In this entry, I will not be including situations like the people online who badgered Keith Emerson to “K*ll yourself,” to the point that he did it. While a monstrous situation, I can’t say those people were fans, so much as trolls. I want to focus on obvious fans who express hatred, or worse, for their supposed object of affection.
Additionally, there will be so many references that I probably won’t be providing many links. Anything I write can be looked up. Besides, if I make a minor mistake, nobody will be dying from it.
THE FIRST BAD FAN
I remember the first bad music fan I’d heard about. December 8, 1980 was the day that Mark David Chapman shot and killed John Lennon on the streets outside his home, The Dakota. This was after he got an autograph.
Indeed, it can be argued that he had other things going on. His mental health is an obvious problem. His expressed jealousy of Lennon, including how he was living, and how he deserved his own “glory,” a word he used in his 2020 parole hearing, are also issues.
I was 16 when this happened. Although the various factors were at play, he had also noted himself to be a fan, so I took that at face value.
I also wrote it off as a one-off weird situation.
BAD FANS: ROBERT PLANT 1985
It was around 4th of July 1985 when I went to Market Square Arena to see Robert Plant. He played his own stuff, played some Led Zeppelin stuff, and he also had a set with The Honeydrippers.
The problem with the show was the many, many fans who thought it would be a good idea to set off firecrackers at the show. Another problem was that people were getting hurt.
I was wearing shots on that muggy night, when a whole bunch of firecrackers landed right in my lap. I stood up and jumped a side into someone else’s lap soon enough that all of those firecrackers started going off right as they hit the floor. Had I not moved that quickly, I would have suffered a horrific life-changing injury.
Robert Plant stopped the show and addressed the fans.
“Look, I remember doing some stupid stuff when I was young. We can’t have fireworks going off during the show. If I hear even ONE more firecracker, we’ll just pack up and go.”
The audience reaction to this was not positive. Lots of booing, and people yelling things like, “Thanks for the talk, dad.”
I had never seen so many disrespectful people in one place in my entire life. They were supposedly “fans,” they had purchased tickets, and yet there they were, ruining the show for everyone else AND trash-talking Robert Plant.
SLAYER FANS SUCK: AUGUST 24, 2007
Slayer opened for Marilyn Manson at the Verizon Amphitheater in Irvine. After the last song by Slayer, the fans kept yelling, “Slayer! Slayer! Slayer!”
I thought that it would die down, but it kept on for the entire time. When Manson took the stage, they kept yelling. After only 4-5 songs, Manson says, “Fuck it!” and walks off.
Slayer fans began rioting. They’d taken rolls of toilet paper from the bathrooms. They’d light it and throw it in the air, causing sparks to float down on everyone and everything.
Slayer fans had no respect for the headlining band performing that night.
ONLINE HARASSMENT OF WOLFGANG VAN HALEN
In my opinion as a musician, there is no musician out there dealing with a sharper double-edged sword than Wolfgang Van Halen.
Ever since his father died, Van Halen “fans” have been harassing him online. He gets accused of riding his father’s coat tails, something that is unavoidable.
Lately, they’ve been bothering him to play Van Halen songs at his shows, as well as demanding that he “finish” a Van Halen album from the Gary Cherone days that never got finished.
He stands up to them very well, to the point that I’m glad he’s in charge of the Van Halen legacy. At the same time, I feel badly for him because of these “fans” who can’t stop riding his jock.
Some of them have even said that he should be busy replacing his late father in Van Halen.
He gets trolled all day long on social media every single day, by people MY AGE who use his father as their profile picture. They tell him that he sucks, or that he needs to do this or that. Some even get mad when he stands up to trolls!
It’s a situation where there is no winning. In the old days, one could choose the option of not playing. Today, that option has been taken away.
In this regard, Wolfgang has no choice but to dedicate a big portion of his day to battling people old enough to be his father, who should know better by now. But if Facebook is any indicator, too many people my age are simply horrible people who are lacking in sympathy, empathy, common decency, and basic Humanity.
I have played many, many places where there will be people trying to talk. Considering how loud we were, talking is a bit of a fool’s errand. I mostly ignored them. If I knew their names, I could see if they were on the emailer list. If they were, I’d just delete them.
My shows are one thing. I can’t complain about these people at my shows because I have a clear bias for my music. But there would be many times where I’d be trying to listen to a band, and there are people nearby yelling at each other. It’s distracting.
I have 33 years’ worth of stories like these, so I’ll just skip my stories and get to the stories of others.
I’ve played at The Whisky a Go Go many times over the decades. It’s a small venue that holds only 500 people. My bands would typically play a Friday or Saturday night slot, just one or two away from the headliners. Other times we’d play a week night at the top of the ticket.
With a venue like this, you typically pay for your audience in advance. You give them $500-$700, and they hand you tickets to sell. Then the band has to go out and hit the streets if they want to at least make their money back, if not turn a profit.
They also offered early evening gigs to really young bands.
One time I was walking along The Sunset Strip, pondering what I was going to do. It was 2016, and I’d not had any gigging bands since late 2013. Should I stay and keep making music, or leave and do something else.
I walked into The Whisky to see what was going on. There were a bunch of high school kids in there, along with a high school kid band, and the parents of the band members. It was open to the public, so I walked in and decided to give them an audience.
The weird thing about the band was that nobody had a traditional instrument. Instead of drums, bass, guitar, and keyboards, everyone had a laptop and a controller. I decide to not judge them based on this, and eagerly waited as I watched them set up.
It reminded me of all those times where I was playing bars in Indiana, before I was old enough to drink.
The band starts playing and they’re okay. They are a band of high schoolers, they play their own music, and I am not in their audience.
I look around during a song, and what I see is EVERY SINGLE KID in the entire place was on their phones. Heads down. Even the parents were doing it.
I quickly realized that I was THE ONLY PERSON looking at the band on the stage. I felt a strong sense of disgust and sadness, not only for those band members on stage, but also for the state of music itself, as well as myself.
Every single thing about all of it was sad to me.
I left in disgust and continued my walk on The Strip, except I was just a bit more sad than I was before. That experience also showed me that I was a dinosaur, and the days of musicians taking the stage and engaging an audience are effectively over.
It was bad enough in the 80s, when I’d have to compete with thousands of other venues, as well as miles of beaches, comedy clubs, movie theaters, THREE theme parks, a two-hour drive to San Diego, and a four-hour drive to Las Vegas.
People had enough options back then. Now they have their phones added to the mix. Smartphones were coming of age when I was still playing clubs. I realized that everyone who was looking at their phones were up to something.
A few might be posting about the show, including photos. But the majority were looking for somewhere better to be. No matter how good or great it is where they are, they are always looking for something better.
BEYOND THE PHONES
The situation is worse than just the phones. I have played in original and cover bands through the 1980s on, and I have something difficult to say about these “music fans” who do these types of things.
They do not like music.
I would even be so bold as to suggest that most people don’t really like music. Hell, I’ve met MUSICIANS who DO NOT LIKE MUSIC. They were doing it to pay the bills, or it’s all they knew. They were like preachers who didn’t believe in god, which is actually a bigger deal than people think. But I digress.
If people don’t like music, then why do they listen or attend shows?
It’s because they are bound to the memories of their lives, and the music that is attached to those memories is just happenstance.
MY EXAMPLES, AND A FEW BIG PROBLEMS
I can find songs from my own life experience to use as examples.
“Video Killed the Radio Star” is forever connected to the kick-start of MTV in 1981, for me.
Any song by The Gap Band is strongly associated with going to the skating rink.
Some songs by Black Sabbath are forever linked in my mind with early jam sessions at friends’ homes or in my garage.
Hard Times by KISS is forever linked to Mike Martin tearing up lead solos over the riff at a high school talent show.
Bands like Carl Storie/Faith Band or Henry Lee Summer or Roadmaster will be forever linked to my younger days.
The first album by Boston and early Rush albums will be forever linked to a friend named Mike Rettig, who used these songs to teach me a few things about guitar.
Bands like Giuffria will be forever linked to a good friend named Tom, who taught me lots of things about playing keyboard.
Those are positive experiences. But there are also negatives, such as everything by Captain Beefheart being linked to my studies with one of the band’s guitarist, Zoot Horn Rollo. This includes the bad ending to our lessons, and Zoot’s hyper-negative attitude about other guitarists, people in general, and music in general.
And don’t forget my negative encounter with Ozzy, which had a negative impact on my ability to even consider listening to his music.
There is one big problem in citing my own examples. I’m a musician, and my relationship with music is different from that of the average active or passive music listener.
The other big problem is that, as an Autistic adult, I have additional neurological tethers to music that others don’t have.
Being an Autistic musician disqualifies me from properly evaluating myself. All the same, I did my best to identify and describe my own biases.
IN THE END
As I write this, I am being considered as a guitarist for a cover band whose goal is to play cover songs from the 50s-70s for afternoon gigs at retirement homes.
They’re literally a captive audience. At the same time, I recognize that they band has a goal of sparking good memories, which in turn will bring them some happiness. The music would also break up an otherwise boring and monotonous day.
If I don’t get the gig, then I might consider putting together a one-person show where I can do something like this on my own. I haven’t really decided yet.
But this situation is yet more proof that people have attached certain music to certain memories from certain times, and hearing that music serves as the best and closest thing that we have to a time machine.
I don’t know how to end this one, so here’s a live performance from Roadmaster.
If you like what I write, then please consider sending a one-time donation to me via PayPal. Please use the following link and click SEND to donate, and thank you for reading! https://paypal.me/drumwild