In a recent interview with Rockin' Metal Revival, renowned guitarist Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal shared a bizarre yet unforgettable moment from his extensive touring career. Thal, known for his time with both Guns N' Roses and Art Of Anarchy, recounts a calamitous experience during the Rock In Rio festival in Brazil in 2011. As the rain poured relentlessly, turning the stage into a makeshift swimming pool, Thal faced a series of comical yet disastrous challenges.
Describing the scene, Thal vividly remembered: My biggest 'Spinal Tap' moment was definitely playing with Guns N' Rosesat the Rock In Rio festival in Brazil in 2011. And it was pouring rain. And the rain was like a few inches high on the stage; they were sweeping it up. It was almost as high as the top of the pedal boards. I remember pyro was misfiring. It was so wet that it was just crazy. And I remember trying to play on the fretless guitar, and my fingers were so pruned up, my skin was so… And I couldn't… It was like trying to play on a wet balloon — trying to push through it all; everything's soaked."
However, the pinnacle of the absurdity came when a fan handed Thal a 'Star Wars' stormtrooper helmet: "There was this lovely girl in the front row that had a Star Wars stormtrooper helmet that she was holding. And I said, 'Yeah, give me the helmet,' and I figured I would put it on and play with it on for a bit." Thal recounts. "So, I got the helmet, and I put it on my head, and as soon as it touched my cheeks, it's like it fused to it, 'cause my skin, everything was so wet. And I remember just saying, 'Oh, shit.' And as soon as I said the 'S' curse, everything just fogged up and now it's, like, 'All right, I have this helmet that is gonna take a little bit of effort to remove.' And that's not good when you're trying to play guitar in a song. And I can't see anything; it's completely fogged up."
In a desperate attempt to salvage the performance, Thal managed to lift the helmet above his eyes, only for it to defiantly flop back down. The struggle reached its climax halfway through the "Welcome to the Jungle" solo when he had to halt playing to clear his vision: "And the iconic solo to "Welcome To The Jungle" that I had to play was about to come up and it was, like, the opening of the show and everything, and it's, like, 'Oh god. This is not gonna work out well.' So if I remember right, I managed to get the helmet up at least like over my eyes and keep it there. And then I think I nodded, like, 'Ah, good.' And it flopped right back down. So, it got to one point, like halfway through the solo, where I just had to stop playing and pull this helmet back so I could see what I was doing"
Little did Thal know that this brief pause would lead to a flood of furious emails and even death threats from passionate Brazilian fans who felt personally affronted by the momentary disruption: "And those few seconds that I stopped playing, the next day I got hundreds — hundreds — of furious e-mails from Brazilians, saying how I destroyed their life and death threats and all this stuff. And to this day, 12 years later, every once in a while someone will send me an e-mail with a screenshot of me wearing that helmet, saying, 'Ha ha ha.'"