UPDATE: Sun Kil Moon “Meltdown” At Hopscotch Fest Prompted By Idiots in Crowd



UPDATE 9/9: Kozelek is now selling an “All You Fuckin’ Hillbillies Shut The Fuck Up” teeshirt via his Caldo Verde label website, and in a stroke of poetic justice, the shirts are being made by local Raleigh biz Tannis Root.


The “fucking hillbillies” comment, though ill-timed, was clearly a joke. Above: post-concert graffiti dedicated to Mark Kozelek.

By Fred Mills

Once again, the immediacy and ubiquity of social media has conflated an isolated incident into some sort of Ukrainian missile crisis in the ever-sensitive indie rock community. In this corner: Mark “Kruschev” Kozelek, who prior to a Sun Kil Moon set Friday night (Sept. 5) at Raleigh’s Lincoln Theater during the annual Hopscotch Music Festival, was experiencing a short delay in starting up due to microphone issues and, responding to a noisy, restless crowd, told the “fucking hillbillies” in the audience to “shut the fuck up.” In this corner: a handful of self-appointed indie freedom fighters who decided that Mr. Kozelek needed to be taught a lesson in Southern manners and spent the rest of the evening in a passive-aggressive snit, deliberately making noises and baiting the band. The result: a highly anticipated concert ultimately ruined for the 95% of the crowd that actually wanted to hear Kozelek & Co. perform.

While a number of blogs and social comments have tried to cast Kozelek as the bad guy—Pitchfork, for example, tried to spin the incident along lines of other times when he was “surly” with audiences, such as the show reported on by The Seattle Times in February and the Barcelona gig The Quietus reviewed—that type of contextual generalization ignores most of the specifics. Admittedly, Kozelek was frustrated and was seen having a heated conversation with a crew member or a Lincoln Theater employee prior to going onstage, presumably about the mic problems. And even though Kozelek stated from the stage that he had been joking, using a term like “hillbilly” in North Carolina, while not on the order of, say, using the N-word in Harlem or calling a Hispanic crowd in Texas “wetbacks,” is flirting with misinterpretation, to say the least.

Full disclosure: I was not at the show. Still, according to at least three people who I talked to yesterday (including a photographer who was working with me during Hopscotch), Kozelek was clearly joking when he made the comments, but a certain number of thin-skinned people chose to take offense anyway. Those people then proceeded to make noise throughout the set, some of them giving exaggerated shushing sounds, others lobbing catcalls in the direction of the stage. This in turn prompted their neighbors to try to quiet them down, resulting in a kind of verbal domino effect. One of the folks I talked to said that after about 15 minutes he’d had enough and walked out—not because he was angry at Kozelek, but because the boneheads in the crowd made it impossible to concentrate on just the music.

As one might imagine, though, comments flooded social media, many of them along the lines of “really rude,” “stuck up asshole,” “prima donna meltdown” and “#SunKilMoon is a dick.” I saw a few counter-comments, but it appears that the majority of commenters were reacting to “what they had heard” rather than what they actually observed firsthand.

Go HERE to read a generally thoughtful and thorough summary of the Raleigh show published by Triangle weekly newspaper the Indy Week which included a link to the actual audio of his comments.

3 thoughts on “UPDATE: Sun Kil Moon “Meltdown” At Hopscotch Fest Prompted By Idiots in Crowd

  1. bowlofjokes

    I was at the show. I’m neither southern nor thin skinned, and certainly not self-appointed to fight anything. This article is more passive aggressive than anything said or done that night.

    I wasn’t offended by his comments. It was just a dick move. I don’t agree that he was “clearly joking” or that he was joking at all. Also, the shushing began well before his set even began, just after he grabbed the mic that wasn’t working at swore at the guys a the soundboard to ‘get this fucking thing working’ (paraphrased). The Indy got it right when it said the apology was “maybe-not-even-half-hearted.” Not sure why you’d continue to hold his comments up as “clearly” a joke.

    The whole thing was as much on his shoulders as it was that of a rude audience. Lincoln’s a bad place for that show. But walking on stage and immediately deflating the entire room doesn’t help. Not sure how the audience “prompted” that.

    1. Fred Mills Post author

      Yeah, good points all. Maybe the blame should be shared equally, to be honest. I will note, again, that I was not at the show so my comments above could be described as “hearsay,” certainly – but they were based on talking to three people the next day (I know, I know… hardly a scientific sample), including the photographer I was working with for Hopscotch. I’m thinking it was partially a case of “eye/ear of the beholder.”

      Should add two quick notes: Early in the incident, someone in the audiences shouted “Shut the fuck up!” and I now know who it was because I talked to a friend who was with him at the show; he was directing his shout at the rest of the audience. Also, another friend of mine just informed me that the staff of the Lincoln was not happy at all with Mark K – one staffer, who will not be identified here but could roughly be described as “being directly involved with the technical aspects of the show that night,” told my friend that Mark was the biggest asshole he’d ever had to work with at the venue. All hearsay again, I realize.

      1. Fred Mills Post author

        Adding one more thing. The more I think about this – and yes, I realize the whole ironic nature of the “hearsay element” of my observations and comments – the more it seems like we’re in Rashomon territory. This person sees a musician onstage in a negative light; this person sees a combative, unruly audience; this person sees a faulty sound system; this person sees his night out on the town turned into a bummer, man. You get my point. I’ve been going to shows long enough to know that when you have the volatile mix of music, emotions and (for some) alcohol, things can spin off axis pretty quickly and unexpectedly. I mean, the artist up there has a lot at stake because it is, after all, his or her art that he’s trying to present. Likewise, the audience members feel they have a lot at stake as well, not only their admission dollars, but the mental and emotional energy they are investing. Given that all the “rules” of concertgoing are essentially unwritten, it’s surprising that 99% of shows come off as smoothly as they do.

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