Re: St. Louis '91 - The Riverport Riot
"Bulletin boards dedicated to GnR tell all sorts of versions of the story... " (StlBeacon, 11/08/12)
The St. Louis Riot, also known as the Riverport Riot, was the first riot on the UYI tour. In fact, it was the first Guns concert ever to turn into a riot. The closest thing to a precursor might've been a show in 1986.
"We had been in a riot once before, when we played the Street Scene festival in L.A. [09/20/86], opening for Fear. That day cops had come through on horseback and cleared the audience as we were about to go on. But we didn’t lose any equipment, and nobody got hurt. We were shuttled over to a different stage at the festival and opened for Social Distortion instead." (Duff, autobiography)
"During the [Street Scene] show, Axl gets hit with a bottle. Surprisingly it didn't phase him and the show continued. From GNR's security man at the time: "The show was stopped when the crowd got too excited and dumped the barricades, which were big industrial drums full of water. The water had run underneath the stage and the fire marshall insisted the show stop immediately because of the risk of electrical shock. The fire marshall came to me on stage, told me they had to shut it down or someone was going to get electrocuted.
I ran out onstage after a song, told Axl to listen to me, whispered in his ear. He then told the crowd something to the effect of 'Because some of you got a little crazy with the water down there, the show's over!' I also recall him looking at some guy in the crowd on the way out and shooting him the bird and telling him on the mic, '...And you... FUCK YOU!' And then we left the stage." (GNR On Tour)
This is the story of the Riverport Riot.
"On July 2, 1991 16,000 St. Louis Concert goers attended the Guns N' Roses show at the newly constructed Riverport Amphitheatre, 15 miles west of St. Louis in Maryland Heights, Missouri. The band took the stage to a standing room crowd thrilled to see the band after it's three-year absence from the city. Guns N' Roses performed several cuts from its debut, Appetite for Destruction, as well as numerous tracks from its forthcoming Use Your Illusion twin albums." (Musician, 09/91)
(image courtesy of There's a Lot Going On.
"The show started about an hour late — which by this point almost counted as on time." (Duff, autobiography)
That lame-ass security
"There was a weird space in my mind the entire night. I was thinking, "Something isn't right up here. Why is there this weird attitude, this passiveness, in the security?" There was no feeling that they were on the same team as us." (Axl, Musician, 09/91)
"Witnesses say that security was particularly lax at the venue. "As we went into the amphitheater, I was not frisked at all.", says Melodee Lang, 24, "To me, that was unusual because at every other concert I've been to, I have been frisked," Lang says that she saw numerous patrons with bottles and cameras in the venue." (Rolling Stone, 08/22/91)
"Through all of this, several members of a motorcycle gang called the Saddle Tramps were making their presence known in the first row, allegedly intimidating other concertgoers... Rose claims that the G n' R staffers tried to have one of the bikers ejected and were met with indifference by the venue's security staff." (Rolling Stone, 08/22/91)
"Their feelings towards the crowd wasn't right. A young boy and a girl were getting shoved over here while rowdy bikers are being allowed to do whatever they want. What is going on? I was very confused." (Axl, Musician, 09/91)
"One [regular concert-goer] says: "[The bikers] always cause problems. I see them at every show. They're always pushing people around. And the thing is, the security guards are intimidated by them. They security guards have never, at least in my experience, gone in and said, 'Listen guys, calm down'."
"I found out later that these guys were all friends with local security" says Guns n' Roses' manager Doug Goldstein, "which would explain why security wouldn't deal with the problems they were causing..."
"Both the police and Steve Schankman, the president to Contemporary Productions, the concert's promoter confirm that the Saddle Tramps are regulars at arena shows and are indeed known to the venue's security staff but deny that the bikers were causing any problems and say that they hadn't caused problems in the past." (Rolling Stone, 08/22/91)
"Here's my card."
"Early in the show, Rose says, another of the bikers, who the promoter says goes by the name of Stump, began bellowing to get Rose's attention. "You have people yelling and screaming during the whole show," says Rose, "but this guy just wouldn't stop, and he was loud - almost as loud as my monitor. He's holding up a card, and I'm like 'Okay, yeah, that’s great.' But he still won't stop yelling." (Rolling Stone, 08/22/91)
"This guy kept on waving his motorcycle card for his gang, the Saddletramps. I just didn't care about it." (Axl, Musician, 09/91)
"I was a fan. I'd seen them open up [on 09/03/88] to Aerosmith. I had a front row, got some good pictures; Axl was basically posing for me that year." (Stump, Welcome to the Riot Show)
"Those four guys were yelling and driving me nuts the whole night... They were like "we know Guns N' Roses and we're going to prove we're his best friend and we are his biggest fan and so on." I was like, "Shut up!"" (Axl, Musician, 09/91)
Axl picks up Stump's card and comments on it.
"[During Dust N' Bones, the fourth song in the set,] Rose finally stopped and asked the biker what he wanted; Stump handed over a card bearing his name and affiliation."
(Lee Phillips, Guns n' Roses' attorney, says the exchange was captured on videotape by a member of Guns n' Roses crew. Daniel Durchholz, a reporter for the Riverfront Times who was there to review the show says, "I did see somebody hand him a card.")
I read his card," says Rose, "and I said, 'Okay, you're Stump from the Saddle Tramps - was that worth interrupting the show for?' Rose says he asked what he was supposed to do with the card and that Stump told him to 'remember it."" (Rolling Stone, 08/22/91)
"As the show progressed, Rose says the problems mounted. Fans, unchecked by venue security kept grabbing his ankles. Bassist Duff McKagan was hit twice by bottles." (Rolling Stone, 08/22/91)
"I wasn't told about [Duff being bottled] until two days after the gig. [He] didn't want me to get excited... [things] such as Duff getting hit with a bottle twice during the show. Duff knows I would have called the show and he didn't want to be responsible for whatever happened out of that. Duff's attitude is, "I'm a man about things. I got hit with a bottle, big deal." My attitude is that no, you don't allow yourself to get hit by bottles because that encourages it in the future." (Axl, Musician, 09/91)
Axl stands still during Jungle.
"During "Jungle," [the 9th song of the set, out of 12,]... I just stood there and watched a security guy shove a young kid and walk about four feet out into the aisle just to act tough and show the crowd that he was a man. Then he turned around to me with a smile of pride on his face." (Axl, Musician, 09/91)
"Although, the video doesn’t show what Axl saw, we can see him standing and staring intently into the audience for about half a verse before he snaps out of his inner thoughts and resumes running around." (There's A Lot Going On, 04/02/13)
"I looked at this slob while he was looking at me with this pride on his face and going, "See what I do to your fans?" It took me a couple of days to understand the look on his face... I was very confused. I was like, "What is going on with these guys?"" (Axl, Musician, 09/91)
I see you standin'
"We played about an hour and a half, and were in the middle of “Rocket Queen” when all hell broke loose." (Duff, autobiography)
"One thing that is not being said in the press is that [my personal bodyguard] Earl Gabbidon was on the headset and he warned those guys in the front that either the cameras go or the show is off. He warned them four times. He was doing his job." (Axl, Musician, 09/91)
"Daniel Durccholz - who says he and his associate were not frisked before entering the venue either - claims to have given his business card to at least three amateur photographers during the concert, one of whom had managed to smuggle a camcorder." (Rolling Stone, 08/22/91)
"Stump Stephenson was near the stage with his friend Go-Go, photographing the show, as he’d done at dozens of gigs over the years. Of course, the camera wasn’t cleared..." (StlBeacon, 11/08/12)
"Stump admits to sneaking in not only the infamous camera, but also a knife and bottle of whiskey, 'like I always have.'" (There's A Lot Going On, 04/02/13)
"I'd taken pictures throughout the show... It was during Rocket Queen, as you said, and after I took the picture, he started pointing and holler down at the crowd." (Stump, Welcome to the Riot Show)
"This guy was shooting pictures the whole show. He'd been doing it, and probably having a good laugh. I saw Axl tell the security guard, 'Stop that f?!kin' guy!' and the security's watching the band." (Slash, RIP, 03/92)
"At that time, I'd already realized he was pointing at me, and I turned and gave the camera to my friend, he was in the row behind me." (Stump, Welcome to the Riot Show)
"So Axl went in, and that's when it started." (Slash, RIP, 03/92)
"When he jumped down, it was great, we kept playing that suspenseful riff that starts off 'Rocket Queen', and I thought the whole moment was killer." (Slash, autobiography)
"When I handed the camera off and I turned back, he was already in flight, coming at me." (Stump, Welcome to the Riot Show)
Rocket Queen starts up, following a Slash solo (Godfather theme).
"I dived into that crowd. And when I dive I'm aware of what can happen... I got hit in the eye when I jumped off the stage." (Axl, Musician, 09/91)
"So he hit me blindside, and we went over chairs... And he's like, 'Gimme, gimme [the camera].' At that time, my adrenaline was so pumped and flowing, I didn't realize that, on my back, I had ruptured some discs when we hit the chairs." (Stump, Welcome to the Riot Show)
"Oh, and by the way, I never hit [Stump,] the guy with the camera. All I did was grab his vest and... did not let go of that guy." (Axl, Musician, 09/91)
"Babu Brat, who witnessed the incident from the floor, says: "He never hit the guy... It didn't even look like he made it to the guy when he initially jumped. He looked like he just grabbed him and held on to him."" (Rolling Stone, 08/22/91)
"I wouldn't let go of the guy with the camera because the security was trying to get me to let go of him so he could get away. I was like, "No, no, no." (Axl, Musician, 09/91)
"All of a sudden, he just disappears off me. I've a hold of him, he's got a hold of me - and he just disappears." (Stump, Welcome to the Riot Show)
"I saw him hit a security guard, but he didn't hit the guy." (Babu Brat, Rolling Stone, 08/22/91)
"We went to throw [Axl] up on stage, and on the way up, he slaps one of my guys." (Walter Wright, Riverport security, Welcome to the Riot Show)
"The only guy I hit was the security guy who was screaming at me and grabbed me, and I didn't even hit him, I slapped him. I was like, "Wake up!"" (Axl, Musician, 09/91)
We've lost contact with Axl
"The band kept going. We'd gotten good at improvising to fill dead space - drum solos, guitar solos, jams - we had a bag of tricks to keep things moving whenever Axl made a sudden exit. We kept jamming, and I went over to the side of the stage.
"Where is he?" I asked Doug.
He looked at me with a pained expression. "He's not coming back."
"What do you mean he's not coming back?" I shouted, still playing the riff.
"There is no way he is coming back," Doug said. "There's nothing I can do."
"I lost a contact [during the dive]. I wear these experimental lenses and I didn't know I had another set. So I am half blind going, "Okay, I can't see. The show is over. As a matter of fact my next few shows are over." I was really upset." (Axl, Musician, 09/91)
"For about ten minutes, we waited in the wings, unsure what to do. Since we all had our own dressing rooms and staff and Axl had hurried off to his, we didn’t know whether or not he was planning to return. We thought he probably would. The crowd seemed to think so, too." (Duff, autobiography)
"We wanted to go on again. I know there's a certain amount of blame that can be put on us, because if you don't know us, you might say, 'Well, you could've done something to keep it together.' But from our point of view, it all happened so fast, we didn't know what the f?!k was going on." (Slash, RIP, 03/92)
"A lot of people don't realize that we tried to come back." (Axl, Musician, 09/91)
"[Guns'] production manager [Dale "Opie" Skjereeth] came in and said, 'That's it, he's done, houselights.' Houselights signify, 'Hey, that's it. Go home.' It's the end of the show, unless it's Bruce Springsteen." (Sunil Sinha, Riverport production manager '91-03, Welcome to the Riot Show)
"Once I realized I had another contact I got the band together and we were going to go back out." (Axl, Musician, 09/91)
"Axl re-emerged from his dressing room and we offered to go back out and play to calm things down. It was too late." (Duff, autobiography)
10 Minute Warning
"After that first ten minutes, the tone of the crowd changed and people began to throw stuff at the stage." (Duff, autobiography)
"The riot started about ten minutes [after Axl's stagedive], when the houselights were turned on. Sporadic fights broke out, and then concertgoers went on a rampage, hurling bottles, destroying seats, pulverizing shrubbery, setting fires and laying waste to the band's equipment." (Rolling Stone, 08/22/91)
"We felt we had a better chance of calming everybody down than the police, but by that time everything was too far gone... The police were trying to figure out whether they should just arrest me and let the crowd do whatever they wanted to do..." (Axl, Musician, 09/91)
"[Maryland Heights Police Chief] Neil Kurlander... confirms that the band did offer to play a few more songs to calm the crowd. "By that point," says Kurlander, "it was too late, and it was too out of hand."" (Rolling Stone, 08/22/91)
"We found out the drums were damaged while the police were on the risers, so we couldn't [perform]." (Axl, Musician, 09/91)
"Police officers used fire hoses and CapStun (an aerosol cayenne pepper similar to Chemical Mace) on the mob to no avail and were forced to retreat; according to one fan, the carnage continued for an hour before officers in riot gear arrived and got the situation under control." (Rolling Stone, 08/22/91)
"I wasn't aware that they were going to tear the place down, but I'm aware of all the legal things that can happen with me. Someone getting hurt or whatever. But I've got a videotape of people destroying our equipment. It wasn't the building's equipment. I think people got ripped off of a good show." (Axl, Musician, 09/91)
"Various reports have quoted the Maryland Heights police as saying that Guns n' Roses "snuck out of the venue" during the melee... Guns n' Roses' management says that the band left the amphitheater on the orders of the police and the promoter. Kurlander wouldn't confirm that, but he did say that the band's leaving the venue "was probably a wise thing for them to do."" (Rolling Stone, 08/22/91)
"We were told to leave and now people are saying they don't remember that... It's really hard to handle the frustration I get, and the anger, at being portrayed consistently so negatively. There are certain areas of the media who do that to me all the time." (Axl, Musician, 09/91)
"Another twenty minutes went by before forty or fifty police cars came screaming in and backup police stormed and retook the venue.
The band was shoved into a small van and told to get on the floor so we weren’t visible. Slash’s hat was sticking up. The driver asked him to take it off.
When the van drove out of the enclosed part of the venue and into the parking lot, I could hear that the mayhem had spread outside. As we pulled out of the parking lot, I peeked out the back window — I could see speaker cabinets and pieces of our pianos. Kids had gotten tired of carrying them or dumped them when the cops showed. Clots of cops ran around with batons and pepper spray. Kids ran this way and that. Medics rushed around treating bloodied fans. Police had people in cuffs. It looked like a war zone." (Duff, autobiography)
"The kids had a field day. I lost all my amps, my guitar tech got a bottle in the head, someone got knifed, our stage and video equipment and Axl's piano were trashed. I don't know. It was a fluke. It shouldn't have happened... but it did." (Slash, RIP, 03/92)
"I know that there were a few hundred bad eggs in a crowd of 18,000, and one of those bad eggs is probably having a good laugh right now, sitting on one of my Marshall cabinets. I know a lot of people were hurt, but a lot of our people were hurt too. It goes both ways. I'm not trying to sound like an asshole. I feel bad for what happened, but I can't just say it was our fault. And I won't blame the kids of St. Louis, either. It just happened. I'm not putting the rap on anybody." (Slash, RIP, 03/92)
"The van took us to our hotel, we ran in and grabbed our bags, and then we got back in and headed across the state line into Illinois to avoid any legal difficulties. We drove all the way to Chicago — management figured the cops would go straight to our plane if they were going to try to arrest us." (Duff, autobiography)
"Rose, who left the amphitheater with his band as the disturbance grew, called KSHE-FM about two hours after the incident to express his concerns about the riot. "I regret what happened last night," Rose told KSHE-FM deejay Jim Ellis." (LA Times, 07/04/91)
"Every gig after Riverport, the threat of violence hung in the air — or at least it felt that way to me as I sat around stewing, waiting for our singer to turn up each night, listening nervously for the festive noise of the arena to transform into the low rumble of a big, angry crowd. A crowd could turn and you could hear it. I knew that sound now. I knew that if you were at the wrong end of that, it was scary. And I knew it meant more than a bit of property damage. It meant casualties." (Duff, autobiography)
"As of right now, we are considered the most dangerous band in the world. That's kind of a good reputation to have as far as a rock band is concerned. That means you're doing great and you're going to do better." (Axl, Musician, 09/91)
SEE ALSO: Welcome to the Riot Show - 30min documentary on the St. Louis riot, told from the venue's perspective.
Re: St. Louis '91 - The Riverport Riot
Great write-up apex, and does put a whole new light on the events of that night. I always thought the "lame ass security" comment was purely in regard to them not taking the guys camera, and I don't recall ever reading that GNR were prepared to go back on stage that night
The cartoon is brilliant. Love the facial expression of the fan when Axls diving towards him