We get it. There are some pressures of rockstardom that no mere mortal should ever have to endure. But for some, it goes beyond the typical frustration of playing the same songs night after night, brutal scrutiny from the press, copious amounts of drugs, and road fatigue. Take the volatile combination of deep-seeded personal turmoil and a little prodding from the crowd or show producers and all the sudden, you're Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day, firing off F-Bombs and smashing your guitar to pieces. And while his blowup at last weekend's iHeart Radio Music Festival was exactly the kind of violent, unscripted rock-n-roll moment secretly love to see, on stage there is a fine line between having a raw, human outburst and a destructive pity party makes you look like a total ass. In celebration of some of music's most emotionally unstable musicians, the Weekly has put together a list of top 10 recent rock star meltdowns that will be forever seared into our memories.
The hellish heat of Coachella is known to produce many-a-meltdown when it comes to artists and their sound issues. One guy who definitely needed a therapy session last year was eccentric lo-fi art rocker Ariel Pink who, in a head-scratching bout of frustration with the sound guy, decided that he didn't feel like singing anymore during his set. But after pulling the usual rockstar move of storming off stage, he was coaxed back by his bandmates in the Haunted Graffiti, where he dealt with his tantrum by doing the next most logical thing…pretending the crowd didn't exist. Most of his set was either spent with his back to the fans, crouching behind the keyboard player or picking the dirt out of his fingernails…none of which involved vocals. In this blow-by-blow recap, a few of the fans give their perspective on what it was like to truly be “Fucked on by Ariel Pink.”
9. Kings of Leon Gets Sick and Bails on a Show in Dallas (2011)
As much as fatigue can be an ever-present obstacle on the road, rarely do you see a lead singer turn all of his/her vocal duties over to the crowd. But during a show in Dallas last year, things took a pretty sad turn for Caleb Followill of Kings of Leon after he became too sick to perform, complaining about the Texas heat and losing his voice. In a flaccid attempt to salvage the show, he asked the crowd to sing his parts before walking off stage, never to return. His brother, bassist Jared Followill, later dropped hints that the band was going through some real issues behind the scenes and that the future of his family band may be in jeopardy. “Dallas, I cannot begin to tell you how sorry I am, ” he tweeted. “There are internal sicknesses and problems that need to be addressed. No words. I love our fans so much. I know you guys aren't stupid. I can't lie. There are problems in our band bigger than not drinking enough Gatorade.”
8. Wavves Singer and Drummer Have a Tiff Over Sound Check (2009)
For a being a two-man band, Nathan Williams and Ryan Ulsh of Wavves mustered a major meltdown when they played Spain's Primavera Sound Festival in 2009. Considering the shitty attitudes of both members that night, the band's 2:20 a.m. set was doomed from the moment they stepped up on stage for their disastrous, marathon sound check. Williams finally did start playing– but his sloppy, lackadaisical strumming during a long, indiscriminate jam version of “Weed Demon” only angered the crowd further, including Ulsh who got pissed off enough to throw his sticks at Williams, pour beer on his head and run off stage before the end of the set.
Fat Mike of NOFX obviously had a lot of personal issues to work out before he stepped onstage underneath the guise of his depressed alter ego “Cokie the Clown” at South By Southwest in 2010. As a crowd sprinkled with hecklers sat and listened to his costumed acoustic performance, the punk legend began telling ridiculously uncomfortable stories about sad memories from his past. Chief among them was a story about how before he died, his father told him he never wanted him–just the kind of thing to get the crowd excited and ready to party. This meltdown took on more of a sadistic turn after he served some shots of tequila to the rather insensitive crowd and later showed a video of him peeing in what appeared to be the same bottle he poured out of. The stunt later resulted in an investigation by the Austin Health Department, though it was ultimately found to be a hoax–what a pisser.
6. Billy Corgan Does Some Self-Loathing in Chicago (2008)
Sometimes the most uncomfortable meltdowns don't come with explosive fits of rage or destruction. In Billy Corgan's case, it was a pathetic bout of self-loathing during a Smashing Pumpkins show at the Chicago Theater in 2008. Obviously a little hurt over negative sentiment towards his “reformed” line up of the band at the time, Corgan launched into a nine-minute rant, combining his masturbatory love for Sarah Palin with his need to know why people just aren't happy with his band. Despite shouts of “We love you, Billy!” and “Don't ever stop!” he continued to press the subject. Things took an extra crazy turn when he started harping on a story about an ex-girlfriend and allowed a fan to come on stage and give him a pep talk which obviously wasn't working.
5. Amy Winehouse Gets Wasted in Belgrade (2011)
Yes, there were many options to choose from when deciding to put late London soulstress Amy Winehouse on this list. But for the purposes of highlighting the most storied flame-outs we could find, her drunk, fumbling performance in Belgrade in 2011 is exactly what we were looking for. One part teaching moment, the other part TMZ goldmine, this rendition of “Back to Black” is a classic rock-n-roll trainwreck, overshadowed only by the unforgettable talent the singer had when she was sober.
4. Axl Rose of Guns N Roses–Need We Say More? (1991)
You can't make a list of rock star meltdowns without throwing in Axl Rose of Guns N Roses. It just can't happen. This is another one where the performer's volatile emotional roller coaster warrants its own list of own. But few examples are as definitive as the time Rose launched into the crowd to dole out a beat down to a fan in St. Louis who was insisting on trying to record the show. With the athleticism on a professional wrestler, Rose leaped off the stage and attacked the guy before getting pulled back on stage where he promptly smashed his mic and ended the show. It was a classic tantrum that really taught audiences a lesson for the ages. These days, people hardly ever record video of bands at shows anymore, right?
3. The Vines Go Apeshit on Letterman (2002)
When David Letterman has to ask if you're okay after performing on theLate Show, you know you've just had a quality meltdown. Such was the case for Australian trio the Vines, specifically frontman Craig Nicholls, who single-handedly blasted the eardrums of late night television with his girly, psychotic screams. And that was only the beginning. Nicholls went on to give the proverbial finger to whatever record exec happened to be watching by destroying the set, tripping over mic stands and rolling around like Linda Blair in need of an exorcism. It's the kind of meltdown we tend to cherish–one done out of sheer disregard for convention and personal safety. God, it almost makes us wish this band was relevant again.
2. Brian Jonestown Massacre Start the Ultimate Hipster Band Brawl (1996)
Eons from now, when aliens stumble on a time capsule packed with objects from Earth's puny existence, there will likely find a clip of this storied meltdown courtesy of the Brian Jonestown Massacrefrom the 2004 documentary Dig! It too is a little dated at this point, but so textbook when it comes to illustrating that fine line between raw emotional moment and epic douchebaggery that took place thanks to frontman Anton Newcombe during an infamous industry showcase in L.A. that led to an all-out band brawl.
1. Billie Joe Armstrong Makes His Guitar Go Kerplunk at iHeart Radio Music Festival (2012)
Yes, Billie Joe Armstrong's meltdown is the most recent and, quite frankly, the most deserving blowup on this list for a couple reasons. For one, it's probably the most punk rock escapade Green Day has been a part of in decades. Secondly, it happened at the iHeart Radio Music Festival, a bloated, barf-inducing pony show that could've used a little wake up call to snap the audience out of their plastic, pre-packaged pop coma. And even though Armstrong's move directly into rehab felt like PR damage control at it's finest, the brief time that the Bay Area frontman spent mocking Justin Bieber and smashing his guitar felt like the quintessential outburst happening at the most most inappropriate setting possible, which is to say, the most appropriate setting possible.