The Sun Kil Moon Fiasco at Hopscotch14

I’ve been busy this weekend at Hopscotch seeing a lot of live music, drinking a lot of cold beer, and having a good time with some of my friends.

You’ve read the Day one recap and the Day two recap.

As I said in the day two recap, there was a really uncomfortable end to the night at the Sun Kil Moon show. This requires a separate post.

Everybody knows that I’m a big fan of Mark Kozelek’s music. Red House Painters, solo stuff, and the first couple of Sun Kil Moon records. I love all of that stuff. I was sort of “meh” about the 2012 album Among the Leaves, and I’ve been pretty harsh in my criticism of the 2014 album Benji, but I still really enjoy everything that Mark Kozelek does. Despite the fact that I actually hate the new album, I still really wanted to see Sun Kil Moon. It was one of my most anticipated shows. Unfortunately, it was a big letdown.

As Mark Kozelek has aged, he’s gotten increasingly fussy about his audience. Right away, we noticed this fussiness in the form of about 20 signs posted throughout the venue telling us that the artist (Mark Kozelek) requests that we not use our cell phones during the show. No pictures, no video, no texting. Nothing. Then the show promoter made an announcement to the same tune. Then, as SKM took the stage, Kozelek made the same announcement. He came off not only as a control freak, but as one of these “off the grid” wackos. Said something about how he didn’t want anyone looking at a screen and he didn’t want all the light from those devices sullying his performance.

This is a hard request to make at a rock club. If he makes this request at the seated venue in Fletcher Opera Theatre, nobody would have a problem, and nobody would even consider that to be a weird request. It’s just the wrong venue anyway, but things haven’t even begun to get weird.

Even before things got weird, and before they started playing, I could sense that something was wrong. Kozelek was gesturing towards a stage hand to come fix something, and he was pretty aggressive with that. I think he even yelled at the stage hand. He looked very angry, and as we would find out a few minutes later, he was angry.

He wanted silence from the crowd, and like I said, you can pull that off at Fletcher, but not at Lincoln. After they took the stage, and before they played a single note, Kozelek made an announcement that went something like this

Listen up, all you fucking hillbillies. Shut the fuck up

This didn’t go over well with the crowd. Nobody enjoyed the “hillbilly” comment. A lot of people started to shush in a mocking fashion, and a lot of other people started to yell. More than a couple of people yelled out “You’re not Ryan Adams”, alluding to the singer’s legendary clashes with his own audiences.

Sun Kil Moon played a couple of songs, and there was plenty more of all of this mock shushing and yelling and general combative behavior from parts of the audience. Some of those people (who were obviously not there specifically for SKM) got bored of being rude, and they left. Still, though, the mock shushing persisted.

After two songs, Kozelek made another announcement. Something a bit more aggressive like

Shut the fuck up! I’m about to walk. I don’t give a fuck whether I get paid or not

which led to more mock shushing from the crowd. He tried to reel his anger in by explaining that all of the band members had traveled a great distance to be there and they needed to hear each other to pull the songs off, and how if the crowd showed him respect he’d return the respect to the crowd.  To his credit, he apologised about the “hillbilly” comment, saying that it was “just a joke”.  It doesn’t matter, though; the damage had been done.  

You can listen to a sound clip of all the rants melted down into one by clicking through here

The vibe in there was really bad. Things were not going well. The songs they played were great, but it was just so uncomfortable. I wanted to stay for the whole thing because I had a feeling that things would eventually level out, but I was really tired, and I couldn’t take that weird vibe anymore. I left after about five songs.

The only time I’ve ever seen a performer get pissy with the audience like that was at the first Lollapalooza. I went to the show in Charlotte. Siouxie & The Banshees played two songs, then Siouxie berated the crowd for not being into it, then they all stormed off the stage in a fit.

The really unfortunate thing about Kozelek being so pissy and trying so hard to control the audience is that some of the audience made matters worse. Both performer and audience were to blame for what happened. Ultimately, like I said, there would not have been an issue, and it would have been a fantastic show if they had scheduled SKM at Fletcher.

I really hope that things got better after I left.

About dlee

North Carolina born and bred. I'm a restaurant guy who spends free time listening to music, watching hockey and playing Scrabble. I have a bachelor's degree in political science and I will most likely never put it to use. View all posts by dlee

4 responses to “The Sun Kil Moon Fiasco at Hopscotch14

  • Paul Stone

    I used to live in SF, and i saw Mark play a bunch of times solo and with RHP between 1995-2005. One thing I learned was to never take anyone with me who wasn’t already a fan, because his shows undoubtedly ended up being weird and/or uncomfortable in one way or another. Fortunately, I never saw him get angry, as he apparently did last night, but I can’t say it surprises me too much.

  • Kyle Durlam

    Great post, D. What a doofus Kozelek is turning into. I have the same opinion as you of his recent stuff. He’s just such a grumpy ass. Only time I’ve witnessed anything like that was Joe Jackson at Red Rocks on his Big World tour in 1986. It was his first song, a quiet one, and he stopped half-way through and scolded us for being too chatty. But that was it. It didn’t seem to affect the rest of the show. And I don’t recall him using profanity or offensive language.

  • dlee

    I should also say that I saw him play an in-store solo show one time in something like 2003. His cell phone rang during his own performance.

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