Toronto, June 16, 2012 – It began as a beautiful Ontario day. High ’70s, sunny with clear skies, and both The Flaming Lips and Radiohead were readying for big shows that night – a coincidence Wayne Coyne considered “a great cosmic collision.” The former prepared to headline an all-day free festival hosted by Spinner at Yonge-Dundas Square – the marquee event of NXNE 2012 (Canada’s answer to SXSW) – as Radiohead set to wrap their latest North American shows with Caribou. The string of spring dates built around Radiohead’s acclaimed headlining Bonnaroo set on June 8th ran from Massachusetts on May 29th through New Jersey, Chicago and Canada in June. The trek was scheduled to close Saturday night at Downsview Park (the 15th anniversary of OK Computer’s release). At about 4 that afternoon the roof above Radiohead’s stage caved after the lightning rig scaffolding collapsed. Because the show was still hours from starting – with gates scheduled to open at 5 – none of the 40,000 concertgoers for this sold-out show were in the presence of the collapse, but between 10 and 15 crew members were working on the stage at that moment. Instantly news spread across social networks and twitter; uploads to YouTube and personal blog accounts (like this) soon followed. Not much was known – just that the roof fell over fifty feet, several people had been harmed, equipment was damaged, the area was evacuated for police investigation and the show was canceled. It was later revealed that three workers were injured in addition to Radiohead’s 33 years old drum tech Scott Johnson being crushed to death. As a result of serious damage to their lighting show and backline, today Radiohead canceled their next seven shows (all in Europe, mostly Italy). Their full statement is at the bottom of this post.
Meanwhile, 11 miles south from Radiohead’s tragedy, the all-day NXNE free festival at Yonge-Dundas Square played on. Brooklyn’s Oberhofer took the stage at 6 that evening (“band leader Brad Oberhofer’s dizzy wander about Yonge-Dundas Square during an extended jam finished in a thrash“), followed by Of Montreal (“spandex performance art spectacle being undertaken by their troupe of dancers. There was a series of pink Wolverines, a referee, a kooky Pan character, lots of pig people, glittering bikini babes, some crawling Captain America thing, luchadores, what might have been Dr. Who villains…”) and Portugal. the Man (“noticeably toughen up their sound live…more “rawk”…the Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” couldn’t have been less jam band…a charming version of “the Sun” betrayed the band’s softer side“).
By the time The Flaming Lips took the stage to close out the night many of the fans who had planned to see Radiohead had migrated. Rumors spread that Radiohead would play a free show following the Lips and that Wayne Coyne had invited all Radiohead and crew members to join the Lips. Needleess to say, the concert was packed. Approximately 25,000 people tried to squeeze into the makeshift venue – a public square at the intersection of Yonge Street and Dundas Street East – forcing police to close Yonge to vehicle traffic.
The Flaming Lips paid tribute to Radiohead with a cover of “Knives Out” followed by their seeking-words-of-wisdom go to song in times-of-trouble, “Waitin’ For a Superman.” Wayne said before the latter, “everyone is looking for an answer when something like this happens, this song says just hold on the best you can.” For their finale the Lips dedicated “Do You Realize???” to “the Radiohead family.” Watch the entire set below courtesy of Toronto Tapers Consortium via slow-nerve-action.com.
In all, North by Northeast was a massive success – the most successful festival in its 18 year history. According to toronto.broadwayworld.com, “During the 7-day festival, June 11-17, 2012, more than 310,000 fans saw over 800 acts on over 50 stages, including a combined audience of 55,000 at Yonge-Dundas Square (YDS) on Saturday for The Flaming Lips and on Sunday for Raekwon and Ghostface Killah.”
arts.nationalpost.com: “In spite of the fact that he seemed to be playing to an at times unenthusiastic crowd (WE WERE STARING AT TENTS, WAYNE! SORRY!), Coyne pulled out all the stops — including a very heartfelt tribute to the friends and family of those affected by the afternoon’s Downsview Park stage collapse and resultant cancelled Radiohead show, which led into a bare-bones cover of Knives Out. The man is a true entertainer with a light behind his eyes that all the billboards and moving pictures of Yonge-Dundas Square couldn’t outshine.”
But there was no escaping The Flaming Lips were playing in the shadow of Radiohead’s tragedy just hours ago and a few miles away. The Lips no doubt were touched. Not only are the band members fans of Radiohead, they escaped a similar catastrophe less than a year ago when wind blew their video screen over and crippled their stage before a show at Tulsa’s Brady Block Party last August 6th. Flaming Lips Michael Ivins explained shortly after to Rolling Stone, “There wasn’t a lot of space between the screen and an eight-foot drop. I basically had to leap over one of the legs [of the screen] to get out of the way. It was definitely pretty crazy.”
The Flaming Lips were lucky…
Watch The Flaming Lips set above. The setlist and track times are below, followed by a twitter recap of how the day unfolded…
5:51 Intro/ “Sweet Leaf” (Black Sabbath)
8:35 “Worm Mountain”
15:00 “She Don’t Use Jelly”
22:35 “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song”
30:55 Radiohead tribute and “Knives Out”
35:50 “Waitin’ for a Superman”
41:35 “Is David Bowie Dying?”
50:15 “See the Leaves/ Laser Hands”
1:00:05 “Drug Chart”
1:06:15 “What is the Light?”/”The Observer”
1:18:07 “Do You Realize??”
“We have all been shattered by the loss of Scott Johnson, our friend and colleague. He was a lovely man, always positive, supportive and funny; a highly skilled and valued member of our great road crew. We will miss him very much. Our thoughts and love are with Scott’s family and all those close to him.
Philip [Selway, Radiohead drummer]”
Official Statement from Radiohead – June 21, 2012
As you will probably have heard the roof over the stage collapsed at our show in Toronto killing crew member Scott Johnson and injuring three other crew members. The collapse also destroyed the light show – this show was unique and will take many weeks to replace. The collapse also caused serious damage to our backline, some elements of which are decades old and therefore hard to replace.
Whilst we all are dealing with the grief and shock ensuing from this terrible accident there are also many practical considerations to deal with & consequently we have to try and reschedule the following shows:
30 Roma Hippodrome Capanelle
1 Firenze Parco delle Cascine
3 Bologna Arena Parco Nord
4 Codroipo Villa Manin
6 Berlin Wuhlheide
7 Berlin Wuhlhedie
9 St Triphon Carriere des Andonces
We aim to announce the new dates for these shows on Wednesday 27th of June and will also supply information on how to obtain refunds on tickets if you cannot come to the show on the new date.
We will start playing live again at Les Arenes Nimes, Bilbao BBK festival and Lisbon Optimus Alive festival.
We will make every effort to offer the fans the very best show possible under the circumstances – thanks for your understanding and support.”