Rock Bands Pre-Show Rituals

Led Zeppelin, Metallica, RHCP, Slipknot and other bands' warm up routines.

Ultimate Guitar
Rock Bands Pre-Show Rituals
Imagining the most famous rock bands’ warm up routines, most of us tend to think about some wacky eccentric shit. Like that jaw-dropping stories of Keith Richard mixing his dad’s ashes with cocaine and snorting them, or Ozzy snorting ants while wearing a dress that he’d stolen from an old lady.

But in reality, most of the pre-show rituals are pretty boring. If you think about it, it’s only natural, considering the amount of energy that goes into the live show.

Without further ado, let's dig into the list!

Led Zeppelin


At their recent reunion show at the O2 Arena in London, the band did nothing but drink coffee/tea before hitting the stage. Oh, and Robert Plant requested a special space for ironing his shirts. How’s that for a pre-show ritual?

Robert Plant explained to Radio 2: ‘I've never really been one for diva demands. We were always too busy having a good time to get hung upabout anything. It's not very rock 'n' roll, but I like to look my best going on stage. I find ironing helps get me in the mood before I perform.’ ‘They’ve asked for cups of tea and coffee. We’ll have some beer and a bottle of wine for them backstage, but they have said they require very little,’ concert promoter Harvey Goldsmith told The Telegraph in 2007.

Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones are known for their diva behavior, and they are always very specific about what they want.

For example, Keith Richards has a very strange ritual. He needs to eat a shepherd’s pie before each performance. He also insists on being the one to break the pie’s crust. Richards once refused to perform when he discovered that the member of security team snuck a piece of his shepherd’s pie. He delayed the concert until a new one was made and served to him.


The band gets to the venue about two hours early to eat, do meet-and-greets with fans and see friends.

James Hetfield explained: ‘We’re just soaking up the energy or the vibe of the place. We also have a physical therapist on the road, so he’s stretching us out, making sure that we’re in shape. Everyone’s got their thing like Trujillo with his forearms, just playing, he’s always getting loosened up, and his calves will cramp ‘cause he’s like this Tarzan guy. Lars’ shoulder, my back, Kirk’s wrist so we’ve all got our things that need maintenance. Back in the olddays it was more about the vodka. Drinking was more important than any of that. It was like wait a minute, ‘I’m not drunk. We can’t go on yet.’ That was a realization of, ‘Wow, this is really weird.’ That has all certainly changed. It’s different. We’re past 50 – you’ve got a different outlook.’

Guns N’ Roses

Axl Rose said in an interview: ‘Well, everybody in this band has their own physical regimen they have to go through... I do a lot of cardio when I can, or when I can force myself to. But yeah, you've got to get your wind up, and you've got to get your head in the right place.’

Dizzy Reed added: ‘I like to get a little loose and have me a little shot of Jagermeister which is my favorite drink. Frank Ferrer likes to spend some time alone in a quiet place with a glass of wine.’


The band gathers together for a quick hug before taking to the stage.

Chris Martin also told Australia's Melbourne Herald Sun: ‘For me, there are about 18 things I have to do before I can go out to perform - most of them are too ridiculous to repeat! One is I have to brush my teeth before I go on stage, otherwise, I just don't feel smart.’

Leonard Cohen

Cohen used to gather the whole team 30 minutes before every show and sing in Latin ‘Pauper sum ego, nihilhabeo,’ which means ‘I am poor, I have nothing.’

Jon Bon Jovi

He once said in his interview: ‘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.’

Alice Cooper

The legendary rocker enjoys watching kung-fu movies and eating lots of sugary snacks before heading out to the stage. Reportedly his favorite candy is Skittles.

Avenged Sevenfold

YouTube preview picture
The band members warm up, jam a little, give each other a cheeky little ass slap and listen to the crowd.


Dave Mustaine said: ‘I think the rituals before were like timing the buzz. I think now we just try to make sure that we’re ready to get in the game and play. Your outlook changes. When you’re young and you play music, and that’s your thing, it kind of a byproduct of who you are, what you do, where you go. Now it’s become such a part of me that I just want to do great everywhere I go. And I think everybody has to get that stuff out of their system. When you first get in a band, you know, “sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll.” But I think that when you really, really, really love what you do, you start to get a little bit more concerned about your performances. Do I sound good? Do I play good? Do I look good? Do I feel good? Am I leaving behind a path of destruction or am I making friends?’

Judas Priest

Rob Halford admitted that he usually has a nice cup of tea and plays Nintendo with the band members (before and after the show).

The singer said: ‘In Judas Priest, we actually play the games in the dressing room before a show. Just to get in the mood for the excitement and the energy for what we're gonna do. At our stately metal god time of life, we tend to do the Nintendo bowling. And the golfing. If there's any energy left after the show, we get into the boxing mode.’

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Anthony Kiedis said in his Rolling Stone interview: ‘I have to run or stretch or do push-ups or wrestle Flea or something to get my blood flowing. You can't go from zero to 100 miles per hour without preparing.’

Flea admitted explained that he usually prays and meditates before the show.

Chad Smith has a much calmer attitude toward playing live. He likes to take his time getting to the venue, after which he checks out the crowd and the opening band. Then he plays his drums for a bit backstage.

Josh Klinghoffer works on his voice and plays as much as possible throughout the day. He also likes to keep to minimize distractions.

Tenacious D

Jack Black does some vocal warm-ups, drinks some hot tea and eats carrots. He is also known to drop a phrase like, ‘I got a bad feeling about this one,’ before every show.

Jack White

Discussing what he does pre-show, he told The New Yorker: ‘Usually I'm backstage with a baseball bat breaking things. You have to work yourself up into a frenzy.’ He also likes to drink a can of Red Bull and a shot of whiskey.


Thom York does his best to get his energy ready for the gig, so he stays silent for hours beforehand, meditates and stands on his head.’

Pearl Jam

They once said in an interview: ‘We try to at least shake hands with each other before we go out onstage and say, ‘Hey mate, have a good one!’ That’s one of the things as you get older, once you’re out on-stage, the gods decide what’s gonna happen. Go out there with good energy for your fellow bandmates and that’s about the best thing you can do. We’ve had plenty of shows where we’ve given each other big hugs and smiles, then walked out and sucked. It’s not gonna help.’

John Petrucci

John says that the band gets together before going on stage and talks to get their heads in the same place and bond.

‘You're about to walk on stage and play together for the next few hours, so you want to feel connected and make sure that everyone is in the same headspace; a good headspace. If someone is feeling out of sorts or detached, it's a great time to bring them in and restate why we are here and what we are trying to do. Many times we talk about the people that have come to enjoy the show. They went through a lot to get here, whatever they needed to work out in their lives; they got babysitters, they traveled and purchased the tickets. So it's up to us to deliver the goods. We're always in that headspace about the audience and less about us at that moment.’

Foo Fighters

The Foo Fighters have revealed that they listen to Michael Jackson songs and down shots of Jagermeister liquor to get them in the mood for the show.

Frontman Dave Grohl said: ‘Some bands pray to God they'll have the best show of their lives. Some bands huddle in a rugby scrum and yell, 'Go, team! We listen to Michael Jackson's Off The Wall and do Jager bombs, which are Dave Lee Roth juice. If you want to be Dave Lee Roth onstage, you need at least four Jager bombs to get you there.’

Papa Roach

YouTube preview picture
There is a video that lets us get an inside look at the rituals that the band goes through before each show.

Kings of Leon

YouTube preview picture
The Nashville rockers do a chant with clapping and stomping and sing a Gospel song.


Here is a glimpse of Meshuggah backstage warm up.
YouTube preview picture


Check out Slipknot pre-show rituals. 
YouTube preview picture

42 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Buckethead: Record an album
    Must be nice. My pre-show ritual is set up my gear, figure out why I have no sound, fuck with my patch cables for 2 minutes, blast myself when I hit the right cable, play a chord, figure out why my amp sounds like shit in this crappy little bar, tweak my amp for a minute, warm up for thirty two seconds while my drummer beats on everything as hard as he can before the sound guy gives us the thumbs up and off we go. 
    Wow, this right here is so accurate it's scary. Also add in, have bar customers stare at you angrily while you work out the feedback issues. The struggles of being in a bar band.
    "Thom York does his best to get his energy ready for the gig, so he stays silent for hours beforehand, meditates and stands on his head"...that is literally the most Thom York thing i've ever read haha.
    Arfing Thumb
    John Myung (Dream Theater) before concert: warm up (I think it was for 6 hours) after concert: warm up for next concert no joke
    I didn't know keith was a huge fan of shepherd pies. That's very rock and roll. I wonder what recipe is his favourite.
    Pass a joint around, drink ONE beer. That always worked for me. But I never played on the level of any of these bands, or even close.
    try more beers and joints and you´ll get to their level.
    ONE  beer and joint BEFORE we went on. Drink a beer during each set, sometime chug a beer between each set and of course, pass around a joint.
    Please WTF??!!! Where is Slipknot and their warmup routine??? If there is one band I want to know the warm up routine of, its the masked psychos. And Meshuggah while you are at it please.....
    Hetfield would also get dirt from around where they were playing and step in it before playing. youtube . com/watch?v=8yrjLhwexjY
    John Petrucci  " it's a great time to bring them in and restate why we are here and what we are trying to do. " that is pretentious as fuck, yeah i Know what they do but come on if we were at work I would stay away from him, he's to the core there would be no reasoning with that
    looks like KEEF is engaging in cannibalism, really looks like a human ear.  whatever works