But, let’s face it, had it not gone down at such a highly publicized, massively attended event like Bonnaroo, it wouldn’t have been that big of a deal. At the same time, who doesn’t love a good onstage meltdown? Danzig’s recent tantrum is kid stuff compared to some of the great onstage antics of the last 50 years. Sometimes an obnoxious crowd member is asking for it. Sometimes the performer has had a few too many. And sometimes, you’ve got a cranky, road-weary, drug-addled musician at his or her breaking point. Am I the only one who would have paid good money to see these “sub-par” shows?
1. The Everly Brothers break up on stage
During a show in Hollywood, the Billboard Hot 100’s best-selling duo of all time broke up onstage when Don Everly was too wasted to remember the words or play the songs correctly. His brother Phil smashed his guitar mid-set and promised the world he would “never get onstage with that man again." I haven't found any YouTube vids of this, leading me to believe iPhones were not yet capable of capturing video at this time.
2. Axl Rose camera grab in St. Louis
During a Guns ‘n Roses show in St. Louis in July of 1991, frontman and meltdown master Axl Rose one-upped Danzig exponentially when he spotted a guy in the front few rows illegally videotaping the show. He screamed at security to “get that guy!” before diving into the crowd headfirst to do it himself. After being pulled back onstage by security, he tossed down the mic, insulted the venue’s security, left the stage, taking the band with him, and ended the show. Did it stop there? Hell no. After the house lights came on 10 minutes later, the crowd proceeded to riot, caused a few million bucks in structural damage and sent about 60 people to the hospital.
3. Ben Weasel punches a girl at SXSW
So maybe it’s not quite as legendary, but counting the Danzig incident, this makes two infamous meltdowns I witnessed in person. At Screeching Weasel’s 2011 SXSW performance, Weasel griped at length about the festival, journalists in attendance, and a whole bunch of other shit before getting hit in the face with a piece of ice during their encore. A bit of squabbling and antagonizing on both ends eventually led to Weasel punching a girl in the face and him being dragged off stage. The revamped band had only just started the album cycle for their latest and hasn’t played a show since. Though apparently that’s all the band had to do in their 30 year on/off existence to get featured in both Rolling Stone and Spin in the same month.
4. Keith Moon passes out onstage
You’ve heard this one. Just after opening the show with “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” the legendary Keith Moon topples from his drum throne and passes out cold. Eventually, a 19-year-old audience member comes up and finishes the set.
5. Jemina Pearl makes a guy bleed in Detroit
A heckler in Detroit flicking lit cigarettes at Jemina Pearl during a Detroit show got his ass kicked by Pearl at the end of the set. As this bro discovered, you mess with the bull, you get the horns.
6. Ryan Adams pays a guy to leave The Ryman
At our very own Mother Church of Country Music in 2001, a Ryman heckler consistently requested “Summer of ’69” — a Bryan Adams song, because, you know, "Bryan" sounds like "Ryan" — throughout Ryan Adams’ solo acoustic set, prompting the moody crooner to come down to the pews and literally pay the heckler $40 to leave. Adams has since claimed he didn’t care about the Bryan Adams thing and that the guy was just being drunk and loud. To be fair, both sound equally annoying. He also called The Ryman a “shithole” and claims security reseated the guy after the incident, inciting a round of applause from the audience.
7. Caleb Followill takes a vomit break
Shortly after pooping pigeons cut the band's set mad short in St. Louis, Kings of Leon’s Caleb Followill was having a little trouble singing at their show in Houston. After asking the audience to help a little, he announced he was gonna go vomit, drink a beer, come back and play three songs — allegedly only following up with the first two out of the three.
8. Gene Ween melts down in Vancouver
Gener (aka Gene Ween, aka Aaron Freeman) had already mucked up a few shows on the way to this one. During the set, he’d missed a few stops and starts, forgotten a few lyrics, and sang most of the songs in a high, nails-on-chalkboard pitch until the rest of the band left the stage. Freeman checked into rehab shortly after and sadly, recently, as you should well know, disbanded Ween as we know it indefinitely.
9. Sebastian Bach gets hit by a bottle, does not like it.
Consistent reports on this incident are tough to find via Google. If I recall correctly via MTV News flashbacks, a guy from the audience in Springfield, Mass., circa '89 threw a bottle and hit Bach in the face during a Skid Row Set. He made a savvy segue into the song "Piece of Me" before throwing the bottle back, hitting the wrong guy — or girl, rather — square in the face.
10. Jay Reatard punches a guy in the face in Toronto
From what I’ve heard of the hassles involved with crossing the Canadian border, maybe that’s to blame for so many American bands losing their shit onstage in the Great White North. Not sure of the particulars of this one, but knowing what I know about Jay, it wouldn’t have taken much to lure a knuckle sandwich out of him.