[Update, Monday, July 26, 7 p.m.: The local rumor mill is in overdrive. Read more here.]
[Update, Sunday, July 25, 8 p.m.: Links to audio and video of the St. Louis show, and information on what happened at last night's Chicago show, were added at the end of the article. Also, our slideshow of photos from the night is posted.][Update, Saturday, July 24, at 12:55 p.m.: Kings of Leon has issued a statement. Read below.]
Kings of Leon canceled its St. Louis show on Friday night at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater after playing just three songs. We've not officially confirmed why -- although the prevailing rumor at the moment is that bird shit is the culprit.
RFT online intern Steve Hardy, who was set to review the show for A to Z, said that things seemed fine during opening sets by the Stills and the Postelles, and at the start of KOL's set. (He noted that "the songs they played were great - there was a good solo on 'Crawl.'")
After the Nashville band finished "Taper Jean Girl," the third song of the set, it walked off stage. According to Hardy, the house lights stayed off for a short while and then went up, and then someone came to the stage and said that "due to concerns over the band's safety, we are canceling the show. Please file out in an orderly fashion." RFT photographer Erin Kinsella estimated it was "3 to 5 minutes after the stage went dark" that they made the announcement. She also noted that security was then beefed up near the stage.
Adds Hardy: "Everyone was convinced it was a hoax."
Mass confusion ensued. The crowd started booing and chanting, "Bullshit!"; Hardy said the parking lot was full of honking horns and the sound of bottles being broken.
Footage on YouTube of the crowd chanting "Refund! Refund!":
The official @rftmusic Twitter, of course, started exploding with angry messages, tips, perplexed reactions - and rumbling about "pigeons." In fact, Kings of Leon drummer Nathan Followill tweeted the following:
@doctorfollowill So sorry St. Louis. We had to bail, pigeons shitting in jareds mouth. Too unsanitary to continue.
@doctorfollowill Don't take it out on Jared, it's the fucking venues fault. You may enjoy being shit on but we don't. Sorry for all who traveled many miles.
Translation: A pigeon shit in bassist Jared Followill's mouth. Now, this seems preposterous - except Hardy also said that opening band the Postelles dedicated a song "to our bassist, who just got shat on."
Justin Burnett, 31, of Manchester, Missouri, confirmed Hardy's observation - and noted that the Stills' bassist, Oliver Corbeil, was also hit by what appeared to be bird shit. Burnett was in the front row, directly in front of Kings of Leon vocalist Caleb Followill, and said that the creature was in the rafters of the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater. "It was so high up you couldn't see it, but it was definitely a bird," Burnett says. "And not to be gross, but when a pigeon shits, it comes out as a long line, and it's very noticeable. We thought it was water at first, and when the opening act commented on being shat on, we knew it was a bird."
After Kings of Leon walked offstage, Burnett says he saw people shining a spotlight near where the bird was in the rafters.
"We thought they were coming back onstage," he says, in reference to the band. "We were disappointed that they chose to cancel the show."
He added later: "I really wish they would've found a way to keep on playing, because they disappointed everyone there."
Unlike the situation with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell -- who fell ill due to dehydration during last Sunday's show at the same venue -- there's been no indication yet that heat was a factor in the cancellation. (Heat indexes yesterday in the area were over 100.) Burnett also stressed that he did not see bottles or other objects thrown onstage.
Due to the unexpected abbreviated Kings of Leon performance at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, Live Nation is issuing refunds on all tickets.
Purchases made at the box office and outlets, will be refunded at point of purchase starting Monday, July 26. Purchases made online and via phone will be refunded starting Monday, July 26.
Box office hours are Monday- Friday 10am-6pm and Saturday 10am- 2pm.
Followill's Twitter is private; a friend request from us is pending. The Verizon Wireless Amphitheater didn't pick up when we tried to call. Emails are in to the publicists for all three bands for comment and/or clarification.
We'll update this when we know more.
With additional reporting by Will Melton
[UPDATE, Saturday, July 24, 12:55 p.m. Here's the KOL statement, via the band's publicist:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PIGEON INFESTATION FORCES KINGS OF LEON OFFSTAGE EARLY IN ST. LOUIS
An infestation of pigeons living in the rafters of the Verizon Amphitheatre in St. Louis, MO, forced the Kings of Leon to walk offstage after three songs last night. Even though opening bands The Postelles and The Stills came offstage complaining of getting riddled with large amounts of pigeon excrement, the Kings of Leon decided to carry on regardless. The band felt it would be unfair to the fans to cancel the show at that late moment.
"I'm surprised they stayed on for as many songs as they did," said Andy Mendelsohn of Vector Management. "Jared was hit several times during the first two songs. On the third song, when he was hit in the cheek and some of it landed near his mouth, they couldn't deal any longer. It's not only disgusting -- it's a toxic health hazard. They really tried to hang in there. We want to apologize to our fans in St. Louis and will come back as soon as we can."
When the band arrived earlier in the day, the venue warned management that there had been a significant pigeon infestation problem with summer shows over the years, but they were doing all they could to fix it.
"We couldn't believe what The Postelles and The Stills looked like after their sets," said Jared Followill. "We didn't want to cancel the show, so we went for it. We tried to play. It was ridiculous."
Kings of Leon are headed to Chicago tonight to perform at the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre as scheduled.
[Update, Sunday, July 25, 8 p.m.: A call we made yesterday to the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater seeking a comment about Kings of Leon's statement hasn't yet been returned.
Video of the third song of the set, "Taper Jean Girl," has surfaced on YouTube:
My friend Althea Legaspi reviewed last night's Kings of Leon show in Chicago. In her Chicago Tribune review, she stated:
On Saturday singer/guitarist Caleb Followill quipped, "We've made it through five songs," in the only seeming reference to the incident.
She also had some complimentary words for the band: "Their once lackadaisical approach was replaced with a much more energetic delivery. Whether it was their newer moodier material, such as "Closer" or a number pulled from their garage beginnings, such as "Molly's Chambers," the group appeared to enjoy themselves as much as the fans did the performance."
We’re keeping you informed…
...and it’s what we love to do. From local politics and culture to national news that hits close to home, Riverfront Times has been keeping St. Louis informed for years.
It’s never been more important to support local news sources. A free press means accountability and a well-informed public, and we want to keep our unique and independent reporting available for many, many years to come.
If quality journalism is important to you, please consider a donation to Riverfront Times. Every reader contribution is valuable and so appreciated, and goes directly to support our coverage of critical issues and neighborhood culture. Thank you.