Drake, Bieber and the pop riots

A riot broke out at New York’s South Street Seaport during a free concert Tuesday. And what nefarious musician inspired such a disastrous public event? The newest shock rocker to hit the scene? Some “evil” death metal band? An anarchist cult yelling at the crowds to fight the government conspiracy?


It was Drake, hip-hop and pop’s newest “it” musician. The gig was held the same day that Drake’s new album, Thank Me Later, hit every music store imaginable. A number of outlets have detailed the poor-planning and execution that took place at the show, and The Village Voice‘s Zach Baron was able to detail why the crowd got so rowdy in the first place:

Sources later told the Voice that the riot apparently started when a couple started simulating sex in the middle of the crowd. Though the crowd was into it, a plainclothes cop moved to intervene. A civilian then attempted to stop the plainclothes cop from getting involved, at which point a uniformed cop spotted the civilian accosting the plainclothes cop, and grabbed him. At which point the crowd went nuts. Ultimately, the riot became so severe that Police Commissioner Ray Kelly was called to the scene.

All this happened before openers Ninjasonik were able to get into the groove of their set, and before second-tier headliners Hanson and main-man Drake made an appearance. Though the guys in Ninjasonik have skills and the brothers who wrote “MMMBop” could get their fair share of screams back in the day, I’m pretty sure Drake was what brought the crowd, and that Drake’s lack of an appearance caused some concert-goers to toss steel chairs onto a portion of the crowd from a balcony. (Sorry Hanson.)

Don’t believe it? Check out this video:

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It’s hard to believe a hip-hopper known for bearing his soul a little too much could inspire such a response. Then again, this came not long after fans in Australia went nuts during a free show featuring the squeaky-clean Justin Bieber.

It used to be parents would fear kids going to shows with bands preaching “anti-social” behavior: That was where the riot was. Remember the deaths at Altamont? Remember when Black Flag shows were so violent the band was banned from L.A.? Remember when Hell on Earth used the promise of an onstage suicide as an advertisement for one of their concerts?

Where’s the concert violence occurring now? At pop shows featuring tepid pop stars.

So what’s happened? Have the values of musicians changed? Hardly.

Read a little bit about the Drake and Bieber concerts and find a similar thread: A show where people weren’t expecting the outpouring of fandom. The only “values” that have changed are those that occur within the crowd at the specific concerts: Even then, the values aren’t terribly different from what anyone who has taken a psychology class can figure out.

It’s the mob mentality. If something a massive crowd of people expects to happen falls through, people will react in unkind ways. Individual thought can take a backseat when a rush of communal emotion takes place. In some cases, it must certainly be thrilling. In others, steel chairs take flight.

Sure, the lesson is obvious: Don’t follow the crowd. But then again, doesn’t that very notion negate the ascendancy of pop artists? Aren’t pop musicians simply supported by masses of people, and often metaphorically dismembered by the masses when their popularity ebbs?

Perhaps this presents a new case in favor of the splintering and Balkanization occurring in pop music. With so many micro-scenes, nobody has to get hurt. And isn’t Drake’s heartbreak-inspired music all about getting past the hurt? Who knows, maybe the riots could inspire a great new Drake tune… well, maybe not “great.”

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