10 Most Shocking Festival Moments
Music festivals thrive on energy, and it’s not always positive. Mix rock star egos, illicit drug use and $4 bottles of water, and things can turn ugly. While most music festivals are simply celebrations of artists and fans coming together, a few have seen major tragedies. With our list of the 10 Most Shocking Festival Moments, we look at some of the stranger, darker incidents -- everything from offensive onstage outbursts to untimely deaths.
Sometimes in rock ‘n’ roll, the headliners just don’t show up. At 2011’s Hangout Festival in Gulf Shore, Ala., Cee Lo Green missed his set time by some 30 minutes before the Foo Fighters stepped in for an extended appearance. Halfway through the Foos' stand-in set, Green appeared onstage for the band’s cover of Prince’s 'Darling Nikki.' The 'Voice' star was soon joined by his all-girl backing band to finish out a five-song, 15-minute set of his own. The confused and resentful crowd took to Twitter with hashtag #F-ckYou to knock the singer with his own harsh words.
Blind Melon frontman Shannon Hoon made waves at Woodstock ‘94 when he appeared onstage in a long, flowing white dress. Oh, and he was tripping on acid. The singer got mixed reviews for the spaced-out performance, which seemed all the more unsettling the following year, when Hoon died of a drug overdose.
Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age hasn't always been good about venting appropriately, and his outburst at the 2008 Norwegian Wood Festival in Norway landed him on our list of the 10 Most Shocking Festival Moments. The singer lashed out at a fan after being hit by a water bottle, unleashing a slew of homophobic slurs that included threats to sodomize him. The singer later wrote an open letter blaming the incident on a 102 degree fever and claiming that his band's name is proof that he isn't homophobic.
With rumors of Kurt Cobain's fragile post-'Nevermind' sanity and sobriety looming, the Nirvana singer used the buzz to make a grand entrance at the 1992 Reading Festival in England. Cobain had journalist Everett Truman push him on stage in a wheelchair for what would be the band's last ever U.K. show. Even though Cobain mocked his poor health and mental state, the performance is thought to be one of the band's best.
While on the Ozzfest 2011 tour, shock rocker Marilyn Manson was charged with criminal sexual misconduct for rubbing his genitals on one very unlucky security guard in Detroit. In full makeup and G-string, Manson reportedly spit on the guard before wrapping his legs around his head and grinding his crotch on him. The sing ultimately pleaded no contest to a lesser charge and paid a $4,000 fine.
Rage Against the Machine have never been shy about making statements, and 1993’s Lollapalooza was no exception. The members walked onstage at the fest’s Philadelphia stop completely naked with the letters PMRC painted on their chests (Paren’t Music Resource Center) and black tape over their mouths in protest the censorship of the organization. The band stood in silence for 15 minutes while the crowd booed, only ever getting to hear the feedback from their guitars. No wonder it made our list of the 10 Most Shocking Festival Moments.
The early-'90s alternative scene got even grungier at England’s Reading Festival in 1992 when the all-girl alternative group L7 took the stage. Technical difficulties during their set made the crowd rowdy, so fans started hurling mud at the band. Fed up, guitarist Donita Sparks gave with her own unsanitary response by pulling out her tampon and throwing it into the crowd as she shouted, “Eat my used tampon, f---ers.”
Australia’s Big Day Out recognizes a “moment of noise” each year in honor of Jessica Michalik, who died at the festival in 2001. The 16-year-old was crushed in a mosh pit during Limp Bizkit’s performance, dying of asphyxiation in a hospital five days later. She isn't the only such casualty, as fans have also died in mosh pits during festival performances from Hole and Korn.
The past few years have seen an alarming number of stage collapses, resulting in the tragic and untimely deaths of fans and crews members. One of the most deadly incidents came in 2011’s Pukkelpop Festival in Belgium when the stage crashed to the ground, killing five people and injuring 140 during Smith Westerns' set. The band members narrowly escaped harm themselves. Radiohead lost their drum tech in a similar accident in June 2012.
A far cry from the "peace and love" theme of the original 1969 Woodstock, this 1999 incarnation saw raucous attendees escalate from overheated to violent, and that led to destruction, sexual assaults and the final entry in our 10 Most Shocking Festival Moments list. The four-day festival included sets from Red Hot Chili Peppers, Limp Bizkit and James Brown, but the four reported rapes, 17 fires and endless property damage are the reason the event has been to referred to as the other “day the music died.”