TRUE TALES OF THE ROAD: Mix Master Mike survives Greek Altamont

One inevitable effect of being on the road a long time is that the gigs tend to blur together – so you can forgive Mix Master Mike when he says that both his “best” and his “worst” road stories happened “about four years ago,” when in fact the two events happened four years apart. Small matter.

The turntablist who’s been called the world’s greatest DJ is part of a posse of performers (Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross, Travis Barker) opening for Lil’ Wayne at Rexall this coming Thursday (buy).

We’ll start with Mike’s best road tale: with the Beastie Boys at the Coachella Festival in 2003:

“It was really windy,” he recalls, “so it could’ve been the worst thing, but my records were flying up in the air and I would catch them in mid-air, stick them back on the turntable and keep playing them. Situations like that, live show, 40,000 people watching you, there’s no time to freak out. It was about keeping the records on the turntable and keeping the show going. Adam and Mike were announcing it on stage, ‘Yo, Mix Master is catching records in mid-air for us!’ It was awesome.”

Mike’s worst story is pretty bad – Altamont bad. The Beasties were playing the Ejekt Festival in Athens, Greece in June 2007. They only ended up doing half their set. Unbeknownst to the performers, according to Mike, the promoter had fired the entire security team shortly before the event and hired new guys. Unfortunately, the old bouncers turned out to be members of a local gang later described as “Anarchists” – which struck back while the Beastie Boys were on stage.

Mike says, “You could see the dressing rooms clearly from the stage and we saw this fire break out. And they were telling us we needed to stop the show and evacuate. Turns out it was an attack by a clan of 100 gang members and they actually killed one of the hired security guards. Then we got into a van and drove through the crowd, but we got boxed in by about 50 people with bike helmets and pipes and bats. It was me, Adam (Yauch), Adam (Horovitz) and Mike (Diamond). We duck, waiting for the windows to be bashed in. We’re like, this is it. It’s over. I’m, thinking, damn, I’m going to have to get out and protect myself, I don’t know how. But they saw us, ‘hey, it’s the Beastie Boys’ and they let us go. Stopping the show caused a riot. It was a real mess. I was glad to get out of there, though.”

Others weren’t so lucky. There are lots of sketchy stories floating around, one here supposedly from Athens News, and a different version in Wired. There were reports one of the performers, Underworld DJ Rick Smith, was among several people injured in a melee that saw gang members beating audience members, setting cars on fire and throwing tear gas grenades. Now THERE’s some disgruntled former employees.

Note to self if self is ever a promoter of a rock festival: avoid hiring Anarchists as security guards.