Best Gig Ever

DV Cam: Agent Kula
Digital Photography: Agent Todd
Mission Inspired by: Agent Lee
Featuring: Lee, Kula, Todd, Dippold, Leonard, Ace$Thugg, King, Montague, Marhekifson, Becket, Jester, Lang, Harms, Taylor, Been, Gill, Fite, Collis, V, Rosenthal, Ward, Conner, Tuculescu, Cooper, Wright, Godwin, Nawrocki, Verdugo, Lodwick, White, + more

PLEASE NOTE: This post was written in October 2004. The This American Life episode about this project first aired in April of 2005 and has recently been rerun. While you’re here, please check out our more recent projects.

Agent Lee approached me a few weeks ago with a wonderfully simple idea. “Best gig ever,” he said. “Pick a struggling rock band and turn their small gig into the best show of their lives.” We had already thrown a birthday party for a stranger; why not throw an awesome concert for an unknown band?

Best Gig Ever mastermind, Agent Lee
The first step was picking the band. It was critical that the gig would have zero audience. My biggest fear was showing up to do this and finding the band already had a packed house. I started scanning the calendars of the smaller size rock clubs in Manhattan. I looked for the worst timeslots possible, to further ensure there would be little crowd. On the Mercury Lounge site, I found a band that had a Sunday night gig at 10 PM, a pretty horrible slot. The $8 cover wasn’t helping things either.

Burlington, Vermont’s Ghosts of Pasha were on their first tour ever. They had just recorded an ep of 5 songs this summer, and were excited to get out and perform the new songs. They had an NYC gig booked at another club on Friday night, and then their Mercury Lounge gig on Sunday. I figured if they had any friends in town, they would all go to the Friday night show with the $5 cover rather than the Sunday 10 PM show with the $8 cover.

An added plus about Ghosts of Pasha (GOP) is that they actually sounded pretty good. I downloaded their ep from their website, and found myself enjoying the songs. Their influences were certainly up my alley. From the GOP website blog:

October 13 , 2004

the band is sounding very tight and getting pretty energetic.
the new songs are in that vein of pop.

(think elvis costello/wilco/elliot smith/george harrison/elephant 6/
apples in stereo/flaming lips/suede/radiohead)

We met at Boss Tweed bar around the corner from the Mercury Lounge. I went over to the bar by myself to stake the place out. Turns out, the show had been pushed to 10:30, which helped us even more. There were about 20 people watching the 9:30 act, and I was worried that they would stay for GOP. A quick look at the “tally sheet” at the door (where the house manager marks who everyone who pays is there to see) showed all the other bands for the evening having around 20 paying customers and GOP having 1 as of 9:45 PM.

Empty Club. The people on the left would leave moments after this photo.
When the 9:30 act finished up their set and slowly began packing up their gear. The crowd quickly began to leave, some lingering to talk with friends. When GOP began setting up, I called Agent Kula and gave him the go-ahead to send all of the IE Agents over. By now the remaining fans from the 9:30 show had left, and it looked to the members of GOP that they were in for a slim crowd. But before they could even start their sound check, IE Agents began pouring in.

The crowd starts to form
The final audience count:

3 Normal Paying Customers
35 IE Agents

If we hadn’t of been there, GOP would have either cancelled or played a show for 3 people.

Milo Finch – Vocals, Keys, Guitar

Brad Vargo – Bass

Chris Partyka – Guitar

Ezra Oklan – Drums
They began to sound check, and the crowd was hyped from the start. As Drummer Ezra Oklan began to beat his drums, the crowd clapped along with him enthusiastically.

When frontman Milo Finch introduced the band, the crowd went wild. IE Agents showed immense enthusiasm throughout the show. Huge cheers after each song. Recognition cheers when a new song would begin. Dancing throughout. We did our best to not be too over the top. I was very worried that GOP would think we were making fun of them, which was the last thing we were trying to do. I instructed everyone to just act like GOP was your favorite band, and behave accordingly.

Since we had all downloaded GOP’s mp3’s from their site, we actually did know all the words to five of their songs. We also knew the names of songs to request. After a few fans frantically called for “Shut-Ins”, GOP delivered, playing the tune the very next song.

After the first song several members of the crowd yelled “GOP!”. Lead singer Milo laughed and replied, “Yeah we’re GOP. The good one,” and then ripped into the second song of the night, the aptly titled “New York, New York.”

Two IE Agents boasted “Pasha” temporary tattoos

Agent Montague holds up a lighter during the evening’s first ballad.
(photo taken at a slow shutter speed, of course)
A few songs later, a chant began in the crowd “Pasha! Pasha!”. Lead singer Milo laughed again and chanted back “Audience! Audience!” I’m not sure if he wondered why the show was going so well, but Milo was definitely having a blast interacting with the rawkus crowd.

IE Agents groove along
The evening progressed in a nice slow build. Applause turned into chants and screams. Enthusiastic dancing turned to wild dancing and moshing. Wild dancing turned into chicken fighting.

An IE Agent on the shoulders of his friend, chicken fight style!
The band got more and more theatrical as the set progressed. As IE Agents stepped up their support for GOP, GOP stepped up the show. The guitarist and the lead singer were particularly energetic. The guitarist thrashed about on the stage, jumping up and down. The lead singer threw his mic stand to the ground several times. At one point he even tried playing his guitar with the mic stand.

The evening hit a clear high point when lead singer Milo dropped to the ground mid-song. The guitarist straddled his body and forcefully rocked the crap out of his solo. The crowd of 35 IE Agents went absolutely nuts for this. Our energy continued to boast theirs while they boasted ours. An insane cycle of adrenaline!

Agent Jester wore a GOP shirt he made using the logo from their site

Agents Dippold and Montague (also wearing a GOP shirt) rock out!
GOP ended their show with a rocker. The guitar player threw his pick into the audience and the band quickly left the stage. It was very clear they did not expect to play an encore. It was also very clear that the IE Agents weren’t leaving with out one. A deafening chant of “One More Song!” broke out in the crowd. After a couple of minutes of the chant, GOP triumphantly returned to the stage and gave us what we wanted. The guitarist had to ask the lead singer for another guitar pic since he had thrown his only one away thinking they wouldn’t be coming back. The excitement was just too much for a few agents. They were so excited they simply had to take their shirts off!

Agent V hugs lead singer Milo as the gig ends
During the encore, Milo kneeled at the front of the stage and held his hands in front of him. Taking his cue, IE Agents swarmed him and touched his hands, worshipping him as a god. The guitarist moments later threw himself off the stage and into the crowd tackling one of his friends (one of the three non-IE Agents present). When the song came to an end, Agent V jumped up on the stage and hugged Milo telling him “Thank you” over and over again. Milo smiled and thanked us all, plugging the group’s website and upcoming NYC gig in November.

Agent Montague decorated his forehead with “Pasha”
When the gig ended, dummer Ezra Oklan came to the front of the stage to announce the band had free CDs (of their new ep) if anyone wanted some. The stack of CDs was gone in seconds. The IE Agents then quickly left the venue. No conversations with the band. No hanging around and buying drinks. We vanished as quickly as we had appeared and met back at Boss Tweed bar down the street.

Partial group photo
The night was an awesome time for both us and GOP. We turned a 3 person house into a room full of devout supporters. GOP made our job of “acting” like big fans very easy. They stepped up to the challenge and rocked it. We made no attempt to interact with them after the show or get their reaction. Sooner or later they’ll google themselves and find this site, and we look forward to hearing their side of the story when that happens. Hopefully this site will give the band a bit of publicity and maybe help them generate a real following. In the meantime we can only hope that we did in fact give them their best gig ever.


Agent Wright
The gig began simply enough. IE Agents had been deployed at strategic points throughout the crowd–scratch that, we were the entire crowd–and excitement was in the air. We lustily applauded the band’s entrance, but kept a solid base of reality established. There was whooping between songs, clapping to the beat, the occasional scream of “Pashaaaaa!” But before too long, the intoxicating effects of Hot Rock Action had gone to our heads and things went a little batshit.

After the second number (and hometown fave) “New York, New York,” the crowd had worked itself to a fever pitch. Never mind the music–even the most meager attempts at between-song stage banter received a chorus of raucous roars. And the moment the band began honoring our requests for the two or three songs we knew from their website, the pogoing madness truly began in earnest. Mishmashed dance moves from all genres broke out all around me–moshing, air drumming, hippie shimmying, kung-fu chop-socky, booty-grinding, even a wildly careening round of chicken-fighting. It was like David Lee Roth was fronting The Beatles at Studio 54.
For their part, the band leaders fed off our energy and took their performance to the next level of ROCK. The dimunitive, bearded lead singer especially seemed to bask in the glory, maybe for the first time truly doing his best frontman impression. By the time he was writhing around on the ground with the mic stand while the guitarist ripped out a solo astride his face, I could’ve sworn I was watching David Bowie and Mick Ronson reenact their famously homoerotic moves.

Unfortunately, only half of the band seemed to totally buy into their hero’s welcome. The rhythm section seemed nonplussed if not overtly skeptical. Several times I had to avert my eyes from the suspicious glare of the drummer. To be fair, though, the bass player’s sullen demeanor may have been due to his upholding the traditional Bassist Oath of Stoicism.

No matter. When the band left the stage after their supposed last number, they all gladly returned for an encore as our collective chant of “ONE MORE SONG!” rattled the rafters. Apparently they didn’t even have any uptempo songs left. We didn’t care, though–we just ripped our shirts off and spazzed out to a grungy power ballad. As the last cymbal crashed, one particularly effusive super-fan leapt on stage to hug the lead singer. I couldn’t quite make it out in the rosy haze of the klieg lights, but he seemed to be mouthing, “Thank you, thank you.”

In that moment, I knew. Truly the gods of Rock Valhalla had lifted their golden goblets that night to toast a hearty “Skoal” to these mere mortals, and, with a little help from their IE friends, turned a quiet Sunday night gig into a hot, sweaty, transcendent Big Dumb Rock Show.

Agent Gill
As I walked into the venue, I was a little hesitant about the mission. The space was bigger than expected so I was worried about filling up the place. The moment when I knew the night would be a success, was when I couldn’t help but join in the crowd – clapping and dancing to the beat of the drum during their sound check! They all sort of looked at each other, no knowing what exactly was happening.

The lead singer, Milo, took to the stage singing his songs as normal. Between the first and second songs, the crowd started chanting…”PASHA…..PASHA!!!!” to which Milo chanted back in the mic “AUDIENCE….AUDIENCE….!!” followed by a laugh.

By the fourth or fifth song, Milo had his rock star moves down pat – with his two hands on the mic singing his lyrics through the hair in his face. The crowd loved it – moshing and jumping were almost involuntary as the guitarist ripped through the songs.

I think my favorite part of the set was when Milo laid down while the guitarist straddled over him – playing their instruments so passionately.

Milo became a bit more comfortable with the crowd – acting almost as if he was alone in his room, practicing in front of the mirror. I noticed some of his band members, laughing and shaking their heads as he got a bit wild with his singing and movements.

A few shirts came off in the crowd, followed by some interpretive dancing. One crowd member even jumped up on stage and hugged Milo out of pure joy.

At the end of their set, for some reason the guitarist did some sort of stage dive off the stage, into a crowd of like 4 people deep. Nobody caught him, exactly, it was more of a tumble with beer spilling everywhere. The rest of the band members were trying to make a quick exit off to the right, before the crowd stopped them by chanting, “ENCORE ….ENCORE! ONE MORE SONG….ONE MORE SONG!!!”

They looked pleased as they did one last song, to which Milo kneeled down to let the crowd touch his hand.

At the end of the last song, CD’s were handed out, and the crowd started fighting for them. Fists were pumping in a sort of celebration, for those who actually got a CD.

Agent Jester
I thought it was awesome to see how the lead singer (and the rest of the band, for the most part) got more and more into their own show based on our loud cheering and applause. The ultimate was getting them to do an encore. They definitely did not have one planned, as one of the guitarist’s foolishly threw his pick into the audience at the end of their last song. Sadly, I do not think they saw my custom made “GOP” t-shirt, but no matter. I’ll hold onto it until its worth millions, and then I’ll sell it on eBay.

Agent V
I was told that the idea behind this mission was that it should be the best gig ever, so I just approached it with that mindset. I just kept telling myself “This is so awesome! These guys are amazing!” My brain totally bought it and released a bunch of wacky chemicals into my bloodstream that allowed me to thrash around like I was having the time of my life. At one point Agent Lodwick and I executed our signature “guy on another guy’s shoulders” party maneuver, which got things pretty hyped up (at least for me).
There weren’t many secondary targets to see or hear reactions from. It was mainly just the IE squad, but the band really seemed to love the energy we were giving to them. Microphones were thrown, crotch-in-face guitar riffs were played, and it probably was indeed the best gig ever.

Agent Tuculescu
Last night was a blast. I really don’t think the band had any inkling that the crowd was staged. From what I saw they REALLY got into the cheering and chanting. At one point some of the people around me started chanting “G.O.P…G.O.P.” and the band leader started chanting back “audience….audience.” That was classic.

I especially enjoyed the part where the lead singer started writhing on the ground and the lead guitarist took the opportunity to straddle him and start soloing over him. That would never have happened without crowd encouragement. Good show!

Agent Ace$Thugg
Everyone was very jazzed from the get-go. By the second song, the whole audience was very Hare Krishna – a lot of repetitive dance movements and loud clapping. I believe it was the 4th song when an IE agent took the close-up photo of lead singer Milo with his camera phone and after that the audience and band seemed to step it up a notch.

I believe it was when the two IE agents where on each other’s shoulders in a chicken-fight pose that Milo and the guitarist got on the ground to rock out -and from that point on- they were fully invested in their performance, which in turn, got us more hyped.

I felt compelled to take off my shirt during the encore. This was only partly due to me being really hot from dancing all night, but mostly to pay homage to the band for doing an encore song…even though we all knew they had no songs left to sing.

Agent Montague
I’m still not sure what the band thought of us. There were moments of “This is an awesome crowd!” I remember one moment when Agent King shouted out a request for “Shut In”. One song later, Pasha answered the call. Maybe the lead singer was trying to tell us something with his encore, which repeated over and over again “You’ll never know what you’ve done to me.”

Agent Been
Last night, Ghosts of Pasha played a show of a lifetime.

Lead singer Milo Finch and the rest of the band seemed rather shy as they were warming up. Perhaps a little nervous that they were playing at the world famous Mercury Lounge for the first time. Little did they know that the Improv Everywhere agents, filling about half of the concert space, were dedicated not only to being entertained, but also to entertaining them. Cooperative Dynamics at work!

It took a couple songs for the band to realize that this NYC crowd was a great one. The people were bobbing and dancing to their songs, singing loudly to their lyrics, moshing even a bit. What flattery! But not dishonest flattery–hey, I was enjoying their music, and others were too. It was a great time for all.

Milo loosened up and connected with the audience the more we connected with him and the band. Supportive shouts of “G.O.P.! G.O.P.!” got him to smile. At one time, I started pounding my fist in the air chanting “PASHA! PASHA! PASHA!” and the whole crowd joined in. Milo was absorbing it all. I think the band was a little mesmerized. “Who the hell are we?” must have gone through each of the band member’s heads as they thought about themselves as a band. “We seem to be awesome.” “I’m just a guy, but it seems I’m a god,” must have been in Milo’s head.

Who wasn’t delighted by some of G.O.P.’s displays?! The memorable “Milo lies supine, Chris jams on guitar over top of him” was perhaps the biggest crowd pleaser, but getting to touch Milo’s hand when he approached the lip of the stage was pretty awesome for me, especially with all the other agent-fans swarming around him for their own coveted fondling of the lead singer. I remember the first time Milo got rowdy with his singing, suddenly slamming the mike to the ground. We all were thrilled by that sudden, rebellious emotional display from the seemingly stoic rocker.

After the band’s set was done, I gang rushed the stage to snag a set list. I gloated to a few other people in the crowd that I grabbed it, a rush similar to the times I’d fished They Might Be Giants set lists off the very same Mercury Lounge stage. I sadly learned later that it was the set list for another band that played earlier that night. Foiled!

We succeeded in bringing the band back up to play another song. Who knows whether it was a new song or old; many of us were trying to sing along. Later we had joyous conversations thinking about what must have gone through the drummer’s head when he saw us singing lyrics to songs they may have created only yesterday.

The lights came up and I evacuated, following Agent Todd. A mission that proved more exciting than I imagined. Ghosts of Pasha were great. Go see ’em.

Agent Becket
I haven’t been to a concert in ages, so it took me a little while to get into the groove and start to move. Once I relaxed, I found the music really easy to jump around to and there were a lot of natural moments that were begging for some high-pitched “Whooooooo!”-ing, so I quickly relaxed into the role of eager, excited Ghosts of Pasha fan.

The band was pretty good, so I felt my reactions were honest (if a little exaggerated). I pogo-ed during the up-tempo songs and swayed and emoted during the slow ones. I applauded and screamed at the end of every song and went crazy whenever one of the band members said anything directed at the crowd. I was so into it that at one point someone (not an IE agent) asked me if I was going to talk to the band afterwards. I guess he assumed that if I was THAT into their music, I must be a friend. I said, “I don’t know. Why?” He then passed me a note and asked if I could give it to the guys because he had to leave early. I said yes, hoping it would give me a chance to chat up the band after the show. After their last song, G.O.P. quickly bolted from the stage, although the crowd had already begun calling for an encore. As the singer was making his way toward the back, I stopped him to give him the note.

“A friend of yours wanted me to give this to you guys.”

He just stared at me, confused, as the crowd chanted “One more song!”
“It’s a note, from your friend.”

“Huh?” The chanting became louder and more frenzied.

“It’s a note!” “One more song! One more song! One more song!”

“What are you saying?”

“A friend of you guys … he wanted me to give you this NOTE! He had to leave early! It’s from your FRIEND!”
As one of the other dudes pulled him back on stage, he took the note, still looking a little dazed at everything that was going on. They played their impromptu encore and the crowd quickly dispersed. I hope that, even if the band didn’t believe we were genuine G.O.P. fans, they at least appreciated our efforts and took our exuberance and support as something positive. After all, while their “real” friend left early, we stayed and danced and cheered and called for encores. We got nothin’ but love for you, G.O.P. Nothin’ but love.

Agent Leonard
The band was doing their thing, and I could tell they were feeling the excitement from the crowd, then at about the third song, they started ROCKING OUT!!!!! Mic stand was thrown, sweat flying, hair everywhere, rockstar facial expressions!!!! It was awesome!!!

At one point someone kind of landed on me and I was shoved really hard, when I looked up, the guitar player was climbing back onto the stage; he must have thrown himself off the stage in a fit of Rock `N’ Roll passion!!!

Audience: “G.O.P.! G.O.P.! G.O.P.! G.O.P.! G.O.P.!”

Lead singer: “Yeah, We’re G.O.P., the good kind!!!!”

Audience: “Wooooh!!! YEAH!! Alright!!!!!”

Agent Marhekifson
Well, I don’t know if we gave Ghosts Of Pasha their Best Gig Ever, but we certainly gave them their weirdest gig ever…with shirtless moshers and painted faces and over-the-top rawk antics.

Agent King
Things I noticed:

  1. Drummer very suspicious of Agent Kula’s filming.
  2. Guitar player throwing his pic into the crowd and then needing to borrow one from the lead singer for the encore.
  3. Lead singer totally rocked it out.

Agent Fite
I feel we really rocked out with our cocks out. We came, we saw, we moshed. My neck was definitely sore the next day from head banging, which I haven’t done since middle school. The free CD was an exciting bonus. Who knows G.O.P. might be the next band to change the face of rock.

Agent Godwin
Agent Nawrocki and I went straight to Mercury Lounge, arriving at about 10:15. The place was pretty low key, so we each purchased a beverage and then went into the back room. GOP was just beginning to set up and the scene was pretty dead. Then shortly before the band went on more people started to file in. Agent Nawrocki and I took our places, falling into the role of “girls who are feeling the band’s music so much, that they dance at the front of the stage with their eyes closed.” This being said, I didn’t get to see much of what was going on behind us or, hell, even in front of us. But I did see the confused look that passed between some of the band members when they first saw the group of eager onlookers cheering for them. More of these confused looks were exchanged every time they started a new song–and immediately met joyous yells of approval from their devoted fans. By the time they launched into New York, New York, everyone was energized and dancing.

At one point, a woman with “Pasha” tattooed on her back ran to the front and started rocking out with two other guys who were grooving like madmen. The only part of the night that was a little scary was when an IE Agent next to us took off his shirt and started jumping around, even bumping into me at one point. Having a half-naked, sweating dude smack into me normally would have been annoying. But this night was different, special. This was Pasha. How could I possibly be annoyed by a superfan just rocking out like I was?

At the end of the set I ran to the stage and was rewarded with a free CD. By the time I gathered my coat and bag, the band was off stage and the room had cleared. Agent Nawrocki and I went out to the bar area and heard the woman who collected the money at the door and the bartender talking.

“That was so weird!” the money collector said. “I mean, they all just left.”

“Totally strange. Did they carpool together or something?” the bartender asked.

“I don’t know. I don’t think they knew each other. It’s just so weird. I can’t get over how they all just disappeared.”
Upon hearing this exchange, Agent Nawrocki and I made our exit. As we walked toward the subway, we saw a group of four guys standing outside smoking cigarettes. When we realized that they were no ordinary guys, but instead the members of GOP, we yelled, “Great show!” With looks of confusion and amusement on their faces, they said, “Thanks.” I held up my CD and yelled back, “And thanks for the CD.” On the surface, the guys seemed almost freaked out by my eagerness at seeing them on the street. But deep inside I know they really loved us. Possibly feared us. But loved us.

Mission Accomplished.


This mission was featured in:
Spin Magazine


The members of Ghosts of Pasha sent in their own agent reports a few days after someone forwarded them a link to our site. Read it here: Best Gig Ever – Band Response

The remaining two members of Ghosts of Pasha play the IE 5th Anniversary Show nearly two years after this mission: