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SXSW 2011: Screeching Weasel reluctantly performs, show ends in a scuffle


Screeching Weasel frontman Ben Weasel devoted much of a nearly 50-minute South by Southwest performance to humor-laced ranting, railing often against the media and the yearly Austin, Texas, festival and conference. It's "a carnival of schadenfreude" Weasel said of SXSW, and repeatedly said he regretted coming. Yet the contentious atmosphere turned more aggressive by show's end, with Weasel ultimately jumping into the crowd, allegedly to confront a woman who had hit him in the face with ice. 

Another woman, who security staff said was one of the venue's owners, ran on stage to break up the fight. Weasel was soon dragged off the stage by security. He left the venue before he could be tracked down by reporters, and has not yet returned a call requesting comment.

Police were called to Austin's Scoot Inn, and the venue's talent buyer, Rufus Raxlen, offered to give them Weasel's license plate number. The two women involved in the scuffle had left the premises, however, and therefore no police action was taken. The beloved punk rock band is currently scheduled to appear Saturday night in San Antonio, about 80 miles south of Austin.

During the band's performance of its poppy 1996 outsider anthem "Cool Kids," Weasel was hit in or near the eye with a chunk of ice thrown by a woman, and then offered to fight the offender.

Sound Opinions co-host and WBEZ blogger Jim DeRogatis was also in attendance, and in an effort to get as accurate a read as possible on how events escalated, this reporter and DeRogatis each talked to numerous secuirty personnel and several fans who were near the incident. After Weasel jumped into the crowd, several eye-witnesses reported that the woman spat beer or water in Weasel's face, and at that point a fight broke out.

Local resident Eric Garcia, 25, was also planning to see Screeching Weasel in San Antonio on Saturday. "It's like the Rolling Stones to us," Garcia said of Screeching Weasel, whose "First World Manifesto" is the band's first album of new material in 11 years (read The Times' review). Screeching Weasel has long been infamous for its refusal to tour, but of late the act has appeared more willing to go on the road. 

Though the band had never broke through with mainstream success, Screeching Weasel remains an adored and influential act. Formed in the '80s and on-and-off since, Screeching Weasel presented a more suburban take on the urban, economical and melodic punk of the Ramones, and set the stage for the mid-'90s punk rock explosion. Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong, for instance, has a tattoo of the logo of Screeching Weasel off-shoot the Riverdales.

"This is our Joey Ramone," Garcia said.  

The performance was the band's first-ever SXSW appearance, and Weasel made no effort to hide his distaste for the five-day industry conference from the moment he walked on stage. Before even performing a song, Weasel complained that the band was being paid only $250 to appear at the Scoot Inn, and noted that the act had a $25,000 guarantee for its San Antonio performance. 

Weasel then dedicated the 2000 song "You're the Enemy" to the organizers of SXSW, a tune full of bile toward fans and touring. Weasel next turned his attention to the media, and most of his words would not be fit for printing here, yet he labeled music journalists as "parasitic," and added, "Why don't you get a real job?"

Weasel spent almost as much time ranting as he did performing, and few targets were spared. Even the head of Screeching Weasel's label, Fat Mike of Fat Wreck Chords, was a part of Weasel's venom. "Our label owner isn't here," Weasel said. And he apologized for those who paid $20 to see his band, telling them they had been ripped off and were contributing to the industry spectacle of SXSW. 

"Apparently it's really good for your career," Weasel mockingly said of SXSW. 

Longtime Weasel fans, however, love the band as much for the music as the sarcastic diatribes of its lead vocalist. For the first half of the set, Weasel elicited laughter and applause, and his rants were seen more as jokes than actual hatred, at least those not pointed toward the music biz.

"I'm what they refer to in the industry as 'The Talent,'" Weasel sneered.

--Todd Martens

Photo: Screeching Weasel in Los Angeles in late 2010. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (22)

You don't need to say allegedly at all, a quick YouTube search of "Ben Weasel SXSW" brings up this video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRmLoIsGq2A) taken a few feet from the "scuffle", showing Weasel punching the ice cube thrower square in the face, before punching the above mentioned club owner, also female, in the neck and abdomen.

One of music's great scumbags, allegedly.

Eric Garcia sounds like a real idiot.

I would rather listen to a chainsaw hitting nails than a tattoed up screaming meth head. which is what alot of 'music' is today.

nothing really new in music since the stones, beatles, who yes , p floyd et al.

these punks are just treading water- making loud farting noises and stinking up my town.

Um, no one is seeing Weasel in San Antonio. The show has been canceled because all the other bands on the tour have quit. Also, any man who can punch two women while his pregnant wife stands a few feet away is a poor excuse for a human being.

i was standing in the crowd both right beside the woman throwing the ice which by the way was not a one time occasion till the last one that connected with fosters left temple, and a row behind when she gladly took on the reaction that was coming to her, she was proud and even challenging foster but im sure as the man with the mic had the spotlight no one really paid much attention to the females actions up to the point where he very clearly seen even on the further view youtube clips did not get off stage but leaned over and made a poor connection over what was probably a three foot gap she walked away more embarrassed and shocked than hurt since at that point i was now standing behind her i was able to get a good look at her as she turned to walk away ,I'm not sure if anything previous had that girl heated and upset but while she stood next to me she very clearly had just as much hate to express as foster himself the first female hit was a worker at the bar and friend of the venue owner who instead of letting the plenty of very able security staff handle decided to step in ... Ben's reaction to the group of people was to keep swinging yes he hit her but it was unintentional.. Vanessa of Fat Wreck Chords was able to state that the tour was "suspended" for now , and they could not go into any contractual issues but she could say that they are in talks with Foster and his band
the music was good and although i am in no way excusing his actions that don't care attitude it is part of the reason so many people love the band and i can assure i will continue to listen to them and attend future shows just like i have always done

Pathetic music for pathetic people acting like pathetic morons.

Hey people that are on here don't be bashing punk because even nowadays we hate Ben weasel too. He was really good early on but now he is being a tool. And punks are not tattooedmeth heads.... That's death metal.

well i think both were wrong. i was 3 feet away from the whole thing and i dont think many of the youtube videos showed the girl spitting beer on ben weasel a song or so before she hit him in the face with ice and he hit her in the face, he was talking crap about how they got screwed and said NOTHING bad about the fans. i dont thinks its ok to hit a female but i also dont think its cool to disrespect someone like that(spitting on a person) while they are in the middle of performing for their fans. as far as all of you judging punkers bc of one incident is so so childish. there are screwed up people all over this world and for people to say punks are stupid or are ruining a town is the dumbest thing i ever heard. its really sad to know there are people like that still in this day and age. and Eric Garcia is my friend and no idiot!

If you throw ice at a singer, and you spit beer/water in his face, you deserve to be knocked out, whether you are a male or a female.

Equal rights, equal fights. Too bad Weasel didn't curbstomp her.

so, i viewed the link of ben "fighting"....... dudes, embarrassing. i guess i would not be surprised to hear if one of the ladies ended-up kicking his butt........

Eli, how exactly do you justify defending what you listen to by insulting what someone else listens to?

The women involved took off. It's pretty obvious they both knew they were in the wrong.

I don't understand. He's apologizing that people paid $20 to see them, but he's complaining about their $250 guarantee from the venue? ...He's so punk rock?

Hopefully all of the incidents this year will contribute to the quick and decisive deflating of the bloated behemoth that SXSW has become.

Let's face it: when was the last time you think a band playing SXSW actually performed one of the better shows of their tour? 1992? There are only so many people who can pull off a rock show in the back corner of a vegetarian bar-b-q restaurant.

Just a few comments to set things straight:

1. With his background, and the show's he's played over the years, getting ice thrown at you, water spit on you, heckled, bottles tossed at you and so on is par for the course. The fact that he can't handle it shows that he's just a washed up cranky old man that's angry that he agreed to do a dog and pony show to pay the bills. Too bad Mr. Ben "can't stand the heat" Weasel, you signed on the dotted line.

2. Now about the second girl he hit: a. She's not a "friend" of the owner, or some chick from the crowd, she's the CO-OWNER. b. She was closest and in the best position to see and attempt to immediately break up what could become a serious liability in HER club if it escalated. c. Ben "I hit girls when their back is turned" Weasel swung at her twice so there was no mistaking on his part that he was swinging at a female. Not only that, he's still throwing a kidney shot as she's trying to get away with her back fully turned to him.

3. As he's pushed back by security and others, he's giving the "thumbs up" sign. He's actually celebrating his sad spectacle! Amazing. But what's truly great is that he was actually giving a thumbs up to the end of whatever "career" he had left playing that music or making any cash off of the band. What a moron. Let's take stock: $25k payday in San Antonio? Gone. $25k paydays anywhere else? Gone. Tour? Gone. Fest in Chicago? Gone. Respect of your bandmates and peers? Gone. Label support? Gone. Screeching Weasel? Gone. The rest of the band has quit over this.

What a sad and pathetic end to what really was a good band.

Um, if Weasel didn't like the terms or SXSW why did he agree to do the show? It's really lame to schlep all your gear and peeps and then complain to the fans who paid to be there. Doesn't he have a manager to work all that out in advance?

One mistake in this article: this longtime fan and the many that I'm friends with only cared about the music, not Ben's venomous rantings. Kind of thankful I have no reason to pay attention any more. Yet I fear he's still not finished dragging the Screeching Weasel name through the muck. The band changed my life and it is painful to me to see Ben continue to destroy its legacy.

not so much a screeching weasel fan these days, but i'm sick of girls thinking themselves badass but getting all butt-hurt when there are repercussions. i don't spit beer or throw anything unless i'm looking for a fight.

Judging by Weasel's twitter, he knew it was going to be a moronic, overbloated festival and he didn't want to be there. So I can imagine what it must be like to be in a room full of people you hate, who are clearly drunk off their asses, throwing things at you.

They should have unplugged, walked off stage and gave Austin a well deserved finger. But, oh well.

by any kind of realistic punk standards,
that was a freaking love tap.

If people are expecting Ben to be as hamed of his behavior, they need to expect the same thing of the jerk who threw the ice and was tossing beer and ice.


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