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The 15 Coolest (and Weirdest) Musician Cameos on TV Shows

From the concert stage to the small screen: Here are the best and most bizarre musical guest appearances on television

the ramones the simpsons Musician Cameos On TV Shows

The Ramones appeared on an episode of 'The Simpsons.'

Everett Collection

“Every actor wants to be a musician,” Lance Bass once said, “and every musician wants to be an actor.” While the former ‘N Sync member won’t be dropping by the Parks and Recreation season finale on April 24th, plenty of other musicians will: The episode, which revolves around a benefit concert held in Pawnee, will feature cameos by the Decemberists, Ginuwine, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, Yo La Tengo (playing a Night Ranger cover band), and Ben Wyatt’s favorite Nineties alt-rockers Letters to Cleo. (Oh, and First Lady Michelle Obama will be making an appearance as well, because why not?)

Rock stars, singer-songwriters and R&B crooners making guest appearances on their favorite sitcoms and teen dramas, however, is nothing new; it’s been a semi-regular occurence since the Seventies. (Remember Rerun bootlegging a Doobie Brothers concert on What’s Happening?) So as we gear up for Parks and Recreation‘s virtual Coachella, here’s a quick look back at some of TV’s best — and most improbable — musician cameos. By Amy Plitt

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Death Cab for Cutie on ‘The O.C.’ (2005)

If it weren't for Seth Cohen, legions of mopey kids in the mid-Aughts may never have heard of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, the term emo, or indie-rock bands like Bright Eyes, the Shins and Death Cab for Cutie. The latter group was famously Cohen's favorite, and appeared as themselves in the show's second season, performing a few songs at the Bait Shop. Tragically, Cohen missed their set because he was busy at a meeting about his comic-book series. (Because of course he has a comic-book series.)

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Sleater-Kinney on ‘The L Word’ (2006)

Six months before the late, great post-riot-grrrl band called it quits, Sleater-Kinney graced Showtime's lesbian drama (their introduction: "These sisters are bad to the bone!"), though their performance is mostly peripheral to the main plot. (To wit: Tennis star Dana finds out that — spoiler alert!—her cancer diagnosis is far more serious than she thought.) But the band delivers a blistering version of "Jumpers," the intensity of which matches the moment of the show's other characters discovering the severity of their friend's health issues. 

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David Bowie on ‘Extras’ (2000)

Celebrity encounters were a staple of this short-lived Ricky Gervais series, with Kate Winslet and Patrick Stewart among the famous folks who played bizarro-world versions of themselves. Bowie's cameo was particularly brilliant: Gervais's character, Andy Millman, is depressed about selling out on a crappy sitcom, and unloads onto the legendary musician at a VIP club. The Thin White Duke uses that as an opportunity to improvise a song about Millman, getting the whole bar singing along with brutal lines like "pathetic little fat man" and "he's banal and facile, he's a fat waste of space." Ouch.

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Sonic Youth on ‘Gossip Girl’ (2009)

After helping indie-rockers reach the mainstream on The O.C. (see Death Cab for Cutie), Josh Schwartz peppered his new bratty-rich-kids series with cameos from alt-rockers like Lisa Loeb, No Doubt, and Sonic Youth. That last one was a mutual-admiration thing: At the time, Thurston Moore told Rolling Stone that he and Kim Gordon were "fanatical" about the show. They showed up for the wedding of socialite Lily van der Woodsen and ex-frontman for the generically named band Lincoln Hawk, Rufus Humphrey, with Gordon officiating. They then kick into a slow-burning take on "Star Power" from EVOL.

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Aimee Mann and Sarah McLachlan on ‘Portlandia’ (2011)

Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen’s hipster-skewering series is filled with musician cameos (St. Vincent as herself; Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme as Brownstein’s gay brother), but Aimee Mann appearance in the show’s first season remains one of the funniest guest spots. The duo hires the “Save Me” singer-songwriter to clean their house, but spend the entire time finding ways to annoy her, including requesting she play a show once she finishes for the day. When Brownstein and Armisen smash a piñata of MacLachlan, however — the Lilith Fair stalwart just so happens to be their gardener — Mann storms out. 

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Prince on ‘New Girl’ (2014)

Considering how reclusive His Purple Majesty is, his appearance on a post-Super Bowl episode of this Fox show seemed completely out of left field. Zooey Deschanel and the gang somehow end up at a party at Prince's Los Angeles mansion (sadly, not Paisley Park), with Deschanel crooning "FALLINLOVE2NITE" alongside the legendary singer. Bonus: We get to see Prince cut loose a little, playing Ping-Pong, offering Jess relationship advice while serving her pancakes, and giving her a makeover — all in purple, of course. 

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Sigur Ros on ‘Game of Thrones’ (2014)

Nothing good can happen if you hear "The Rains of Castamere" during an episode of Game of Thrones — not even if the song, dedicated to the cruel, powerful House Lannister, is performed by Icelandic indie-rockers Sigur Ros. The band's cameo as minstrels in Season Four's "The Lion and the Rose" precedes the brutal (and kind of awesome) poisoning of a major character — and at his own wedding, no less. The trio's spare cover perfectly encapsulates the tense mood at the doomed nuptial celebration.

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