When Rock Shows Go Off the Rails

Posted: July 19, 2017 in Amazing and Interesting Stories, Music, Rock Music
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There are few things I like to do more than watch a live rock concert. Something about the energy, the whole vibe, just seeing someone performing music you love up close and in person is amazing.

I’ve been to hundreds of concerts in my life, and I’ve witnessed some crazy stuff. It’s always a special treat when things go off the rails a little though, ya know?

Without further ado, here’s some of the weirdest stuff I’ve seen at live shows . . .

Westerberg, man.

About 10-years ago I went to see Paul Westerberg at The Newport in Columbus, and it was a helluva show. The former front man for the legendary Replacements was outstanding, man. so much so that a friend of mine said this after the show:

“That’s the first time I ever felt like I was watching a real rock star.”

Amen, brother. Anyway, Westerberg was all over the stage, even laying on his back at one point as he played guitar, and performed all the good stuff as well as some offbeat covers such as “If I Had a Hammer” and “Daydream Believer”. But on to my point. About halfway through the show Westerberg was having some sort of trouble with his guitar strap and stopped to fix it. A roadie walked onstage to try and help, and Paul became unhinged. He turned and screamed, “Get the FU@K away from me!” The poor dude then sort of shuffled backwards off the stage, the venue got deathly quiet for a few seconds, and the Westerberg went back to the song as if nothing happened. Weird moment.

Dude loves his tambourine.

A couple years ago I was at a Gin Blossoms show in Columbus, and lead singer Robin Wilson handed his tambourine to a woman in the front row. I’d seen these guys a couple times before and knew it was part of the shtick, that the audience member would play it for awhile and hand it back to Wilson. This time, however, the idiot lady took it and vamoosed. As the band watched incredulously, Wilson finished the song and then lit into the tambourine thief, screaming something along the lines of, “You f**cking b**tch! Bring back my f**cking tambourine!” Dude was livid, man. Must have been his special tambourine or something. I mean, I know the Blossoms are 20-years passed their heyday but I figured they could afford more than one tambourine.

Note: I looked it up. They can cost up to $200 and more. Yikes.

Note 2: Who can’t play a tambourine? I mean really? I’d kill on a tambourine. Hell, I may buy a tambourine and join a band.

Back in the late 90s I went to see Dan Fogelberg. Yes, I liked Fogelberg. I’ve seen him a few times. So shoot me. Soft Rock never hurt anyone. Don’t judge, people. Besides, he’s dead now so you’re just being mean. Anyhoo, the opening band had finished and Fogelberg walked out to thunderous applause. He sat down at the piano, played a few notes, then slammed his hands on the keys and scared the bejesus out of everyone. Then got up and stormed off the stage. As we sat there in stunned silence, some poor roadie walked sheepishly out on the stage, played a few notes as he tuned (or retuned) the piano, then got up and walked/crawled/slithered back from whence he came. Then ol’ Dan came back out like nothing had happened and without  word of apology sat down and proceeded to play a blistering version of “Leader of the Band”, except not really because it’s a slow ballad. Anyway, surreal moment.

E.

I’ve seen The Eels several times, and lead singer Mark Oliver Everett is always a laid back guy. He interacts with the audience but he’s always really light-hearted and funny. However, even The Man Called E can be pushed over the edge. Well, sort of. A few years ago some jackass kept yelling at the top of his lungs during an Eels show. I mean this was going on during songs, during E’s talking and during quiet intervals. Finally, E had enough. He looked up to where the guy was in the balcony, took a deep breath, and said calmly, “Hey Screamy. If you don’t shut the hell up I’ve having you thrown the f**ck out of here.” Crowd roars, Screamy shuts up, problem solved.

Back around 1979 I watched Aerosmith in the Fairgrounds Coliseum in Columbus, Ohio. This was the infamous show where I ended up backstage on a couch with Steven Tyler and Joe Perry. Oh, and photos were taken, but that’s neither here nor there. Anyway, during that show I distinctly recall Steven and Joe nearly brawling onstage. No idea what caused it, but at one point I was fairly certain Perry was going to beat Tyler over the head with his 1960 Gibson Les Paul geetar. Good times.

At some point a bit before The Who tragedy at Riverfront Coliseum (my dates are a little fuzzy) I saw Led Zeppelin there. The whole festival seating/general admission thing was obviously in place, and it was pretty ugly. We got there real early, around 2:00 PM in order to get in line. The coliseum’s policy at the time was to open just 4 doors at around 6:30 PM (again, hazy) for the 8:00 show. We were right up front, and a little after 5:00 PM things began to get ugly. Remember, 4-doors for 12,000 people. Idiocy. People in the back began pressing forward and those of us in front were getting crushed against the doors. Guys were begging the security inside to open up, but they weren’t listening. A police chopper suddenly appeared and began hovering about 30-feet up, and a guy with a bullhorn was telling people to back up. Nobody was having it, and at one point I remember a beer bottle being thrown at the chopper and shattering off its side. By this time I was seriously in fear of not making it out of there. My arms were pressed against my sides so tightly that I couldn’t raise them. Occasionally my feet would rise off the ground and I’d have to completely go wherever the crowd took me. Scary stuff for sure. The worst part was when the crowd would start to lean and you feared getting crushed. It was hard to breathe and several people passed out but obviously didn’t fall down. Surreal as hell. Finally, an ignorant security guard did a dumb but ultimately good thing – he cracked a door open, ostensibly to tell somebody when the gates would open. At that point the door was ripped open and the crowd poured in. Glass was flying everywhere, and as I was being pushed through a guard reached out and ripped a flask from my neck, nearly slashing my throat. No tickets were taken and chaos ensued. After I got away from the rushing crowd, I sought out a cop and yelled, “If these people don’t start opening more doors somebody’s going to get killed here!” A prophetic statement, unfortunately. When the news came down months later that 11-people were killed at The Who show, I wasn’t surprised. I knew exactly what had taken place. Oh, and by the way, I scored a front row spot. Hey, it was Zep.

Speaking of that Who concert, yes, I had tickets. I know, I know, probably a million people claim they had tickets, but I did. Tom, Andy and I were on our way to Cincinnati, decided at the last minute to go to a party in Columbus, and the rest is history.

I once attended the “Frampton Comes Alive” tour,  a huge outdoor show in Florida. There were several bands before Frampton, and one of them was Kansas, of “Dust in the Wind” fame. They came out and it was clear from the get-go they were tanked. Just smashed, drunk and/or high as hell. Midway through song two they just turned and walked off the stage. The crowd basically rioted until something pretty cool happened. Rick Derringer, who had played a short set earlier, returned to the stage and started playing. Slowly the crowd got into it and eventually he was actually playing requests. That’s a true pro right there, and he saved everyone from a potentially nasty situation. When Frampton finally came out he thanked Derringer profusely and even called him back out for an encore. I’ll always have fond memories of Rick Derringer because of that day.

You see, rock shows, as in life, don’t always unfold as you might expect them to. And that what makes it fun, right?

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