Smash It Up: Exploring The Riot City Blues

On the 15th May 1981, an audience thronged the stage at the Ritz in New York City awaiting their first sight of John Lydon’s Public Image Ltd. Instead, already an hour later than advertised, the venue’s state-of-the-art video screen stayed down as the music began. Chants went up demanding the screen be raised to be met with less-than-stony indifference by Lydon who began taunting “sil-ly fuck-ing aud-i-ence!” The intention of putting on a performance art piece (with the band projected in silhouette on the screen and video footage of the band’s performance beamed out round the club) ended up coming to nothing as the audience began to haul at the screen, then at the tarp on which the band’s equipment was set up, with tossed bottles falling upon both stage and crowd alike. The venue pulled the plug, the band were hustled out at speed (for their own protection) and the next night’s booking was cancelled. The riot gig, the ultimate in audience participation, has a basic underlying predictability. A certain proportion of the audience identify with the deviant urges projected onto – and acted out by – a particular artist. Whether its punk’s thuggish side, the slam-dancing of hardcore, the … Continue reading Smash It Up: Exploring The Riot City Blues