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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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Design
How Cambodian Refugees Started the Pink Doughnut Box Trend
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Like the red-and-green cardboard pizza boxes or white Chinese takeout containers, many doughnut boxes share a certain look regardless of where you buy them. This is especially true in Southern California: Order a dozen crullers from one of the region's many independently-run doughnut shops and you’ll likely receive them in a glossy pink box. According to Great Big Story, this trend can be traced back to an influential immigrant business owner.

In the 1970s, Ted Ngoy moved to Southern California as a refugee from Cambodia. Much of Los Angeles's current doughnut scene is thanks to him: He opened dozens of doughnut shops of his own and helped fellow Cambodian refugees in the area get started in the business. Along with passing down entrepreneurial advice, he also inspired them to choose the light pink boxes that he used in his stores. As Ngoy recalled years later, either he or his business partner, Ning Yen, started the trend after asking their supplier for a cheaper alternative to the traditional white boxes. The company was able to offer them pink boxes at a discount. Because red is considered a lucky color in many Asian cultures, the distinctive shade stuck.

Today, many doughnut places in L.A. County are still owned by Cambodian-American immigrants and their families, and they still use the same old-school packaging Ngoy and his partner popularized 40 years ago.

You can get the full origin story in the video below.

[h/t Great Big Story]

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Pop Culture
Fumbled: The Story of the United States Football League
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There were supposed to be 44 players marching to the field when the visiting Los Angeles Express played their final regular season game against the Orlando Renegades in June 1985.

Thirty-six of them showed up. The team couldn’t afford more.

“We didn’t even have money for tape,” Express quarterback Steve Young said in 1986. “Or ice.” The squad was so poor that Young played fullback during the game. They only had one, and he was injured.

Other teams had ridden school buses to practice, driven three hours for “home games,” or shared dressing room space with the local rodeo. In August 1986, the cash-strapped United States Football League called off the coming season. The league itself would soon vaporize entirely after gambling its future on an antitrust lawsuit against the National Football League. The USFL argued the NFL was monopolizing television time; the NFL countered that the USFL—once seen as a promising upstart—was being victimized by its own reckless expansion and the wild spending of team owners like Donald Trump.

They were both right.

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Spring football. That was David Dixon’s pitch. The New Orleans businessman and football advocate—he helped get the Saints in his state—was a fan of college ball and noticed that spring scrimmages at Tulane University led to a little more excitement in the air. With a fiscally responsible salary cap in place and a 12-team roster, he figured his idea could be profitable. Market research agreed: a hired broadcast research firm asserted 76 percent of fans would watch what Dixon had planned.

He had no intention of grappling with the NFL for viewers. That league’s season aired from September through January, leaving a football drought March through July. And in 1982, a players’ strike led to a shortened NFL season, making the idea of an alternative even more appealing to networks. Along with investors for each team region, Dixon got ABC and the recently-formed ESPN signed to broadcast deals worth a combined $35 million over two years.

When the Chicago Blitz faced the Washington Federals on the USFL’s opening day March 6, 1983, over 39,000 fans braved rain at RFK Stadium in Washington to see it. The Federals lost 28-7, foreshadowing their overall performance as one of the league’s worst. Owner Berl Bernhard would later complain the team played like “untrained gerbils.”

Anything more coordinated might have been too expensive. The USFL had instituted a strict $1.8 million salary cap that first year to avoid franchise overspending, but there were allowances made so each team could grab one or two standout rookies. In 1983, the big acquisition was Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker, who opted out of his senior year at Georgia to turn pro. Walker signed with the New Jersey Generals in a three-year, $5 million deal.

Jim Kelly and Steve Young followed. Stan White left the Detroit Lions. Marcus Dupree left college. The rosters were built up from scratch using NFL cast-offs or prospects from nearby colleges, where teams had rights to “territorial” drafts.

To draw a line in the sand, the USFL had advertising play up the differences between the NFL’s product and their own. Their slogan, “When Football Was Fun,” was a swipe at the NFL’s increasingly draconian rules regarding players having any personality. They also advised teams to run a series of marketable halftime attractions. The Denver Gold once offered a money-back guarantee for attendees who weren’t satisfied. During one Houston Gamblers game, boxer George Foreman officiated a wedding. Cars were given away at Tampa Bay Bandits games. The NFL, the upstart argued, stood for the No Fun League.

For a while, it appeared to be working. The Panthers, which had invaded the city occupied by the Detroit Lions, averaged 60,000 fans per game, higher than their NFL counterparts. ABC was pleased with steady ratings. The league was still conservative in their spending.

That would change—many would argue for the worse—with the arrival of Donald Trump.

Despite Walker’s abilities on the field, his New Jersey Generals ended the inaugural 1983 season at 6-12, one of the worst records in the league. The excitement having worn off, owner J. Walter Duncan decided to sell the team to real estate investor Trump for a reported $5-9 million.

A fixture of New York media who was putting the finishing touches on Trump Tower, Trump introduced two extremes to the USFL. His presence gave the league far more press attention than it had ever received, but his bombastic approach to business guaranteed he wouldn’t be satisfied with an informal salary cap. Trump spent and spent some more, recruiting players to improve the Generals. Another Heisman winner, quarterback Doug Flutie, was signed to a five-year, $7 million contract, the largest in pro football at the time. Trump even pursued Lawrence Taylor, then a player for the New York Giants, who signed a contract saying that, after his Giants contract expired, he’d join Trump’s team. The Giants wound up buying out the Taylor/Trump contract for $750,000 and quadrupled Taylor’s salary, and Trump wound up with pages of publicity.

Trump’s approach was effective: the Generals improved to 14-4 in their sophomore season. But it also had a domino effect. In order to compete with the elevated bar of talent, other team owners began spending more, too. In a race to defray costs, the USFL approved six expansion teams that paid a buy-in of $6 million each to the league.

It did little to patch the seams. Teams were so cash-strapped that simple amenities became luxuries. The Michigan Panthers dined on burnt spaghetti and took yellow school buses to training camp; players would race to cash checks knowing the last in line stood a chance of having one bounce. When losses became too great, teams began to merge with one another: The Washington Federals became the Orlando Renegades. By the 1985 season, the USFL was down to 14 teams. And because the ABC contract required the league to have teams in certain top TV markets, ABC started withholding checks.

Trump was unmoved. Since taking over the Generals, he had been petitioning behind the scenes for the other owners to pursue a shift to a fall season, where they would compete with the NFL head on. A few owners countered that fans had already voiced their preference for a spring schedule. Some thought it would be tantamount to league suicide.

Trump continued to push. By the end of the 1984 season, he had swayed opinion enough for the USFL to plan on one final spring block in 1985 before making the move to fall in 1986.

In order to make that transition, they would have to win a massive lawsuit against the NFL.

In the mid-1980s, three major networks meant that three major broadcast contracts would be up for grabs—and the NFL owned all three. To Trump and the USFL, this constituted a monopoly. They filed suit in October 1984. By the time it went to trial in May 1986, the league had shrunk from 18 teams to 14, hadn’t hosted a game since July 1985, kept only threadbare rosters, and was losing what existing television deals it had by migrating to smaller markets (a major part of the NFL’s case was that the real reason for the lawsuit, and the moves to smaller markets, was to make the league an attractive takeover prospect for the NFL). The ruling—which could have forced the NFL to drop one of the three network deals—would effectively become the deciding factor of whether the USFL would continue operations.

They came close. A New York jury deliberated for 31 hours over five days. After the verdict, jurors told press that half believed the NFL was guilty of being a monopoly and were prepared to offer the USFL up to $300 million in damages; the other half thought the USFL had been crippled by its own irresponsible expansion efforts. Neither side would budge.

To avoid a hung jury, it was decided they would find in favor of the USFL but only award damages in the amount of $1. One juror told the Los Angeles Times that she thought it would be an indication for the judge to calculate proper damages.

He didn’t. The USFL was awarded treble damages for $3 in total, an amount that grew slightly with interest after time for appeal. The NFL sent them a payment of $3.76. (Less famously, the NFL was also ordered to pay $5.5 million in legal fees.)

Rudy Shiffer, vice-president of the Memphis Showboats, summed up the USFL's fate shortly after the ruling was handed down. “We’re dead,” he said.

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