Published May 16, 2011While the rise of indie culture has led to a misconception that the music always comes first, the truth remains that inflated egos, drug-fuelled freak-outs and clashes with the dreaded sound guy still plague touring musicians of all shapes and sizes. To prove our point, we have assembled a list of the ten most notable onstage meltdowns from the last three years. From hilarious to tragic, there's plenty of proof that the rock star archetype will live on for decades to come.
10 Insane Onstage Meltdowns:
10. Ariel Pink at Coachella, Indio, CA, April 15, 2011:
Now that he's broken through to semi-mainstream audiences, lo-fi pop great Ariel Pink demonstrated some major diva behaviour at Coachella earlier this year. According to reports from the Coachella message board, Ariel was frustrated with the mix of his set, and tried leaving the stage to end it early. When his band kept playing, he came back but refused to sing into the mic, instead standing with his back to the stage, crouching behind his bandmates and literally pouting with crossed arms while he looked out at the audience. The whole thing, complete with Coachella hipsters describing the experience, is available here.
9. Badly Drawn Boy at the Troubadour, Los Angeles, CA, December 15, 2010:
Badly Drawn Boy's Damon Gough has been no stranger to controversy in his long and storied career, but the British alt-pop songwriter lost his shit at a Los Angeles show in the winter. As it so often does, it all started with a bad mix, as he complained, "All I've got are these fucking monitors and I can't hear myself." Fans responded by yelling out what some thought were encouraging words, but Gough was having none of it, telling one concertgoer, "Shut up, you stupid bitch." It all ended with a promise to never play live again and a confession of his meagre record sales. "Why tour America when nobody's buying the record? I should just open a shop somewhere." Days later, he issued an apology and is still performing to this day.
8. Patrick Wolf at the C/O Pop Festival, Cologne, Germany, August 13, 2009:
While it's one thing to throw your mic on the ground, it's another to throw it directly at a stagehand. Orchestral pop auteur Patrick Wolf resembled some sort of coked-up Saturday Night Live sketch onstage at the Cologne, Germany's C/O Pop Festival in 2009. When someone turned off his PA too early and he had to stop the song, he went into a verbal tirade against the sound people, throwing two mic stands, a mic and a stool at a dark figure in the corner. He issued a public apology for the freak-out, but he also defended himself on Twitter, writing, "The audience comes first. I am just a vessel for you. The promoters badly organised a festival. I made a very public complaint. No regrets." The incredible display can be viewed here.
7. Lady Sovereign at the Rickshaw Stop, San Francisco, CA, May 24, 2009:
British grime MC turned commercial crossover failure Lady Sovereign has a long history of drama in her brief career, reportedly telling a 2007 audience in Brooklyn, "I'm only here because I'm broke and needed the money," while simultaneously confessing boredom with her own material. In 2009, she brought the drama-queen antics a step further by completely ditching the stage. Complaining about the "shitty sound people" at a venue in San Francisco, she let out a long rant about the venue's sound (which can be viewed here) before attempting one last song. The mic fell prey to feedback in the first verse, and she stormed off the stage like an angry toddler.
6. King Khan & BBQ Show at Vivid LIVE Festival, Sydney, Australia, June 4, 2010:
Canadian-born garage pop duo the King Khan & BBQ Show finally met their untimely demise after many albums and even more sordid tales when they got a little too rowdy for the organizers of the Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson-curated Vivid LIVE Festival. For their first show, the group threw a rubber snake into the crowd, ate food onstage and invited audience members up to dance. They warned to tone it down for their next performance, but Khan instead spilled wine all over the stage and threw his guitar into the audience. This resulted in him getting kicked out of the festival, and worse than that, his band breaking up backstage. "Returning to the backstage I opened the door to a scowling BBQ... A HUGE SCREAMING MATCH ensued and so went the demise of the King Khan & BBQ show... we agreed that this would be the last show ever. Wow... what a way to die!!!!" Khan told The Daily Swarm. While various factors suggest that they've patched their differences, the King Khan & BBQ Show have not performed together since.
5. Screeching Weasel at SXSW, Austin, TX, March 18, 2011:
Another notorious grump, Screeching Weasel frontman Ben Weasel acted on his frustrations in the worst way possible at this year's SXSW festival. Leading up to a showcase at the industry event, Weasel was griping about his perceived superficiality of the whole thing. The complaining continued onstage until a female member of the audience threw a piece of ice at Weasel. He called the girl to the front of the stage, and she spat beer on his face, at which point he lunged at her and allegedly punched her in the head. A woman onstage attempted to restrain him, at which point he threw some punches at her too. The whole thing was captured on video here. There wasn't too much fallout, either -- the rest of Screeching Weasel just quit the band and Ben was forced to cancel their sold-out, three-day 25th anniversary celebration in Chicago.
4. Fat Mike at SXSW, Austin, TX, March 20, 2010:
As the frontman for NOFX, Fat Mike has left behind a legacy of debauched tours and lewd misadventures, so it makes sense that the pop punk bard would have some dark secrets and inner demons waiting to get out. Under his unbelievably depressing Cokie the Clown moniker, Fat Mike chose to let out years of disappointment at a controversial showcase during the 2010 edition of SXSW. A packed bar had their party vibes ruined as Mike told uncomfortable stories about his father telling him he didn't want a child, being forced to euthanize his mother, milking a groupie's breasts, and taking the belongings of a friend he'd found after having hanged himself, among other sordid tales. The worst part of all was that he seemingly tricked the audience into drinking his own urine, pouring shots from a bottle of alcohol for the crowd and then later displaying a video of him pissing into what looked like the same bottle. The event escalated to the point where he was facing an investigation from the Austin Health Department before revealing it was (or possibly covering it up as) a hoax.
3. Smashing Pumpkins at the Chicago Theatre, Chicago, IL, November 18, 2008:
When he first "reformed" the Smashing Pumpkins, many fans had a hard time swallowing Billy Corgan's all-new lineup. As such, at a show in Chicago in 2008, the eccentric alt-rocker launched into one of crazy-ass nine-minute rant. A New York show the week prior saw Corgan invite a heckler onstage for one of the most awkward exchanges we've seen, and that must have had him on edge for the rest of the tour because this enchanted Chicago evening saw Billy acting out against a very encouraging crowd. Despite kind words like "we love you!" and "don't ever stop!" from the audience, Corgan appeared to lose his marbles completely, ranting for nine minutes about Sarah Palin, his ex-girlfriends and a lot of general feeling sorry for himself. The clip can be viewed here.
2. Wavves at the Primavera Sound Festival, Barcelona, Spain, May 28, 2009:
No recent list of meltdowns would be complete without the mention of Wavves' now-legendary meltdown at the Primavera Sound Festival in 2009. Back when the group were composed of Nathan Williams and his childhood friend Ryan Ulsh, they were slated at the massive Barcelona festival just months after their second album peaked their hype. Combining a concoction of drugs (Williams later blamed the event on "mixing ecstasy, valium and Xanax before having to play in front of thousands of people") and a fight with the sound guy, the set devolved into random guitar chord improvisations and taunting the crowd before bottles were thrown. Ulsh eventually poured a full beer on Williams's head and left the stage, never to perform with Wavves again. It also resulted in the band's entire European tour being cancelled, leaving many wondering if Wavves could recover from the bad press. Of course, a year later they released King of the Beach and are currently enjoying their biggest success yet, void of any more onstage meltdowns -- for now.
1. Women at the Lucky Bar, Victoria, BC, October 29, 2010:
It's inarguable that Calgary's Women released one of the strongest Canadian albums of 2010 in Public Strain, but they met a demise of Dig! proportions when they erupted into an intra-band brawl onstage in Victoria, BC. As an Exclaim! reader and concert attendee explained, the group almost didn't even make it out to perform, as a fight nearly broke out behind the stage. When they did start playing, frontman Patrick Flegel said, "We're breaking up right now, you're all going to see our last show." During the set, Flegel allegedly accused his bandmates of screwing up the songs before guitarist Chris Reimer and bassist Matt Flegel left the stage, leaving drummer Mike Wallace and Pat Flegel alone. Pat allegedly started bashing Matt's bass into an amp before security hauled him off. Due to the date, the fight had a surreal element added in due to the members wearing Halloween costumes. Women subsequently cancelled their remaining tour dates, including a trip to Europe, and have never made a concrete statement about the future of the band since the incident.