As the ongoing rehab-filled, tour-cancelling saga of Green Day vs. Billie Joe Armstrong has shown us, being a rockstar may be a fun job, but it’s also a high-pressure, demanding marathon. Copious intoxicant consumption and incredibly difficult personalities make the gig even more difficult. And usually all this negative energy builds to a breaking point on stage. The result is commonly known as a ‘meltdown’ – when it’s all too much for the performer, and the show can’t go on. So go our favorite taped incidents of the new millennium thus far, as well as lyrical antidotes for the bombing performers:
Kris Roe (of The Ataris) – Asbury Lanes in Asbury Park, NJ; October 7, 2012
The Ataris’ singer Kris Roe, unhappy with (now former) drummer Rob Felicetti’s performance at a bowling alley show in October 2012, stopped the show by throwing his guitar and most of Felicetti’s own drums at him, sayng that “there’s only so much shit (he) can take.” Roe alleged that Felicetti’s drinking caused him to regularly play poorly on this tour, while Felicetti responded that his recreational drinking is unrelated, and that he was just having an off-night. While both parties involved issued official video responses: a half-assed rant-pology from Roe and his awkwardly silent bandmates, and a lighthearted pseudo-press conference from Felicetti.
LYRICAL ANTIDOTE: Cee-Lo Green – “Fuck You”
Kris Roe, fuck you for ending a show that dangerously and unprofessionally. Throwing a kick drum, guitar, and cymbal (with stand) at a band-mate who is unable to properly defend himself (because he’s busy playing your shitty songs) is a great way to stay relevant nine years after releasing your only single (which you didn’t even write). When your band has so much turnover that the ex-members could make another Polyphonic Spree, maybe it’s time to consider that you’re the problem. All’s well that ends well, though; just like in Cee-Lo’s video, in the end things work out for Felicetti, with his new band Patent Pending recently winning the Billboard Battle of the Bands and The Ataris are still playing bowling alleys in New Jersey.
Billie Joe Armstrong (of Green Day) – iHeartRadio Festival; September 22, 2012
After being warned that Green Day had one minute left to play, frontman Billie Joe threw a fit later described by Velvet Revolver drummer Matt Sorum as the “most punk rock thing he has ever done.” In his tirade, Armstrong screamed about how he’s been around since 1988 and isn’t “fucking Justin Bieber,” therefore giving him the right to more set time.
LYRICAL ANTIDOTE: Ok Go – “Get Over It”
Get Over It!
As The Melvins’ Trevor Dunn has pointed out, Armstrong actually is Bieber. Green Day sold out twice in their career. Which is why they still manage to play huge arenas 24 years after their inception. Some say 1994’s mainstream Dookie was sell-out material, palatable to any angsty suburban preteen. And of course 2004’s radio-pasteurized American Idiot saw a complete loss in their original punk ethos, until they were wearing eyeliner full-time. Meanwhile, Armstrong’s rehab stint smells of a publicity stunt – he disrupted Green Day’s own status quo and they needed to save face, so they blamed it on the vague title of “substance abuse” and shipped him off. If he does indeed have a substance abuse problem, as drummer Tre Cool’s ex-wife and the band have conversely vouched for, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was driven to ‘use’ in part by what Green Day has become – the dolled-up harlequins of radio rock. He should, as Dunn and Ok Go suggest, check the ‘green’ in his wallet and ‘get over it.’
Nathan Williams (of Wavves) – Primavera Sound; May 28, 2009
Wavves front man Nathan Williams was too high on ecstasy and Valium to effectively play his set at Primavera 2009 in Barcelona, resulting in the pelting of bottles and shoes. After playing their self-titled song, then-drummer Ryan Ulsh ditched the gig in disgust.
LYRICAL ANTIDOTE: D12 – “Purple Pills”
I think I did too much
Williams shouldn’t be combining hard street drugs with hard prescription drugs before performing, unless he’s Keith Richards and can handle it. I’m sure when all your songs are about an endless summer of partying and freedom, there’s a certain bit of self-fulfilling hedonistic prophecy involved. Still, even if your job is to belt out simple, fuzzy noise-pop about getting fucked up, at least stay coherent enough to still do it. To be fair, Wavves became Pitchfork hipster-darling-famous very quickly, and Williams may have not been prepared for it.
Caleb Followill (of Kings of Leon) – Dallas, TX; July 29, 2011
In 2011, Caleb Followill had to bail mid-set so he could “go backstage, vomit, drink a beer, and come back to sing some more songs.” He only managed the first couple items on that list, and never returned – apparently his drinking had made finishing the set impossible. His bandmates were left to deal with a less-than-stoked crowd.
LYRIC ANTIDOTE: Eagles – “Take It Easy”
Take it easy
Caleb needs to take it easy with the drinking, obviously. Kings of Leon have never hid their partaking, and even put it on full display in their recent documentary. Still, after years of fame and touring, Caleb should know his own limits, and he’s been limping along for a while now. We saw him live twice in the two years prior to the meltdown, and both times he complained about how life on the road makes it hard to come out and play – translation, I’m once again too intoxicated or hungover to play for you, and I haven’t learned from my mistakes well enough to perform. Take it easy, Caleb.
Craig Nicholls (of The Vines) – The Late Show with David Letterman; August 19, 2002
While singer Craig Nicholls was well-known for unpredictable, erratic performances, this one took the cake. Nicholls suffered undiagnosed from Asperger’s Syndrome, and was getting fed up with the high-stress schedule brought on by “Get Free” (what cosmic irony), and snapped on live TV. Keep in mind that a “backwards peace sign” in Australia is the same thing as our “middle finger.”
Ride into the sun…
Nicholls was right when he penned those lyrics; he needed to ride into the sun and get free of that hectic calendar, and luckily, news of the performance largely forced him to do so.