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Steady Gigs, Late Shows

Conan O’Brien looked determined. “Get out of the way!” he barked, barreling toward the bandstand with a sledgehammer. Richie Rosenberg-a.k.a. LaBamba, the fedora-topped trombonist in the Max Weinberg 7-hopped to one side, startled, as his upholstered music stand absorbed several hard whacks. Then, the coup de grâce: O’Brien grabbed an ax, severed the microphone cord and carried the bulky stand into the audience, as a kind of offering. Rosenberg stood by, clutching his sheet music and ruefully shaking his head.

This anarchic scene played out during one of the final episodes of NBC’s Late Night with Conan O’Brien. The show’s prankish host, on track to take over the network’s august Tonight Show, had been mining his set for souvenirs all week. So his music-stand rampage was part of the gag, though it certainly seemed to catch everyone off guard. Less surprising was the declaration he made near the top of the show: Weinberg and the band would be joining him in Los Angeles when the new Tonight Show begins in June.

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