When Concerts Turn Ugly
September 25, 2020 01:27PM
Bip’s thread about John Lydon vs Malcolm McLaren started me thinking about the confrontational (as if there were another) side of PIL, and their infamous 1981 Ritz concert, which resulted in a riot. As I was then a sixteen-year-old North Carolinian, and nowhere near New York, I was safe at home that particular night. Did anyone on this forum attend that particular event?

Three years later, I saw one of my favorite bands, the Cars, at our local arena on their Heartbeat City tour. They were excellent, of course, and Elliot Easton’s extended solo on “My Best Friend’s Girl” was especially gripping. The boys displayed pretty much the same emotion- and expressionless selves at this show as they did in their appearances on Saturday Night Live and Fridays. (That is not, incidentally, a criticism.) The audience loved them, and several young ladies behind me were loudly lusting after Benjamin Orr. When the band finished the final song of their show, they walked offstage and the house lights came on. This meant that there would be no encore. At that point, many, many people in the audience began angrily stamping their feet and booing. I, and the woman I was with, decided that it was time to vamoose before things really turned nasty. (I am, however, happy to report that the attendees did not reduce the arena to shreds.)

What disturbed me then and now was how quickly the crowd turned on the musicians they so obviously adored. Has anyone else had an experience like this at a concert? It was definitely ugly.
Re: When Concerts Turn Ugly
September 25, 2020 02:29PM
I was at the 1968 Who / Doors show that ended in a chair throwing riot with injuries and arrests, but I have no recollection of that aspect of the show. I was there to see the Who, who went on second of three acts, and my friend and I were being hassled by two military school jerks sitting behind us, so it's possible we didn't stay for the end of the Doors' set, which is when all (well-documented) hell broke loose.
Re: When Concerts Turn Ugly
September 25, 2020 05:03PM
I saw Metallica at Red Rocks in 1989, with The Cult as their opening act. This was the third time I'd seen The Cult -- in fact, I might not have gone to the show if The Cult hadn't been on the bill. (Nothing against Metallica, per se. In fact, it was the third time I'd seen them, as well.)

The Cult was in full swaggering mode, and hitting it on all cylinders. And all around me, I could tell the audience was enjoying the opening song. But as soon as the band stopped playing, the crowd seemed to remember suddenly, "Hey! These guys aren't Metallica!" and started booing, and even throwing trash at the stage. This negative treatment stopped as soon as Ian, Billy and the boys kicked into their second song ... and resumed as soon as that second song ended.

This dichotomy continued through The Cult's whole set. The gulf between how the audience responded while the band was playing and how they treated the opening act after each song could hardly have been more stark. Ian tried to pacify the crowd a little, saying, "Look, people, it's all rock 'n' roll ... Long hair, loud bitchy guitars ..." But the punters weren't having it. They just booed louder and threw more trash.

Speaking of throwing trash: When I saw Rush in 1982 at McNichols Arena, the band came on about an hour and a half late. One of the roadies came out now & then to explain that the crew was having technical difficulties -- no big surprise, considering how complex their stage setup was. As the evening wore on, the crowd got more agitated, and little turf wars began to break out between nearby sections of the crowd. They'd start throwing trash at each other. (I was glad my friend and I were seated under one of the balconies, so we had some cover.)

The aforementioned roadie knew what to do. He came onstage with a guy holding a big camera, and marshaled the whole crowd to grab the nearest piece of garbage and throw it into the air, on the count of three. After the photographer (presumably) snapped the shot, the roadie announced that Rush would be onstage in a few minutes. The band came out and did their full-length set.
Re: When Concerts Turn Ugly
September 25, 2020 10:26PM
I saw Slayer in Boston circa 1990, and the audience was scarier than anything they sang about. The low point came when someone dragged a full garbage can from the bank of the club and threw it at the stage. Yikes!
Re: When Concerts Turn Ugly
September 26, 2020 01:19PM
I was never witness to any melees. I do recall seeing Tom petty (circa Southern Accents) and someone in the crowd must’ve thrown a lit firecracker overhead. Tom stopped playing and encouraged the audience to “thank” the dummy who did such a thing!

And at a fugazi show (yes, $5!) I saw Ian MacKaye reach out and grab a kid who kept trying to climb on the PA even after repeated warnings.

Your Cars example reminded me of reading how the crowds got ugly when Suicide opened for them. Ocasek rightfully loved that band....but I’m sure they didn’t sit well with many of the ‘rawk’ fans there to hear the Cars play their FM radio hits from the debut.
Re: When Concerts Turn Ugly
September 26, 2020 04:42PM
As a vet of the LA hardcore scene, it's kind of hard for me to discern between "riot" and "good gig," heh heh.
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Re: When Concerts Turn Ugly
September 30, 2020 01:26PM
Well, I was at the infamous New Barbarians concert in Milwaukee. That didn’t get crazy until after the encores when the rumored “superstar guests” didn’t appear. I was happy to see the band, Keith and Woody, Ian McLagan, Bobby Keys, Stanley Clarke and the drummer from the Meters. I could watch those guys jam all night. There had been stories on the radio that people like Neil Young and Pete Townsend would be jumping on stage with the band during the show, so some fans started ripping shit up after the show.
Ron Wood was forced to play a make up date later, the tickets for the show were a buck or two and an unwrapped toy, it was Christmas time. Woody’s band this time still had Ian McLagan in it, he sang a bunch of songs from his “Troublemaker” LP. One memory I have from the make-up show was that the opening band Trillion, a Styx knock-off group, had the crowd booing for the entire 45 minute set. One guy a few rows in front of me stood the whole time during the opening set, arms raised flipping the band off. That’s dedication.
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Re: When Concerts Turn Ugly
September 30, 2020 04:48PM
And of course, there's my personal experience with a concert that turned particularly ugly ... although this one didn't involve the whole crowd.
Re: When Concerts Turn Ugly
October 01, 2020 03:40PM
I have either been lucky, or inexperienced, to have never seen anything quite like this. I have seen some weird concert moments, but typically from the performers, not the audiences. Once I saw a joint Tori Amos/Alanis Morrissette show at Foxboro in Massachusetts in which someone was making sexist snark from the audience and Tori stood up from her piano bench, and shouted back to the heckler, "Suck my clit!" When Sheryl Crow was opening for Crowded House at a show in St. Paul, early in her career, she sarcastically dedicated a song to "the sexual harassers in the audience" and some bozo shouted and hooted in approval. She stared at him and said, "well, fuck you." And at a Chris Whitley show (r.i.p.) in Portland, he went into a really long bizarre digression about David Pirner of Soul Asylum, who it turned out was in the audience.
Re: When Concerts Turn Ugly
October 01, 2020 04:12PM
I was about to say the same - that all the bad behavior I've seen at shows came from the band more than the audience. (I'm thinking particularly of a Wildhearts show at Stubb's here in Austin, when they were opening for the Darkness. A story for another time.)

But then I remembered a Dash Rip Rock show at Fitzgerald's in Houston, late '80s. Those shows were always a little wild, as they were a mix of what I'll call the college rock crowd (like myself - I first learned of Dash from the 1988 TP Record Guide, after all) and the frat boy crowd of beer-drinkin' hell-raisers. When Dash played "Leave Me Alone (To My Bottle)," which has the sound of breaking glass on the record, a group of the frat boy types in front decided to start smashing beer bottles on the lip of the stage. Once or twice seemed crazy, but pretty soon there was a pile of broken glass in front of bassist Hoaky Hickel that kept growing, and flying bits of glass were hitting the crowd (including myself, who was on the opposite end in front of guitarist Bill Davis). The band finished the song, but stopped the show to admonish the fratters and have the bar staff clean up the stage. The fratters remained oblivious to the consequences of their mayhem.

The other time that comes to mind, and I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this before, was at a Rocket From the Tombs tour (their first one after their reunion) at Emo's in Austin. (2003, maybe? Not sure.) They came onstage and tore right into "What Love Is." Some idiot threw his cup of booze at the stage, where it hit David Thomas in the chest and splashed liquid all over his very nice suit. The band promptly left the stage.

Many of us started getting pissed, as we'd been waiting decades for a chance to see this band. Cheetah Chrome came onstage and announced that they'd continue playing, but only if they felt they were safe. They came back, started over with the same song, and proceeded to rock like men a third their age. One of the best rock & roll shows I've seen in my life. At one point early on some dude (the same one?) cocked his drink to throw it at the stage, and got tackled by other members of the crowd.

But there was continued ill will - somebody called out "punk rock - woo!" between songs, which led to Chrome telling the crowd "We're not a punk band, we're a real band," causing some disgruntlement, and Thomas informing us that "punk is an unnatural thing a man does to another man," which got some boos from gay-friendly Austin. (In another Texas city, he might've gotten cheers.) I'd like to think the tension was part of why the show was such a ripper. But I guess this story is half-and-half between audience and band assholes.
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