How Axl Rose was accused of starting a riot
30 May 2021, 18:00
On 2 July 1991, a Guns N'Roses show in St Louis ended in chaos. Radio X looks at the times music events get out of hand.
The Guns N'Roses St Louis Riot, 1991
We could be here all night discussing the ructions between Guns N'Roses singer Axl Rose and his band, his audience, "The Man", and well… just about anyone and anything, really. But here's one that turned into a full-blown riot.
At a show in St Louis on 2 July 1991, Rose took exception to an unauthorised photographer in the audience. When the bouncers failed to remove the amateur snapper, Rose dived into the crowd to sort it out himself. Returning to the stage, he flounced: "Well, thanks to the lame-ass security, I'm going home!" The show ended and the audience decided to riot. Charges were filed against Rose, but it was decided that he wasn't to blame.
Woodstock 99 ends in flames
The short-lived Woodstock revival of the 90s did not quite match the peace and love sentiments of its 1969 father. In fact, it was quite the contrary in 1999. Due to high prices and poor facilities, an overarching feeling of animosity plagued the event. During the Red Hot Chili Peppers' set, huge fires broke out, with the crowd fanning the flames. After things got out of control, state troopers were called and a riot ensued. Watching all of this were poor young Muse, who were playing one of their first US shows.
Michael Eavis had always allowed travellers onto the Worthy Farm site to set up an "alternative" area for free, but a tense stand off between them and festival security on the Monday of the 1990 festival ended in violence, 235 arrests and £50,000 worth of damage. There was no festival in 1991 and when Glastonbury returned in '92, there was a new, sturdier fence and although the travellers returned, they were not automatically allowed their own area.
Black Sabbath in Milwaukee, 1980
On 9 October 1980, the Ronnie James Dio-fronted Sabbath were playing a show at the Milwaukee Exposition Convention Center Arena with fellow rock gods Blue Oyster Cult. They were just about to start their third song when someone in the crowd chucked a beer bottle that hit bassist Geezer Butler - he was immediately taken to hospital forcing the cancellation of the show. Dio told the crowd: “We wanted to give a lot for you, but not our blood. If you don’t want to enjoy it, then tough sh*t!” The crowd rioted, ripped up chairs and generally trashed the venue, prompting 160 arrests. We strongly suspect that the riot that takes place on The Simpsons at a Spinal Tap show is based on this incident.
The Jesus And Mary Chain at North London Poly, 1985
Starting riots was The Jesus And Mary Chain's "thing". When they first started performing in 1983, a JAMC show consisted of 40 minutes of white noise and feedback, which didn't go down too well with audiences. Gigs would inevitably end in a ruckus. Eventually both audience and band got bored of this charade and the Mary Chain decided to perform more melodic music.
The Rolling Stones Blackpool riot, 1964
The Stones were used to rowdy audiences and their early shows often ended in chaos as fans tried to rush the stage. On 24 July 1964, the band were due to play the charming Winter Gardens in the seaside town of Blackpool. The support band The Executives were pelted with coins from fans who wanted to see the main attraction, but when the Stones finally arrived, guitarist Keith Richards was spat at by one male audience member who didn't like the look of the long-haired musician. Keith didn't like this and reportedly retaliated, causing a full-scale riot that saw the Rolling Stones banned from the venue for 44 years!
Public Image Limited in New York, 1981
Playing The Ritz in New York in 1981, PiL managed to cause quite a stir. After arriving late and making the audience wait in the rain, the band performed distorted versions of their tunes from behind a screen. All the while, John Lydon was taunting the audience, exclaiming how stupid they were for paying $12 to see them. Eventually things turned nasty and the show was abandoned. The lesson: don't mock your audience - they don't like it.