Seeing your favourite band put on a blisteringly excellent set is one of live music's joys, but as with most things it's the unsuccessful shows that can be far more memorable. The painful can’t-watch-yet-can’t-look-away nature of Andrew W.K.’s abuse-filled set at the Bendigo Groovin’ the Moo
was one of these instances and got us to thinking about other notorious, funny and horrific crowd/performer interactions. Let us walk you through a history of crowd VS artist. Release the bottles.
For those in the audience at Lorne’s Falls Festival ’08/’09, it was bemusing as to why ‘comedian’ Lehmo was on stage before Lykke Li at all. As the crowd cooled to his presence, he prattled out a string of condescending ‘jokes’, often making reference to illegal substances, sexual abuse, and binge drinking. The rowdier members of the gathering began demanding the exit of Lehmo, hurling bottles, boos and taunts. Although it’s hard to give any credit to a comic set that was littered with poor taste, Lehmo held steadfast amid the barrage to exit with his funniest remark of the whole set. It went something along the lines of: "Here’s Lykke Li, and to the person who hit me in the nuts with the full beer; I hope you fucking O.D. and die". Good one, Lehmo!
While it’s unsurprising that Nickelback has been on the receiving end of some poor crowd support, it does add a different flavour when the objects hurtling stageward are rocks and not empty waterbottles. After making it through only two songs, frontman Chad Kroegar asked the unenthused Portuguese crowd if there were any Nickelback fans out there. When he didn’t get much of a response he followed up with “you guys want to hear some rock ‘n’ roll or do you want to go home?” This was met by virtual silence. He promptly received a rock to the head, thus ending their set. Meanwhile, the video of the incident went viral.
Although many might think otherwise, David Bowie’s eyes aren’t different colours; his left eye is in fact permanently dilated after a schoolyard fight. Unfortunately for the British art-rock icon, 43 years later his bad eye was to cop it again, though not from his mate’s fists. At a 2004 show in Olso, Bowie was hit in the eye by something one might expect to see at a mid-90s rave or an S Club 7 show - a lollipop. Yep, a lollipop flew out from the crowd and it’s stick became wedged between Bowie’s eye and eyelid. Luckily, after a roadie removed the comically lodged sweet, Bowie continued on with his set undeterred. Despite initially calling the culprit a “little fucker”, he went on to joke about the incident and threatened to punish the audience by making his set much longer. Well played, sir.
Sorry David, but LOL.
Courtney Love, the Grand Dame of ‘think-after-you-speak’ was loving her gig in Sao Paulo late last year, even giving the crowd a glimpse of her breasts (one at a time, for modesty’s sake). That is, until a crowd member had the audacity to hold up a picture of her much-loved late-husband Kurt Cobain. What ensued was a typically aggressive Love rant where she threatened violence and brought up her favourite target, the former Nirvana drummer and current Foo Fighters frontman, Dave Grohl. Love, who is publicly known as a gay rights activist, then left the stage, only to return when the crowd had been chanting the very un-PC mantra “Foo Fighters are gay”. We would say Love – 1, Grohl – 0, but let’s be honest, Dave has game, set and match on Courtney.
It’s difficult to discuss bad audience reactions without mentioning at least a few of the incidents involving Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst. The ever-controversial Durst-crowd related woes really kicked off with the notoriously violent crowd of Woodstock ’99, and didn’t stop. After a borderline out-of-control set at Auckland’s Big Day Out, Durst was not happy with the promoters of the festival tour, and fed off of the frenzied energy at the Sydney show, spitting an angry rant to the hyped crowd. Sadly, the poor security coupled with Durst’s too-late realisation that things were out of hand meant teenager Jessica Michalik died after being crushed in the mosh. Two years later, Durst left the stage after six songs during Metallica’s Summer Sanitarium tour. He and his band had been greeted with an actively hostile crowd, which had allegedly been turned against him by Chicago radio personality ‘Mancow’ Mueller. Replete with ‘Fred Sucks’ banners, the audience chanted “Fuck Fred Durst” and pelted the stage with bottles and coins (why would you waste your money throwing coins at them?).
We mightn’t be LB’s biggest fans but their tribute to Jessica Michalik is actually pretty sweet.
Speaking of flying coins though, Durst isn’t the only one to be pelted by thrown change. The Smiths were nearing the end of their career together, and the super-ego that is Morrissey about to launch his solo career, when they played a gig in Preston in 1986. The audience’s enjoyment was cut considerably short one song in when a patron threw a coin at the stage… luckily enough grazing Morrissey’s Godly head. The gig immediately ended and Morrissey was rushed to a local hospital to be treated for the cut on his forehead. A brawl erupted in the hall and fourteen arrests were made. Well, this is nice excuse for a Smiths song.
Anyone who lives in Melbourne is well aware of the controversy surrounding the entertainment offered at last year's AFL Grand Final. The pre-match entertainment fell flat as the ‘Loaf slurred his way through an uninspiring set, leaving the crowd confused and unenthused. But, despite the allegedly ‘career ruining’ nature of the performance, that was not Meatloaf’s worst crowd reaction. Back in 1988, a wheelchair bound Meatloaf took to the stage at Reading Festival only to be confronted with a shower of urine-filled water bottles. That’s right, bottles filled with actual human piss. Charming. Bonnie Tyler endured the same treatment that year as well. Unlike Meatloaf however, she withstood the onslaught of pee to finish her set.
Ah Reading and Leeds Festival; home of the questionable tradition of stage-bottlings. Other notable instances of crowd condemnation at the festival include:
- Reggae band Steel Pulse sent from the stage by punk and rock fans who were waiting for The Stranglers in 1983.
- The Stone Roses were booed and bottled as they stumbled through their set shortly before their break up.
- The FFers played Reading and Leads in 2008. Unfortunately for them, a rumour circulated that The FFers were actually a secret name for the Foo Fighters, and over 3000 people descended on their stage. When it became clear that Dave Grohl and his mates weren’t actually playing, the innocent FFers were bathed in all manner of projectiles.