The Guest Cameo Opportunity To Hop Up On Stage

The Guest Cameo Opportunity To Hop Up On Stage

By Les Stroud

Every now and then some of us are lucky and graced with the opportunity to hop up on stage with another band/artist/performer. Sometimes it’s simply some musician friends of ours and sometimes it just might be one of our heroes. I have had more than my fair share of these opportunities with acts such as Slash, Alice Cooper (featuring Robbie Krieger), Journey, Jonny Lang, Rob Thomas, Bruce Cockburn and quite a few others. In every case it was to blow some blues harmonica and in every case it was a gift from the music gods.

The normal reaction to this can often be a little bit (or a lot) of intimidation combined with not wanting to “get in the way” or upset any apple carts. So, we get to the gig and sheepishly try to communicate with the stage sound tech or the house tech or the manager with silly questions such as “Is it ok if I use my amp” or “Did you want me to do a sound check?”. The rock star is too busy to be hassled with these questions. That’s unprofessional.  

 The nightmare scenario, which I have experienced more times than I care to remember, is when you are completely ignored. Even the superstar or artist that invited you to play, comes over for a hug and a handshake and tells you to be cool and make yourself comfortable.

 But the truth is, no matter how famous your host artist is, when it comes time for you to play your piece and live your moment whether on a big stage or in the bar, you have to be a consummate pro. You have to deliver. And being sheepish and overly polite during sound check is not going to set you up for success. It will however ensure painful embarrassment and failure. Resulting of course in never getting an invite to do it again sometime.

 I’ve found that one of the tricks is to recognize which of the tech people takes a liking to your situation and will help you out. Another part of the game is acting like you belong there. Lose the sheepishness and for god’s sake don’t ask for anyone’s autograph. I’m trusting of course, that you are super, uber, duper prepared for playing your part. That goes without saying even though I just said it. But the issue, if there is one, will always be about your sound. You’re new. They’re not used to you being part of the mix. The person at the back of the venue working sound might even resent that they have to allow for you tonight.

But stand your ground on these points:

 1)    Use only the equipment you know will make you sound the best. Don’t settle for “Ok sure, I’ll play my solo on this heavy metal rock tune without distortion”.

2)    Make sure the techs are clear about this and how you are set up with your gear.

3)    As much as possible try to get even a 60-second sound check at some point, with or without the main artist friend of yours.

And when the time comes, allow yourself just one minute to go “Holy crap I’m about to play to twenty thousand people with Neil Schon and Journey, this is a dream come true”


Drop all that and go out and play like a pro. Play like you deserve to be there. Just like Neil Young said when he came on stage with The Band during The Last Waltz: “I just wanna say that its an honor to be on this stage with these people tonight”.

It will always be an honour to get such a nod to play with some bad asses, whether they be local rock heroes or world-wide rock stars.