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Screeching Weasel cans tour, members walk out after SXSW debacle

March 24, 2011 |  6:32 pm

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Repercussions continue from the melee that occurred during the final minutes of Screeching Weasel's South by Southwest showcase in Austin, Texas, last Friday. On Tuesday, the four backing members of the current incarnation of the band announced they were taking a leave of absence from the act, leaving the door open for a possible reconciliation. Perhaps not unexpectedly, Screeching Weasel's remaining three East Coast dates have been canceled. 

The band also had a July 21 gig scheduled at San Francisco's Regency Ballroom, for which tickets had not yet gone on sale. Though the Ticketmaster website currently notes that the show will go on sale this Saturday at 10 a.m., a longtime associate of Weasel’s team, who was hesitant to speak to the press because of the notoriety surrounding the incident and asked not to be identified, said that the Bay Area date has been canceled. The concert is not listed on the venue's website. 

Official word, however, has not been released on the band's three-day Chicago celebration, dubbed Weaselfest, which is at this point scheduled for May 27-29. The long sold-out extravaganza is to celebrate Screeching Weasel's first new album in 11 years, "First World Manifesto," as well as the band's 25 years, on and off, of making music. Multiple bands have dropped off Weaselfest, including Teenage Bottlerocket, Chinese Telephones and the Soviettes, although at the time of writing it is still tentatively scheduled to go on, said the source. 

Wednesday, Ben Weasel's backing band -- including longtime Weasel Dan Schafer, known as Dan Vapid, as well as recent additions Adam Cargin, Justin Perkins and Drew Fredrichsen -- issued a statement via Punknews that stated they could no longer perform as Screeching Weasel after the events that occurred at Austin's Scoot Inn. As previously reported, near the end of the band's 50-minute set Ben Weasel (real name: Ben Foster) lunged into the audience toward an unruly female fan who had earlier thrown liquid at the singer, pelted him with ice, and spat in his face.

"The un-calculated act put forth by Ben Foster leading up to and including the violence that erupted on stage is seen by the band as shameful and embarrassing," read the band members' statement. "The sentiments and actions expressed were completely out of our control and in no way represent the band members' view points or moral compasses.

"As a result," the statement continued, "the band has discussed at length and has come to the conclusion that as a group we will not likely be able to muster the dignity to attempt a live performance as 'Screeching Weasel' in the for-seeable future. We each look forward to re-evaluating our involvement in the band as we move forward if we are given the opportunity."

No charges have been filed against Weasel, confirms the Austin Police Department. There is no case number for the incident, said a police spokeswoman, as paperwork was never submitted. Austin police were called to the Scoot Inn, but the woman and Weasel had left the scene and no action was taken or has been taken since.

Though Weasel's actions are documented in numerous YouTube videos, questions have started to be raised, such as why a fan who was visibly goading the singer was never approached by venue security. Calls to the Scoot Inn have been met with a "no comment." 

Weasel later apologized. "Up front, I wish to say that I am sorry to the fan and any others who were involved," Weasel said in a statement. "As a husband, father, and a musician on the public stage, I understand that it is my duty to always take responsibility for my actions in a socially acceptable way, and most especially in the face of confrontation."

The four backing players left the door open for a Screeching Weasel reunion. "In the future we would love to see these wounds heal and for the opportunity to play together in a positive light materialize. If Ben feels the need to immediately carry on with a new cast of characters -- we support his right to do so. Again, we would like to thank our fans for all of their past support and hope that they will continue to support us should the opportunity to perform as 'Screeching Weasel' present itself again in the future."

The members of Teenage Bottlerocket were vocal in their decision to drop off Weaselfest, noting that infamously cantankerous Weasel had "gone out of his way to publicly trash our band in the past." The statement continues, "We all grew up loving Screeching Weasel and readily admit they have been a huge influence on our music. However Ben Weasel has crossed the line time and time again, and as much as we’ve tried to be friends and pay respect, the SXSW incident ... are grounds for us to decide we don’t want to be associated with him anymore."

Little in the way of support has come Weasel's way. His band has long been equally adored and hated in the punk community, but is considered by many to be one of the genre's more influential acts. Screeching Weasel swapped the urban aggravations of the Ramones for more mundane suburban frustrations, such as not having the guts to talk to the cute girl at the supermarket.

Having formed in the late '80s, the bratty Screeching Weasel set the stage for the likes of Blink-182 and Green Day. Billie Joe Armstrong, in fact, has a tattoo of Screeching Weasel offshoots the Riverdales, and Mike Dirnt occasionally played bass with Screeching Weasel in the mid-'90s.  

One of the lone voices of support for Weasel has come from Joe King, longtime friend and lead singer of the Queers. In an expletive-laced rant on Facebook, King noted that the anti-Weasel stance has gotten "way out of hand."

King continued, "I don't advocate hitting chicks but everyone knows Ben doesn't either. You guys are all acting like you've never been to a punk show before. You people and bands who should know better too. In the heat of the moment he lashed out after getting spit directly in the face."

King and his band the Queers have been defending Weasel for years, having recorded a song named after the singer for 1994 album "Beat Off." The song echoes sentiments heard often during the mid-'90s punk explosion ("he's a jerk"), when Weasel was also publishing sarcastic diatribes in punk zine "Maximum Rock'n'Roll." "He rants and raves," go the lyrics, before ultimately concluding, "we know his bark is worse than his bite." 

That song, however, was written in the pre-YouTube era.

Related: 

Don't listen to me, I have Screeching Weasel tattooed on my arm, but ...

Album review: Screeching Weasel's 'First World Manifesto'

-- Todd Martens

Image: Ben Weasel performing in Los Angeles in late 2010. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

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