When Fans Attack


"What's the story, dude? (Kyle Gustafson).

By now you've surely seen and read about what happened over the weekend at Virgin Festival Eh? Edition in Canada: some dude ran on stage during Oasis's's's set and pushed guitarist Noel Gallagher to the ground. It wasn't Jay-Z and it wasn't Damon Albarn -- it was just some random "punter." (Kudos to Post Rock contributor Kyle Gustafson for that one; he was actually in Toronto to capture it all.) And it was a pretty violent take-down. Gallagher and Oasis managed to finish the rest of the set after a 10-minute break, but he went to the hospital after the show and might have a fractured rib.

Agitating a performer on stage is not something that has ever made sense to me, but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen fairly regularly. Most of the time, the fans who make their way past security and on stage just want to 1) jump off it and into the crowd; 2) hug/bow down before their hero (see: Morrissey); and/or 3) gyrate while showing off their impressive magic-marker-on-body writing skills (see: Soy Bomb). Most of the more serious incidents happen at festivals, which makes sense. You have an increased meathead factor combined with people who aren't necessarily fans of the performer. My memory might be failing me -- in fact I'm pretty sure it is -- but I can't remember witnessing any on-stage attacks in person, perhaps because I stopped going to festivals for a decade. Here are some memorable rowdy fan moments that I do remember, though. Seen any good ones yourself? Do share.

Smashing Pumpkins, Lollapalooza 1994
This was an attack of shoes. It was raining sneakers during the band's headlining set at Charlestown Race Track in West Virginia. Finally, after one too many hit his guitar, Billy Corgan had had enough. I'm paraphrasing here, but I remember his diatribe as something like: "If any of you [expletive] throw any more [expetive] shoes up here we're going to walk off the [expletive] stage and you don't want to be the little [expletive] who gets our [expletive] set cut short."

Jewel, HFStival 1995
This was an attack of the Frisbees. Remember when Jewel first emerged and she was somehow "alternative"? That was weird. Anyway, she made a cameo during the '95 HFStival, and while she was just trying to play her gentle folk tunes, the concertgoers were just trying to throw Frisbees at her. A few of them glanced off her guitar, until finally one of them hit her ... well, you've seen Jewel, you can guess where it probably hit her. She didn't pull a Corgan; she simply said, "Thanks." And then walked off stage.

Pavement, Lollapalooza 1995
This was an attack of mud, at the same Charlestown Race Track where Smashing Pumpkins were pelted with shoes. (Pavement would have been on that previous year's Lollapalooza bill, but alas, Stephen Malkmus had to get all catty on "Range Life.") It was oppressively hot that day, so why not cool down the crowd by hosing them down? Brilliant idea, except that it created a mud pit. And that mud pit quickly turned to mud globs, which were hurled at my heroes. They tried to fight through it, but eventually gave up -- though not before Spiral Stairs mooned the audience. (Video proof linked above.)

By David Malitz |  September 9, 2008; 11:26 AM ET Crowds
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Huh - I was at the Pumpkins gig, but don't remember that, I must have left early.

Posted by: Hemisphire | September 9, 2008 1:37 PM

I do remember the guy who tried to bearbug Iggy Pop at V-Fest '08 here. Well, the one before Iggy was inviting everyone on stage. I don't understand it either, nor do I understand people who fight with security. You can't find, and you'll get a heavy beatdown for yoru trouble.

Posted by: EricS | September 9, 2008 2:18 PM

Former Pantera guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott was actually killed onstage back in 2004.

Posted by: Jumbo Slice | September 9, 2008 3:03 PM

And Bobby Black of The Black Plague died during an on-stage pyrotechnic stunt.

Posted by: Steve | September 9, 2008 3:58 PM

I remember an outdoor Black Crowes show in Massachusetts where Chris Robinson had several bottles thrown at him. One of them almost hit him in the head. Needless to say, he was pissed, and stopped the show twice to calm down the crowd. Mud and sneakers are annyoing, but glass bottles are dangerous.

Posted by: Stoned and Dethroned | September 10, 2008 9:31 AM

Seems like the common thread to these stories is: Smashing Pumpkins deserve stuff thrown at them.

Sounds about right.

Posted by: Old Fat Bald Chick Magnet | September 10, 2008 5:09 PM

Growing up going to concerts in Philly, I saw a couple overly rowdy fan situations. Apparently, it's not just a Philly sports fan thing.

First was at my very first concert, seeing Primus in 1995 I think. Les got hit with a mosher's shoe while playing Jerry Was a Racecar Driver for the band's encore. He stopped and just walked off stage, leaving the guitarist and bassist somewhat confused before they got up and left too. Then everyone came back shortly thereafter, Les made a comment about the shoe thrower's genitalia, they finished playing Jerry, and called it a night.

2nd rowdy crowd moment happened when I saw the Cows, opening for Primus a year or so later. (what's with Primus fans?) After the Cows played for a little while, the crowd wasn't enjoying the set and there were some boos. The Cows singer responded by saying something along the lines of "Thanks, we just have 10 more songs to play" to which the crowd responded with a barrage of bottles flying at the stage. Cow's singer: "This is our last song"

Posted by: PS | September 11, 2008 10:20 AM

Speaking of shoes I just remembered a kidna funny incident at the 9:30 CLub a few years ago. Queens of the Stone Age were playing and someone through a shoe at Josh Homme and Homme actually called the guy out in the middle of playing and invited him onstage for a fight. Fight never happened, though it could have been entertaining.

Posted by: EricS | September 11, 2008 10:34 AM

I was at a Foo Fighters show at UAlbany back in 1997, and of course as soon as "Big Me" started up, people started tossing entire rolls of mentos up at the stage. About halfway through, Dave stops, bends down to pick something up, and in a very annoyed voice started yelling "OK, who's the cheap motherf***** throwing Skittles? Who are you?" Fun moment, crappy song.

Posted by: Mark | September 11, 2008 12:11 PM

Joe Jackson walked offstage after half an hour of playing after a bottle hit his marimba player in Toronto in the early '80s at the CNE opening for the Who - so instead of a 90 minute set, we got canned music for an extra hour - didn't make the Who come in any earlier.

Heard later that the Clash opening for them on the same tour in Buffalo had similar crowd problems.

Posted by: Who? | September 12, 2008 9:27 AM

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