10 lesser-known band cameos in the movies

Some are blink-and-you’ll miss them brief, while others are unforgettable

The inclusion of a song on a film’s soundtrack is surely a big deal for any band. Apart from maybe Snow Patrol, whose whimsical pop ballads seem to turn up in every rom-com recently made. 

You’re potentially opening up the opportunity for a whole bunch of new people to hear your music. But how often does this actually happen? A decent tune can certainly help make a scene memorable, but if your song is merely playing quietly in the background while the characters talk over it, then chances are, no one is going to be leaving the cinema asking “What was that barely-audible song in that one scene?” 

Worse still, a band may be given the opportunity to provide a movie with a theme song, only for the piece to appear over the end credits, which happened to Dashboard Confessional and their song Vindicated in Spider-Man 2. Their song played while most of the audience were beating a hasty path to the loo. 

A better way to make sure your music makes an impression is to have your band appear in the film itself. It must be better to be seen and heard, right? Numerous bands from the grunge scene performed in Cameron Crowe’s Seattle-based classic, Singles, while The Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen, had a memorable cameo in the definition of the male psyche that was High Fidelity.

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What follows is a list of lesser known cameos by bands in movies that you might have missed:

10. Skunk Anansie – Strange Days (1995)

The 90’s brit-rockers contributed two songs, Feed and Selling Jesus, to Kathryn Bigelow’s cyberpunk oddity. They were featured performing the latter of these towards the end of the film at a street party celebrating the coming of the new millennium.

Fronted by the unique sounding but somewhat scary looking Skin, the band’s energetic, heavy riffing coupled with their lead’s ability to sing sweetly and howl like a banshee, made them a perfect fit for the film’s apocalyptic leanings. During their appearance, Skin sports a white cross painted William Wallace style across her face as the crowd parties like it’s almost no longer 1999.

Strange Days turned out to be a bit of a curious mess – though it did do dystopian future pretty well, four years before The Matrix came along.

9. Everclear – Loser (2000)

Art Alexakis’ post-grunge rock band outfit were already regarded as movie soundtrack veterans by the time they showed up for a couple of numbers in 2000’s American Pie-wave rider, Loser. Everclear tracks had been heard in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, Scream 2 and the aforementioned Pie movie. But when Jason Biggs’ character goes to see the band in concert during Loser, Everclear put in a rare cameo appearance.

The band can be seen performing (out of sync with the music, admittedly) two songs from their excellent 1997 album So Much For The Afterglow. The songs are the very catchy I Will Buy You A New Life and the record’s storming title track. Unfortunately for Everclear, Loser did not imitate American Pie’s success at the box office, so nobody saw them. The film didn’t do much for the careers of its stars Jason Biggs and Mena Suvari either, who were presumably thrown together in this to satisfy appetites until the American Pie sequel came along.

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Rather bizarrely, one band did do very well out of Loser, but it wasn’t Everclear. The film’s soundtrack was home to one hit wonders Wheatus and their track Teenage Dirtbag, a simpering, annoyingly catchy tune that they’re still flogging to death as a band 12 years later.

8. The Subways – RocknRolla (2008) 

Anyone who’s seen Guy Ritchie’s underachieving RocknRolla will know that, in his traditional fashion, it is a movie full of hard men doing all manner of unpleasant things. Toby Kebbell’s Johnny Quid is one such man, and he demonstrates this by viciously beating a night club doorman with a dustbin lid after he’s roughed his mate up a bit.

All the while, Quid is accompanied by an onstage band. That band would be British indie-noise merchants The Subways, with their belting track Rock N Roll Queen. The brutal fight scene (there is no other kind in a Guy Ritchie movie that isn’t Sherlock Homes) is quickly intercut with shots of the band rocking the hell out in their customary sweaty and energetic fashion for a memorable musical moment.

The song itself is no stranger to the big screen, having previously been heard in the Die Hard 4.0 scene in which Lucy McClane (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), makes out in a car with her boyfriend. 

7. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy – Swingers (1996)

The few people who were disappointed that Swingers was not a movie about middle-aged couples throwing car keys into a bowl at dinner parties was surely offset by the number who loved this Jon Favreau-penned tale of getting over a big break up in Los Angeles.

Extremely funny and with a career-best performance from Vince Vaughn, Swingers has passed into legend as giving to the world the phrases “Vegas baby!” and “You’re money”. In their quest for “beautiful babies”, Vaughn, Favreau and co haunt the bars of LA, and it is in one such establishment, The Derby, that our characters encounter the music of retro swing jazz band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

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The band play three songs in the film, the stand out being the catchy You And Me And The Bottle Makes 3 Tonight (Baby), but it’s when they kick into the up tempo Go Daddy-O that Favreau’s character busts out his sweet swing dance moves, woos Heather Graham, and manages to move on with his life to direct Iron Man. 

6. White Zombie – Airheads (1994) 

The Brendan Fraser, Steve Buscemi and Adam Sandler starring love letter to all things long haired and leather trousered was ripe for rock star cameos. The film revolved around fictional three-piece rock band The Lone Rangers (“how do you pluralise the lone ranger?, you’re not exactly lone are you?”) who break into a radio station to get their song played on the air. The soundtrack was stuffed full of chugging riffs, one of which belonged to 90s hillbilly metallers White Zombie.

The band turned up in a scene halfway through the film in which rotund policeman Chris Farley attempts to find Fraser’s girlfriend Amy Locane. His search leads him to famous Los Angeles music venue The Whiskey a Go Go. The band, led by future Halloween rebooter Rob Zombie, are thrashing their way through the song Feed The Gods on stage while Farley encounters a group of bare chested heavy metal fans who take exception to his position of authority. 

Chris makes White Zombie’s scene more memorable for the wince inducing way in which he deals with the situation. Let’s just say that one of his tormentors is wearing a nipple ring…..

5. The Donnas – Jawbreaker (1999)

Jawbreaker is a film pitched somewhere in between Heathers and Mean Girls. It’s a high school movie in which a popular female clique, led by the ever brilliant Rose McGowan, attempt to cover up the accidental death by confectionary of one of their members. The movie features a great lead performance from McGowan as the deliciously evil queen bee Courtney, but does fall a little short in other areas due to its clunky script. 

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Jawbreaker features a soundtrack of predominantly female fronted bands which includes all-girl punkers, The Donnas. Flaunting their punk rock credentials by assuming the stage name Donna followed by the first letter of their surnames, the band contributed the song Rock n Roll Machine to the film, and are seen performing it during its climactic prom scene. 

All sassy and sweet buzzsaw guitars characterise the group’s appearance in a film which is worth seeking – out if only to see Rose McGowan’s inventive use of a lollipop during foreplay…

4. Blink-182 – American Pie (1999)

It might be a bit of a stretch to call Blink-182’s cameo in the teen sex comedy a musical performance, as it’s confined to a few snare drum shots before the band crowd around their PC to watch Jason Biggs’ ill-fated attempt to seduce Shannon Elizabeth. The band’s song Mutt is playing over Biggs running to and from his house in the sequence, though, so we’ll keep them on the list. 

The pop punk granddads were cast in the movie when guitarist Tom Delonge’s acting agent heard that a band was needed for a brief scene. The part didn’t call for much other than to pretend to watch Shannon Elizabeth in the buff and utter the line “Go trig boy, it’s your birthday”, but the film coincided well with the band’s breakthrough album Enema Of The State, and the frat boy humour of their lyrics was in keeping with the tone of the picture. 

It’s hard to imagine a group that would have been better suited to the appearance, but drummer Travis Barker must have been a bit pissed off when they credited him as Scott Raynor – the name of Blink’s old drummer. Oops.

3. L7 – Serial Mom (1994)

Director John Water’s 1994 satire is a deliciously dark movie that anyone with a slightly twisted sense of humour would surely like. It features a devilish performance from Kathleen Turner as the mass murdering housewife who doesn’t kill for the reasons you think she might. 

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Even before appearing in such a film, the all-female grunge band L7 weren’t exactly shy of a spot of on-screen controversy. This was the band who dropped their shorts live on early 90s late night telly show The Word. In Serial Mom, the band appeared under the label of Camel Lips. I trust that anyone reading this can work out the significance behind the name.

In Serial Mom, the band appear performing their song Gas Chamber onstage at a club called Hammerjacks, where Turner has chased one of her son’s (played by Mathew Lillard) friends after he has discovered her dastardly deeds. The poor kid runs up on stage only for Turner to cause the stage lighting to collapse, setting her prey on fire. Nothing like this happened when I saw L7 in concert. 

2. The Offspring – Idle Hands (1999)

Once again, this is an appearance by a band playing at a high school dance, but The Offspring’s turn in 1999 horror comedy Idlehands ends in a much more dramatic fashion than most. 

While Jessica Alba, Seth Green (with a bottle in his head), Elden Henson and Devon Sawa worry about the location of Sawa’s disembodied, demonically possessed hand, Dexter Holland, Noodles and co tear through a cover of The Ramones classic, I Wanna Be Sedated. A couple of scenes later, they’re treating the crowd at this Halloween dance to their own track, Beheaded, before Sawa invades the stage to warn the assembled mass of the lurking danger. Holland sends Devon packing, only for the severed hand to rip the singer’s head open a few seconds later. 

It’s a bloodier cameo than most bands manage, and at the time of Idle Hands’ release, was the film’s main talking point. The band weren’t the only punk stars in the film, either – Blink-182s Tom Delonge popped up as a burger bar employee, too.

1. Rammstein – xXx (2002)

It has been said of the German industrial metallers that “Other bands play, Rammstein burn”. Their unforgettable performance of the song Feuer Frei! in the opening scene of xXx certainly pays testimony to that.

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Running through the beautiful streets of Prague, an NSA agent decides to take refuge in a church. Unfortunately, this house of worship is playing host to a Rammstein show in its full pyrotechnical glory. The poor guy manages to get up on the stage before being mercilessly assassinated. His lifeless corpse is then crowdsurfed while the band play on.

xXx didn’t do subtle, and it set its stall out with this opening scene. Till Lindermann and the band look absolutely at home in their performance, and there couldn’t have been a better choice of song to open the film with a bang.

Rammstein’s appearance is an incredible addition to an underrated action movie. The film continues with Vin Diesel parachuting out of car before it crashes to the ground – just as Drowning Pool’s Bodies kicks in. Which might be one of the coolest things ever.

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