Remember the time Hootie And The Blowfish performed on NBC’s Friends and Monica even wound up getting a hickey from one of the band members at a meet and greet after the concert? Of course you do. You probably also remember that the band actually didn’t play on the show and, even worse, weren’t seen on screen at all.
There was something so anticlimactic about that, and that’s because TV fans aren’t accustomed to this kind of rip-off. When an episode of a series is described along the lines of “the gang goes to see (insert band here) in concert and chaos ensues,” we expect said band to not only be in the episode but to perform, too. No Peach Pit After Dark required. Here are 15 times they did.
Anthrax – Married… With Children
The earliest entry on the list, this episode of the groundbreaking Fox comedy aired all the way back in 1992, and, admittedly, the thrash-metal pioneers barely performed. But in “My Dinner With Anthrax,” said performance was never promised. It’s right there in the title: dinner with Anthrax. And any fan of the show knows a hot meal is hard to come by at the Bundy residence, so they just wind up trashing the place, right along with Christina Applegate’s Kelly, who won the titular contest. Interestingly, the episode took place only a few years after MTV held a contest where the winner would get just that: No, not dinner; Anthrax trashing their home. Art imitating life at its finest.
Boyz II Men – The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air
On this standout episode of Will Smith sitcom The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air, being the big shot from Philly he never stopped claiming to be—for six seasons—Will promises he can get Philadelphia’s a cappella princes to perform at a Christmas Eve christening. And does! Hey, they did have a Christmas record out at the time, 1993’s Christmas Interpretations. They had to promote it, right? Curiously, the Christmas record came out hot on the heels of their debut. While fans eagerly awaited their sophomore release, they opted for a Christmas compilation instead. But the wait for that next record would prove worth it, as II scored Boyz II Men two Grammys.
En Vogue – A Different World
The catch with the sultry R&B group’s appearance on NBC’s A Different World was that the quartet didn’t appear as En Vogue. Sure, they brought down the house with one of their biggest hits (“Free Your Mind”), but they did it as the nerdy grandnieces of first-time club owner Vernon Gaines (Lou Myers). He bought it at the behest of series regular Ron Johnson (Darryl M. Bell), also a newbie in the nightclub biz. The big, bulky glasses and other nebbish accouterments did little to hide the knockout factor, but that was part of the gag: giving these hymn-singing grandnieces tips on how to sling your hips, only for them to catch on real fast, was ’90s high jinks at its best. The only thing missing from the 1993 episode was one of them breaking the fourth wall and just winking at the audience.
Digable Planets – In Living Color
That same year, Digable Planets lit the In Living Color stage up; no small feat considering the Fly Girls did it on the regular. Plus, the riotous Fox comedy rotated some seriously notable live acts such as Queen Latifah, Public Enemy with Ice Cube, Mary J. Blige, Naughty By Nature and more. Digable served up “Rebirth Of Slick (Cool Like Dat)” just right, earning themselves a slot on many a best-of special regarding the series and lists highlighting the show’s live performances. What’s really noteworthy is that Digable performed the tune prior to their debut record even being released, and the song went on to score them a Grammy.
Juliana Hatfield – My So-Called Life
Juliana Hatfield was all the rage circa 1994, and so was the will they or won’t they as it pertained to Angela Chase and Jordan Catalano in My So-Called Life. The latter, played by eventual Oscar-winner Jared Leto, would prove much more than teen magazine cover boy in record time (pun intended, as his fronting of Thirty Seconds To Mars was just a few years off), even if this fantastic show was somehow canceled after only one season. Star Claire Danes would be on the silver screen opposite Leo DiCaprio (in Romeo + Juliet of all things) in just a couple of years, but for a minute, in ’94, this small screen Romeo & Juliet stopped down from Catalano’s songwriting long enough for Hatfield to play a homeless teen who can really play.
The Flaming Lips – Beverly Hills, 90210
Like we said, the Peach Pit After Dark was the place to perform if you were coming up in the ’90s. Booker Steve Sanders could spot talent a mile away. You just had to steer clear of the nights that Ray Pruit was owning the stage with songs such as “How Do You Talk To An Angel.” The Flaming Lips might just go down as the band that gave 90210 its proper street cred, even if this writer is partial to the lilting performance the Corrs gave in another episode. The Oklahoma rockers were actually booked by Valerie Malone (Tiffani Thiessen) and later commented about their performing the hit “She Don’t Use Jelly” on the show as being a bucket list type of thing to do because it was “absurd and funny.” Despite the episode this took place on, 1995’s “Love Hurts,” it was.
Powerman 5000 – Beverly Hills, 90210
Another excellent 90210 artist cameo is Powerman 5000’s the following year, on 1996’s “The Big Hurt.” 5000 don’t perform at the Peach Pit After Dark and are a secondary storyline to Tara kidnapping Kelly for a “bestie murder-suicide.” The rockers were just coming off a successful stint on the second stage for Ozzfest when approached to be part of a storyline, where fledgling video director Donna Martin (who almost didn’t graduate high school) shoots the video for their hit single “Strike The Match.”
10,000 Maniacs – Sabrina The Teenage Witch
In season 2 of Sabrina The Teenage Witch, 10,000 Maniacs performed their hit “Rainy Day.” This TV appearance is interesting in many ways, especially as the Maniacs brought legit street cred to a decidedly different Sabrina than the one we got on Netflix. The catch is, this was after Natalie Merchant left the band, with replacement Mary Ramsey out front. From Love Among The Ruins, “Rainy Day” was one of two well-received singles, with the other being a cover of Roxy Music’s classic “More Than This.” It’s an underrated album in the band’s catalog, but Maniacs’ presence on the soundtrack to the lighthearted sitcom really lends credence to it.
The Cranberries – Charmed
Man, wouldn’t “Zombie” have not only been fitting on Charmed but also simply rocked? Even “Linger” would have worked on so many levels. But in 1999, fans of the series—or of the band who tuned in to the episode—got the Irish rockers performing “Just My Imagination” on the episode “She’s A Man, Baby, A Man!” Yes, that was actually the name of the episode, and the storyline completely reflects it. Middle witch sister Piper buying a San Francisco nightclub, the P3, ultimately only invited more danger into the coven. Aaron Spelling’s Charmed had its truly dark, even frightening episodes, and then others that were complete camp. This was a unique outing where it was somewhere between the two, with the Cranberries playing, the glorious Dolores O’Riordan out front, promptly stealing the show from a dancing Alyssa Milano.
Bif Naked – Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Bif with Buff! Rarely ever less than 100% entertaining, Buffy The Vampire Slayer brought on Bif Naked to perform at a UC Sunnydale party in a season 4 episode in 1999. What’s more, they didn’t do the age-old less than half the song before returning to the story arch thing. The Canadian singer-songwriter performed a staggering three songs on the episode: “Moment Of Weakness,” “Anything” and “Lucky.” All three songs off I Bificus, she taped the episode smack dab in the middle of her biggest tour to date, across Canada. But only one track, “Lucky,” made it onto the hit series’ official soundtrack.
Avril Lavigne – Sabrina The Teenage Witch
Melissa Joan Hart’s Sabrina had a table right up front (and lethargically mouthed the lyrics) as Avril Lavigne rocked out to her anthem “Sk8er Boi” to a room full of curiously seated young people in season 7 of the WB mega-hit. It was a hit-meeting-hit moment, wherein the ascending Canadian rocker deemed TV’s most popular witch worthy of her awesomeness. In “Bada-Ping!,” the rock star is being blackmailed by gangsters, and Sabrina winds up in both the same predicament and at the concert where Lavigne performs. Fortunately, it’s all sewn up in a record 22 minutes, witchcraft notwithstanding.
Smash Mouth – Charmed
Performing at KQSF’s raucous (by Spelling standards) Beach Bash in the season 6 premiere of the series, Smash Mouth served up their latest single, “You Are My Number One,” off the 2003 release, Get The Picture?, to a group of oiled-up beach bums. No, technically they didn’t perform at P3 (like, say, Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo), but they did have to sign on the dotted line with Piper just the same. The Halliwell sisters didn’t get to have fun dancing the night away like they did when the Cranberries played either, but it was still obtained ratings. “Valhalley Of The Dolls: Part 1” did what Charmed did best: kicked off a new season with a cliffhanger.
Death Cab For Cutie – The O.C.
The Fox smash hit had a thing for existential alt-rockers Death Cab For Cutie, and why wouldn’t they? They had their own Holden Caulfield in the existential Seth Cohen (played impeccably by Adam Brody). Surely he’d gravitate more to the band behind “We Have The Facts And We’re Voting Yes” and “Transatlanticism” than the more straight-forward Phantom Planet, who offered up that infectious theme song, “California.” Cohen has a death grip on Death Cab, constantly referencing them and quoting lyrics, many times while sitting beneath the poster of them that graced his bedroom wall. The Seattle band’s music made its way onto the show many a time before the band physically did when they performed “Title And Registration” and “The Sound Of Settling” at The Bait Shop toward the end of the second season.
Sonic Youth – Gossip Girl
Thurston Moore let it be known that he was down with Gossip Girl (presently in the throes of its own reboot) when he recorded a Ramones cover (“Sheena Is A Punk Rocker”) specifically for the show. That’s all it took for all of Sonic Youth to be invited onto the show during its third season. It was heavily promoted, and in all the right places, largely due to it being so not Sonic Youth. They did an acoustic cover of their hit “Starpower,” which added to the already considerable gravitas. Sure, they’d already lent their voices to an episode of The Simpsons, but everyone says yes to The Simpsons, and there was even a curious Gilmore Girls appearance, but this was a big deal. They may not be Chuck Bass, but they are Sonic Youth.
No Doubt – Gossip Girl
What makes Orange County ska/rock royalty No Doubt’s performance on Gossip Girl easily one of the most memorable “bands performing on a TV series” moments on this list is that they’re performing at a funky club on the outskirts of their usual Manhattan stomping grounds, and it’s an ’80s-themed night. What’s more, they trot out a killer rendition of the Adam & The Ants ’80s opus “Stand And Deliver,” a staple on MTV during its formative years. That fact was probably lost on many of those watching at home, as is the fact that the song title inspired a hit ’80s flick of the same name. Still, it was 2009. Gwen Stefani was back with the boys, prepping for their reunion record of sorts, Push And Shove, and we haven’t gotten any new No Doubt since. Hey baby, we’re ready.