly pelting Israel with Scud missiles at the time, so this was no minor deal. As the assembled musicians left the stage ...

Youtube

... the audience strapped on gas masks in preparation for the worst.

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Instead of the worst, though, what they got was a defiant Isaac Stern returning to the stage mere moments later, sans gas mask, to finish doing his job.

Youtube

As the audience looked on from behind the uncomfortable lenses of a device meant to ward off death by chemical attack ...

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... Stern shredded the daylights out of a violin solo in an effort to get the crowd back into a classically rocking mood. The best part about the incident is that it was all captured on video, which you can see right here.

The footage is a fantastic testament to the fact that, for some performers, even the might of war is not enough to upstage them.



You can follow Brendan on Twitter.

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