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12 Concerts That Ended in Pandemonium or Riots

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1. Daniel Auber, La Muette de Portici

Auber’s five-act opera (the title translates as The Mute Girl of Portici), regarded as the earliest French grand opera, was a revolutionary work in the most literal sense. It debuted in Paris in 1828, but it was its revival two years later that stirred the fires of freedom. In August, a month after the French Revolution of 1830, it was performed in Brussels. During the opera’s patriotic duet “Amour sacré de la patrie,” a riot broke out in the theater and became the rallying signal for the Belgian Revolution. Within four months, Belgium had seceded from rule by the Netherlands and been recognized as an independent nation.

2. Igor Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring

The Parisian audience that turned out for the ballet on May 29, 1913, was accustomed to music and dancing that was graceful, pretty, and elegant. Stravinsky hit them with dissonant notes, strange harmonies, and weird choreography that had dancers striking angular positions, then hitting the floor in bone-jarring heaps. It was more World Wrestling Federation than Swan Lake. The audience fidgeted. They booed. And as arguments broke out amongst the crowd about the merits of Stravinsky’s work, punches were thrown. Police were called in, as the composer fled the theater in shock.

3. Erik Satie, Parade

A collaboration between Erik Satie, Pablo Picasso and Jean Cocteau, this ballet was about circus performers trying to attract an audience to a show. Given the authors, it was naturally an unorthodox presentation. Some of Picasso’s cubist-inspired costumes were solid cardboard, restricting the dancers’ movements. The orchestra included such non-instruments as a typewriter, a foghorn and a milk bottle. And the score incorporated a ragtime section. When it debuted in 1917, audiences booed and walked out of the theater. One critic penned such a harsh review that Satie sent him a postcard that read “Sir and dear friend—you are an arse, an arse without music!” The critic sued Satie, and at the trial, fellow author Cocteau was beaten by police for repeatedly yelling “arse” in the courtroom. Satie was sentenced to eight days in jail.

4. Hans Werner Henze, The Raft of the Medusa



Henze and writing partner Ernst Schnabel wrote this piece as a requiem for revolutionary Che Guevara. That should’ve been an indication that there was trouble ahead. During its debut performance in Hamburg, Germany in 1968, a student hung a poster of Che over the balcony. An official tore it down. Other students raised a red flag and a second portrait of Che. Then anarchists in the audience raised black flags. Scuffles ensued between the two groups. The police arrived. Students were hauled off, as was Schnabel. The premiere was cancelled.

5. Steve Reich, Four Organs

The constant shaking of a maraca. The stabs of repeating chords from four electric organs. Slowly, the chords are deconstructed, causing overlapping notes and dissonance. When modern composer Reich’s piece was performed at Carnegie Hall in 1973, some audience members yelled for the music to stop, while others applauded, hoping to end the piece prematurely. One woman walked down the aisle and repeatedly banged her head against the stage, crying, “Stop, I confess.”

6. Suicide and Elvis Costello

In Brussels in 1978, when Elvis Costello’s opening act Suicide took the stage, the avant garde duo had no guitars or drums. Instead, over strange repetitive keyboard loops, front man Alan Vega spoke and sang in a monotone voice. The audience booed, heckled, and eventually stole Vega’s microphone. Elvis Costello was so disgusted that he delivered an abbreviated set, then walked off stage. The crowd erupted in a riot. Police arrived with tear gas. Suicide later released a bootleg of their set, called 23 Minutes Over Brussels.

7. The Cure

Sometimes the riot happens on stage. In 1982, at the end of their Pornography tour, The Cure closed their show with a 15-minute freeform jam entitled “The Cure Is Dead.” During the song, one of the band’s roadies, Gary Biddles, grabbed the mic and unleashed a foul-mouthed tirade against singer Robert Smith and drummer Lol Tolhurst. Smith threw drumsticks at Biddle. A band fight ensued on stage. Bassist Simon Gallup quit the group that night. Later he rejoined, and 30 years later is still a member.

8. Hanatarashi

The name of this ‘80s-era band from Osaka translates as “snot-nosed,” which should give you an idea that they didn’t play pretty ballads and love songs. Their live shows included Molotov cocktails, machetes (used to cut dead cats in half), and circular saws (strapped to band members’ backs). And in their most infamous performance ever, nicknamed “The Bulldozer Show,” front man Yamantaka Eye destroyed part of a venue with a backhoe bulldozer. The band was banned from performing in Japan for years, but made a less destructive comeback in the ‘90s.

9. Pavement

In the summer of 1995, when the Lollapalooza Festival came to Charles Town, West Virginia, it was a hot, dry day. The audience was hosed down, and a gleeful, muddy mosh pit resulted. But Pavement, with their low-key shoegazey sound, was the wrong band to provide the soundtrack. The crowd got restless and hurled mud balls and rocks at the stage. The band walked off, but not before bassist Scott “Spiral Stairs” Kannberg dropped his trousers and mooned the audience.

10. Frank Zappa


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On December 4, 1971, Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention were playing Montreux Casino in Lake Geneva, Switzerland. During the encore, someone in the crowd fired a Roman candle into the ceiling of the venue. A canopy hanging from the balcony ignited. Flames spread quickly. As the balcony collapsed, the audience panicked. Zappa’s roadies smashed a plate glass window at the side of the stage and helped fans to safety. Fortunately, no one was killed and there were only a few minor injuries. But the venue burned to the ground. And as it did, escaped audience members Deep Purple got the inspiration for their biggest hit, “Smoke On The Water.”

11. Rolling Stones

In 1969, when the Stones arrived by helicopter at California’s Altamont Speedway for the huge free outdoor festival, Mick Jagger was immediately confronted by an angry fan who screamed “I hate you,” then punched him in the mouth. That set the tone for what unfolded. For the event’s security, the Hells Angels had been hired (either by the Stones, or on recommendation from the Grateful Dead). They had a violent way of crowd control, beating people with pool cues and punching them bloody. When audience member Meredith Hunter, 18, tried to get onstage during the Stones’ set, then pulled a gun, Hells Angel Alan Passaro stabbed and killed him. The Stones escaped the mayhem by helicopter. Passaro was later tried for murder but acquitted for acting in self-defense. Altamont is often cited as the death of the love and idealism of the 1960s.

12 Wavves

Wavves—the duo of young California musicians Nathan Williams and Ryan Ulsh—didn’t have much stage experience when they were invited to play Barcelona’s Primavera Festival in 2009. Mix that with alcohol, ecstasy, and valium, and it all made for Williams’s infamous YouTube viral moment (above, and not safe for work) where he baited the audience and berated the soundman. Wavves’ subsequent European tour was cancelled. Ulsh quit. Williams has since reformed the group.

For 12-12-12, we’ll be posting twenty-four '12 lists' throughout the day. Check back 12 minutes after every hour for the latest installment, or see them all here.

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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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8 Common Dog Behaviors, Decoded
May 25, 2017
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Dogs are a lot more complicated than we give them credit for. As a result, sometimes things get lost in translation. We’ve yet to invent a dog-to-English translator, but there are certain behaviors you can learn to read in order to better understand what your dog is trying to tell you. The more tuned-in you are to your dog’s emotions, the better you’ll be able to respond—whether that means giving her some space or welcoming a wet, slobbery kiss. 

1. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with his legs and body relaxed and tail low. His ears are up, but not pointed forward. His mouth is slightly open, he’s panting lightly, and his tongue is loose. His eyes? Soft or maybe slightly squinty from getting his smile on.

What it means: “Hey there, friend!” Your pup is in a calm, relaxed state. He’s open to mingling, which means you can feel comfortable letting friends say hi.

2. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with her body leaning forward. Her ears are erect and angled forward—or have at least perked up if they’re floppy—and her mouth is closed. Her tail might be sticking out horizontally or sticking straight up and wagging slightly.

What it means: “Hark! Who goes there?!” Something caught your pup’s attention and now she’s on high alert, trying to discern whether or not the person, animal, or situation is a threat. She’ll likely stay on guard until she feels safe or becomes distracted.

3. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing, leaning slightly forward. His body and legs are tense, and his hackles—those hairs along his back and neck—are raised. His tail is stiff and twitching, not swooping playfully. His mouth is open, teeth are exposed, and he may be snarling, snapping, or barking excessively.

What it means: “Don’t mess with me!” This dog is asserting his social dominance and letting others know that he might attack if they don’t defer accordingly. A dog in this stance could be either offensively aggressive or defensively aggressive. If you encounter a dog in this state, play it safe and back away slowly without making eye contact.

4. What you’ll see: As another dog approaches, your dog lies down on his back with his tail tucked in between his legs. His paws are tucked in too, his ears are flat, and he isn’t making direct eye contact with the other dog standing over him.

What it means: “I come in peace!” Your pooch is displaying signs of submission to a more dominant dog, conveying total surrender to avoid physical confrontation. Other, less obvious, signs of submission include ears that are flattened back against the head, an avoidance of eye contact, a tongue flick, and bared teeth. Yup—a dog might bare his teeth while still being submissive, but they’ll likely be clenched together, the lips opened horizontally rather than curled up to show the front canines. A submissive dog will also slink backward or inward rather than forward, which would indicate more aggressive behavior.

5. What you’ll see: Your dog is crouching with her back hunched, tail tucked, and the corner of her mouth pulled back with lips slightly curled. Her shoulders, or hackles, are raised and her ears are flattened. She’s avoiding eye contact.

What it means: “I’m scared, but will fight you if I have to.” This dog’s fight or flight instincts have been activated. It’s best to keep your distance from a dog in this emotional state because she could attack if she feels cornered.

6. What you’ll see: You’re staring at your dog, holding eye contact. Your dog looks away from you, tentatively looks back, then looks away again. After some time, he licks his chops and yawns.

What it means: “I don’t know what’s going on and it’s weirding me out.” Your dog doesn’t know what to make of the situation, but rather than nipping or barking, he’ll stick to behaviors he knows are OK, like yawning, licking his chops, or shaking as if he’s wet. You’ll want to intervene by removing whatever it is causing him discomfort—such as an overly grabby child—and giving him some space to relax.

7. What you’ll see: Your dog has her front paws bent and lowered onto the ground with her rear in the air. Her body is relaxed, loose, and wiggly, and her tail is up and wagging from side to side. She might also let out a high-pitched or impatient bark.

What it means: “What’s the hold up? Let’s play!” This classic stance, known to dog trainers and behaviorists as “the play bow,” is a sign she’s ready to let the good times roll. Get ready for a round of fetch or tug of war, or for a good long outing at the dog park.

8. What you’ll see: You’ve just gotten home from work and your dog rushes over. He can’t stop wiggling his backside, and he may even lower himself into a giant stretch, like he’s doing yoga.

What it means: “OhmygoshImsohappytoseeyou I love you so much you’re my best friend foreverandeverandever!!!!” This one’s easy: Your pup is overjoyed his BFF is back. That big stretch is something dogs don’t pull out for just anyone; they save that for the people they truly love. Show him you feel the same way with a good belly rub and a handful of his favorite treats.

The best way to say “I love you” in dog? A monthly subscription to BarkBox. Your favorite pup will get a package filled with treats, toys, and other good stuff (and in return, you’ll probably get lots of sloppy kisses). Visit BarkBox to learn more.

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