Pretty much everything about
the concert — from the head-banging guys to the screaming
girls begging to be lifted onstage — resembled a routine
Puddle of Mudd show. Except that the stage was four flatbeds pushed
together, and the venue was a soccer stadium in Tikrit, Iraq.
of Mudd's Wes Scantlin in Iraq (file)
luxurious when you're over there [in Iraq]. You're breathing
sand through the air. It's like 130 degrees." —
Puddle of Mudd's Wes Scantlin
On September 12, in front of 1,500 U.S. troops, the band played
the ruins of what was once a symbol of Saddam Hussein's dictatorial
rule. "It was kind of weird that this person was holding people
down ... at this stadium," said guitarist Paul Phillips, "and
we go back and have this show and it's all about freedom."
Months prior to Puddle of Mudd's performance, the U.S. military
polled its troops in Iraq to find out which band they most wanted
to see perform there. They chose Puddle of Mudd, and the band
immediately accepted the offer.
"[Our managers] were like, 'Do you want to go to Iraq?' " bassist
Douglas Ardito remembered. "And me and [singer] Wes [Scantlin]
look at each other and were like, 'Yeah!' We didn't even think
twice about it."
Though the soldiers were told about the show three weeks in advance,
most were skeptical right up until showtime.
"They said half the soldiers on the bases didn't believe them
when they said we were coming," Ardito said. "They were like,
'They're not going to come here,' because so many people have
backed out after saying the right thing."
"I think a lot of it has to do with a lot of these artists and
bands living pretty high on the hog," offered Scantlin. "It's
not luxurious when you're over there. You're breathing sand through
the air. It's like 130 degrees, and it's not for artists that
chill in, you know, super-super-nice houses."
Puddle of Mudd were up for the challenge, heading first to Germany,
where they played two shows for troops stationed there. During
that stop they met a soldier who'd just been wounded in Iraq by
a roadside bomb, and it drove home the reality of the situation
they were headed into.
The soldier, who'd lost his eyes and most of his left arm, was
awarded the Bronze Star, which he gave to the band at a meet-and-greet
in Friedberg. "I just cried," said drummer Greg Upchurch.
After flying into Kuwait City, Kuwait, and having a particularly
disconcerting conversation with a security guard in the airport
("Don't let your guard down," he warned Ardito) the band traveled
Before a crowd featuring a throng of female soldiers dancing and
tossing their hair, Puddle of Mudd played a set that ended with
the hit single "She Hates Me." During the final song, Scantlin
invited three women wearing "We Want Up" shirts to come onstage.
Before he knew it, he said, 25 to 30 people were behind him. "At
the end of the song, all of the girls, everybody, just stage-dived
into the crowd."
Before leaving Tikrit, Puddle of Mudd accepted an invitation to
come back and perform again. "War is scary," said Upchurch, "but
when you're with these people, it's like you're a part of their
family, so they make you feel very comfortable."
"I'm not scared anymore," said Scantlin. "We met a lot of amazing
people, and we all learned a lot about things we didn't know about,
so at the end of the day, I think we'd all go back."
— Alyssa Rashbaum, with additional reporting by Gideon