Crowds Losing Their Cool

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In 1965, the once very loyal fans of the famous folk singer Bob Dylan booed him right off the stage. Why? He wanted to take a new direction with his sound. If you know folk music, then you know it’s typically long narrative songs played on acoustic guitar. Dylan wanted to forge a new path by using electric guitar and pursue the rock and roll genre.

Fans didn’t care for this new page in Dylan’s career. The once peaceful, hippy, folk-loving, crowd became uproarious. They were so upset about not hearing their favorite folk songs that they started aggressively booing Dylan. It’s reported that the booing was so loud that the music couldn’t even be heard.

He continued playing, even though the audience’s audible dismay grew louder and louder. Now those songs are some of his most popular. (For example, “Like A Rolling Stone”).

About a decade later, punk rock blossomed into the scene, and crowds-versus-band fights became fashionable. In the book “Unknown Pleasures,” Peter Hook, bassist of Joy Division, wrote about anger-fueled brawls with the late front man, Ian Curtis, and the audience—broken glasses and bloody noses included. Why did these happen? Well, other than the fact that it was considered punk rock, it was also a contest about who was cooler: the audience or the band? The band would stage dive and start fights if the audience seemed square, and the audience would throw glass and spit on bands who they deemed unworthy.

However, those stories were around 50-years-ago. More recently, party anthem musician Andrew W.K. played a Juggalo concert and had some trouble with the audience. If you don’t know, a “Gathering of the Juggalo’s” is an event revolving around the band Insane Clown Posse, and “juggalos” and “juggalettes” are their fans.

Known for his songs about feeling good and partying, Andrew W.K. played at a Juggalo concert back in 2008 and the crowd was not having it. They threw rocks, trash, and even entire trashcans at him. The trooper and optimistic musician he is, Andrew W.K. literally kept playing and had a great time on stage like nothing was wrong.

Even more recently, in 2014, rumors started swirling around child star Macaulay Culkin’s pizza-infused Velvet Underground tribute band, Pizza Underground, that they were absolutely despised in Europe.

The rumor probably started after their show in Nottingham, England when the crowd started booing at them for changing the lyric in the classic song “It’s A Perfect Day” to “It’s A Pizza Day.” They ended up playing for only 15 minutes before Culkin got sick of the full pints of beers being thrown at them and shouted “show’s over” and stormed right off.

It’s a band called Pizza Underground; what did the audience expect?

Brian McManus, special projects editor at Vice Magazine, was guitarist in a band back in the ‘90s/00s, called Fatal Flying Guilloteens (FFG). This was a band that blossomed from the grunge and punk scene that had already made its mark in the music world, when moshing was a well-known crowd reaction.

McManus remembers his time in FFG and the constant clashes they would have with their audiences.

“Basically we just existed to fight,” he tells BTRtoday. “We fought other bands, we fought with police, we fought one another, but mostly we fought with crowds.”

He recalls one story in particular where he thought the whole band might be ripped to shreds. They were in L.A. and, surprisingly, they hadn’t done their usual teasing of the crowd. They just went up on stage, played their music, and that was that. McManus says the crowd actually really loved it. “Rowdy, but peaceful,” he claims.

One of the fans approached them after the show at the merch table and invited the band to play at a show he was playing later that night with his band, The Flash Express. They weren’t too keen on the idea, but someone told them the venue was a strip club featured in Mötley Crüe’s “Girls, Girls, Girls” music video, so it would be a good opportunity. (Though, McManus confesses he’s still not sure if that was even true).

FFG’s lead singer, during their first song, hopped onto the stage with the strippers, and apparently, that was a big no-no. McManus explains that one of the strippers started choking the singer with her bra and security then pounced. “We managed to break Shawn [lead singer of FFG] free, but by then the crowd and The Flash Express had turned on us,” he says.

McManus was using a guitar that The Flash Express had lent to him, apparently a prized possession he deduced since the band handed it off to him and said, “you hurt it, I hurt you.” A piece of information that came in handy, because McManus was able to use the guitar as a shield for him and the band once the crowd started throwing drinks and punches at them. He held it up in front of them as they slowly walked through the crowd towards the exit.

They sprinted to the van and McManus left the guitar there by the door. “The crowd gave chase, some of them pounding on our windows—we pulled out and left them running behind,” he elaborates. “We thankfully made it out alive. Flash Express never got signed to Estrus [FFG’s record label] and that guitar was presumably sold for drug money.”

This is a phenomenon that has always happened to musicians, and always will. There will always be that one person in the audience that riles everybody up—whether it’s in a positive way or negative.

BTRtoday reached out to drummer/lead singer of the well-known hardcore punk band Code Orange. He responded stating they have one too many stories of scuffles that him and the band have gotten into with their audiences. However, he stopped himself, stating he probably shouldn’t continue, because he didn’t want to get sued again. Hardcore punk is known for the rowdiness of fans and the overly aggressiveness of shows.

If you attend live rock and roll shows or punk shows, then you will definitely encounter a crowd-on-artists physical brawl—no doubt about it! If you’re more of a jazz, indie, pop, or any of those less aggressive genres, then it’s less likely for that crowd to turn on the entertainment. However, crowds can feel too cool for school at any time, in any genre, and aggression may ensue—don’t say we didn’t warn you!