CLOSE
Original image
Getty Images

12 Concerts That Ended in Pandemonium or Riots

Original image
Getty Images

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


Getty Images

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.

Original image
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
arrow
Weird
The Long, Strange Story of Buffalo Bill's Corpse
Original image
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

You probably know William Frederick Cody, a.k.a. Buffalo Bill, as the long-haired Wild West icon who turned the frontier experience into rip-roarin’ entertainment. But the story of Buffalo Bill’s body and its many burials is almost as outrageous as the man himself.

When Cody died of kidney failure in January 1917, his body ended up on a mountain outside of Denver, Colorado—a counterintuitive choice given his close ties to the town in Wyoming that bore his last name. Cody, Wyoming was founded in the 1890s with help from Buffalo Bill, who employed many of its residents and was responsible for its tourism business. It might seem natural that he’d be buried in the place he’d invested so much in, but he wasn’t. And that’s where the controversy began.

Though Cody spent much of his time in the town named after him, he also loved Colorado. After leaving his family in Kansas when he was just 11 to work with wagon trains throughout the West, he headed to Colorado for the first time as a 13-year-old wannabe gold prospector. During his short time in the area, he chased the glittery fortunes promised by Colorado’s 1859 gold rush. Even after leaving the territory, his traveling vaudeville show, which brought a glamorous taste of Wild West life to people all over the United States, took him back often. Later in life, he frequently visited Denver, where his sister lived. He died there, too—after telling his wife he wanted to be buried on Lookout Mountain.

The mountain, located in Golden, Colorado, has a commanding view of the Great Plains, where Buffalo Bill experienced many of his Wild West adventures. It was also a place to contemplate the giant herds of buffalo that once roamed the West, and from whom Cody took his nickname. (Denver still maintains a small herd of buffalo—direct descendants of original American bison—near the mountain.)

But weather almost thwarted Cody’s burial plans. Since he died in January, the road to Lookout Mountain was impassable and his preferred burial site frozen solid. For a while, his body lay in state in the Colorado Capitol building. Governors and famous friends eulogized Cody in an elaborate funeral service. Then his body was placed in a carriage that moved solemnly through the streets of Denver, where thousands showed up to say goodbye. Afterwards, his body was kept in cold storage at a Denver mortuary while his family waited for the weather to change.

Meanwhile, Colorado and Wyoming started a heated feud over one of America’s most famous men. Wyoming claimed that Cody should be buried there, citing an early draft of his will that said he intended to be buried near Cody. Colorado cried foul, since Cody’s last will left the burial location up to his widow, who chose Lookout Mountain. Rumors even began to circulate that a delegation from Wyoming had stolen Cody’s body from the mortuary and replaced it with that of a local vagrant.

In part to stop the rumor mill, Cody was finally buried in an open casket on Lookout Mountain in June 1917. Twenty-five thousand people went to the mountaintop to bid him farewell before he was interred. To prevent theft, the bronze casket was sealed in another, tamper-proof case, then enclosed in concrete and iron.

Pennies on Buffalo Bill's grave
V.T. Polywoda, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Yet his rocky grave was anything but safe. In the 1920s, Cody’s niece, Mary Jester Allen, began to claim that Denver had conspired to tamper with Cody’s will. In response, Cody’s foster son, Johnny Baker, disinterred the body and had it reburied at the same site under tons of concrete to prevent potential theft [PDF]. (Allen also founded a museum in Wyoming to compete with a Colorado-based museum founded by Baker.)

The saga wasn’t over yet. In 1948, the Cody, Wyoming American Legion offered a $10,000 reward to anyone who could disinter the body and return it to Wyoming. In response, the Colorado National Guard stationed officers to keep watch over the grave.

Since then, the tussle over the remains has calmed down. Despite a few ripples—like a jokey debate in the Wyoming legislature about stealing the body in 2006—Buffalo Bill still remains in the grave. If you believe the official story, that is. In Cody, Wyoming, rumor has it that he never made it into that cement-covered tomb after all—proponents claim he was buried on Cedar Mountain, where he originally asked to be interred.

Original image
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
arrow
science
15 Riveting Facts About Alan Turing
Original image
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

More than six decades after his death, Alan Turing’s life remains a point of fascination, even for people who have no interest in his groundbreaking work in computer science. He has been the subject of a play and an opera, and referenced in multiple novels and numerous musical albums. The Benedict Cumberbatch film about his life, The Imitation Game, received eight Oscar nominations. But just who was he in real life? Here are 15 facts you should know about Alan Turing.

1. HE’S THE FATHER OF MODERN COMPUTER SCIENCE.

Turing essentially pioneered the idea of computer memory. In 1936, Turing published a seminal paper called “On Computable Numbers” [PDF], which The Washington Post has called “the founding document of the computer age.” In the philosophical article, he hypothesized that one day, we could build machines that could compute any problem that a human could, using 0s and 1s. Turing proposed single-task machines called Turing machines that would be capable of solving just one type of math problem, but a “universal computer” would be able to tackle any kind of problem thrown at it by storing instructional code in the computer’s memory. Turing’s ideas about memory storage and using a single machine to carry out all tasks laid the foundation for what would become the digital computer.

In 1945, while working for the UK’s National Physical Laboratory, he came up with the Automatic Computing Machine, the first digital computer with stored programs. Previous computers didn’t have electric memory storage, and had to be manually rewired to switch between different programs.

2. HE PLAYED A HUGE ROLE IN WINNING WORLD WAR II.

Turing began working at Bletchley Park, Britain’s secret headquarters for its codebreakers during World War II, in 1939. By one estimate, his work there may have cut the war short by up to two years. He’s credited with saving millions of lives.

Turing immediately got to work designing a codebreaking machine called the Bombe (an update of a previous Polish machine) with the help of his colleague Gordon Welchman. The Bombe shortened the steps required in decoding, and 200 of them were built for British use over the course of the war. They allowed codebreakers to decipher up to 4000 messages a day.

His greatest achievement was cracking the Enigma, a mechanical device used by the German army to encode secure messages. It proved nearly impossible to decrypt without the correct cipher, which the German forces changed every day. Turing worked to decipher German naval communications at a point when German U-boats were sinking ships carrying vital supplies across the Atlantic between Allied nations. In 1941, Turing and his team managed to decode the German Enigma messages, helping to steer Allied ships away from the German submarine attacks. In 1942, he traveled to the U.S. to help the Americans with their own codebreaking work.

3. HE BROKE THE RULES TO WRITE TO CHURCHILL.

Early on, Bletchley Park’s operations were hampered by a lack of resources, but pleas for better staffing were ignored by government officials. So, Alan Turing and several other codebreakers at Bletchley Park went over their heads to write directly to Prime Minister Winston Churchill. One of the codebreakers from Bletchley Park delivered the letter by hand in October 1941.

“Our reason for writing to you direct is that for months we have done everything that we possibly can through the normal channels, and that we despair of any early improvement without your intervention,” they wrote to Churchill [PDF]. “No doubt in the long run these particular requirements will be met, but meanwhile still more precious months will have been wasted, and as our needs are continually expanding we see little hope of ever being adequately staffed.”

In response, Churchill immediately fired off a missive to his chief of staff: “Make sure they have all they want on extreme priority and report to me that this had been done.”

4. HE HAD SOME ODD HABITS.

Like many geniuses, Turing was not without his eccentricities. He wore a gas mask while riding his bike to combat his allergies. Instead of fixing his bike’s faulty chain, he learned exactly when to dismount to secure it in place before it slipped off. He was known around Bletchley Park for chaining his tea mug to a radiator to prevent it from being taken by other staffers.

5. HE RODE HIS BIKE 60 MILES TO GET TO THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL.

Though he was considered an average student, Turing was dedicated enough to his schooling that when a general strike prevented him from taking the train to his first day at his new elite boarding school, the 14-year-old rode his bike the 62 miles instead.

6. HE TRIED OUT FOR THE OLYMPICS.

Turing started running as a schoolboy and continued throughout his life, regularly running the 31 miles between Cambridge and Ely while he was a fellow at King’s College. During World War II, he occasionally ran the 40 miles between London and Bletchley Park for meetings.

He almost became an Olympic athlete, too. He came in fifth place at a qualifying marathon for the 1948 Olympics with a 2-hour, 46-minute finish (11 minutes slower than the 1948 Olympic marathon winner). However, a leg injury held back his athletic ambitions that year.

Afterward, he continued running for the Walton Athletic Club, though, and served as its vice president. ”I have such a stressful job that the only way I can get it out of my mind is by running hard,” he once told the club’s secretary. “It's the only way I can get some release."

7. HE WAS PROSECUTED FOR BEING GAY.

In 1952, Turing was arrested after reporting a burglary in his home. In the course of the investigation, the police discovered Turing’s relationship with another man, Arnold Murray. Homosexual relationships were illegal in the UK at the time, and he was charged with “gross indecency.” He pled guilty on the advice of his lawyer, and opted to undergo chemical castration instead of serving time in jail.

8. THE GOVERNMENT ONLY RECENTLY APOLOGIZED FOR HIS CONVICTION …

In 2009, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued a public apology to Turing on behalf of the British government. “Alan and the many thousands of other gay men who were convicted as he was convicted under homophobic laws were treated terribly,” Brown said. "This recognition of Alan's status as one of Britain's most famous victims of homophobia is another step towards equality and long overdue." Acknowledging Britain’s debt to Turing for his vital contributions to the war effort, he announced, “on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan's work I am very proud to say: we're sorry, you deserved so much better."

His conviction was not actually pardoned, though, until 2013, when he received a rare royal pardon from the Queen of England.

9. … AND NAMED A LAW AFTER HIM.

Turing was only one of the many men who suffered after being prosecuted for their homosexuality under 19th-century British indecency laws. Homosexuality was decriminalized in the UK in 1967, but the previous convictions were never overturned. Turing’s Law, which went into effect in 2017, posthumously pardoned men who had been convicted for having consensual gay sex before the repeal. According to one of the activists who campaigned for the mass pardons, around 15,000 of the 65,000 gay men convicted under the outdated law are still alive.

10. HE POISONED HIMSELF … MAYBE.

There is still a bit of mystery surrounding Turing’s death at the age of 41. Turing died of cyanide poisoning, in what is widely believed to have been a suicide. Turing’s life had been turned upside down by his arrest. He lost his job and his security clearance. By order of the court, he had to take hormones intended to “cure” his homosexuality, which caused him to grow breasts and made him impotent. But not everyone is convinced that he died by suicide.

In 2012, Jack Copeland, a Turing scholar, argued that the evidence used to declare Turing’s death a suicide in 1954 would not be sufficient to close the case today. The half-eaten apple by his bedside, thought to be the source of his poisoning, was never tested for cyanide. There was still a to-do list on his desk, and his friends told the coroner at the time that he had seemed in good spirits. Turing’s mother, in fact, maintained that he probably accidentally poisoned himself while experimenting with the chemical in his home laboratory. (He was known to taste chemicals while identifying them, and could be careless with safety precautions.)

That line of inquiry is far more tame than some others, including one author’s theory that he was murdered by the FBI to cover up information that would have been damaging to the U.S.

11. HIS FULL GENIUS WASN’T KNOWN IN HIS LIFETIME.

Alan Turing was a well-respected mathematician in his time, but his contemporaries didn’t know the full extent of his contributions to the world. Turing’s work breaking the Enigma machine remained classified long after his death, meaning that his contributions to the war effort and to mathematics were only partially known to the public during his lifetime. It wasn’t until the 1970s that his instrumental role in the Allies' World War II victory became public with the declassification of the Enigma story. The actual techniques Turing used to decrypt the messages weren’t declassified until 2013, when two of his papers from Bletchley Park were released to the British National Archives.

12. THE TURING TEST IS STILL USED TO MEASURE ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE …

Can a machine fool a human into thinking they are chatting with another person? That’s the crux of the Turing test, an idea developed by Turing in 1950 regarding how to measure artificial intelligence. Turing argued in his paper “Computing Machinery and Intelligence” [PDF] that the idea of machines “thinking” is not a useful way to evaluate artificial intelligence. Instead, Turing suggests “the imitation game,” a way to assess how successfully a machine can imitate human behavior. The best measure of artificial intelligence, then, is whether or not a computer can convince a person that it is human.

13. … BUT SOME CONSIDER IT TO BE AN OUTDATED IDEA.

As technology has progressed, some feel the Turing test is no longer a useful way to measure artificial intelligence. It’s cool to think about computers being able to talk just like a person, but new technology is opening up avenues for computers to express intelligence in other, more useful ways. A robot’s intelligence isn’t necessarily defined by whether it can fake being human—self-driving cars or programs that can mimic sounds based on images might not pass the Turing test, but they certainly have intelligence.

14. HE CREATED THE FIRST COMPUTER CHESS PROGRAM.

Inspired by the chess champions he worked with at Bletchley Park, Alan Turing created an algorithm for an early version of computer chess—although at that time, there was no computer to try it out on. Created with paper and pencil, the Turochamp program was designed to think two moves ahead, picking out the best moves possible. In 2012, Russian chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov played against Turing’s algorithm, beating it in 16 moves. “I would compare it to an early caryou might laugh at them but it is still an incredible achievement," Kasparov said in a statement after the match-up.

15. THERE IS ALAN TURING MONOPOLY.

In 2012, Monopoly came out with an Alan Turing edition to celebrate the centennial of his birth. Turing had enjoyed playing Monopoly during his life, and the Turing-themed Monopoly edition was designed based on a hand-drawn board created in 1950 by his friend William Newman. Instead of hotels and houses, it featured huts and blocks inspired by Bletchley Park, and included never-before-published photos of Turing. (It’s hard to find, but there are still a few copies of the game on Amazon.)

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios