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Slayer: The Seat Cushion Riot

Slayer shows are legendary for their brutality. A contemporary Slayer concert is a good time but things were different in the early days. Crowds were passionate to the point of being crazed. Sometimes this passion could get out of hand, leading to bodily harm and property damage.

Word of Slayer riots first came to me in 1990. To promote the upcoming release of Seasons in the Abyss, Slayer booked a small club tour just before the album was released. Billed as “A Week in the Abyss,” the band previewed new tracks along with fan favorites. I was too young to experience the insanity of a Slayer show but a few friends were present for the historic concert.

The next day I was given details of a “riot.” Fans with no apparent concern for their safety dived from the balcony onto the packed floor below. Mirrors that lined the walls were kicked out and the sprinkler system was ripped from the ceiling.

Outside things got worse. Several fans began pushing a bus back and forth, leading to a very real threat of the whole thing tipping over and crushing people. Police descended upon the scene with batons drawn. Granted, this story was relayed second-hand but I CAN verify that it was a LONG time before the club in question booked another metal show.

The infamous concert was captured on tape and recently uploaded to You Tube. The video focuses on the band and provides no footage of fans destroying the venue. However, glancing through the comments, the story of the bus and trashed theatre is confirmed.

Riots at Slayer shows had been a problem for some time. When the Hollywood Palladium sold out during 1988’s World Sacrifice Tour, fans left without a ticket didn’t take the news well. The aftermath was caught on tape and “Real TV” aired a segment on the Slayer riot!

After 200 people refused to disperse, police were called in. Video footage shows at least one person getting beat with a baton. Angry fans shattered the glass door and began hurling shards of jagged glass at security guards. Other dramatic footage reveals people being carried into an ambulance.

As with the Philly show, a cursory glance at You Tube comments reveals additional insight into the riot. Upon leaving the show, concertgoers were met by helicopters that ordered fans to leave immediately. Another commenter reveals that rioters actually had legitimate tickets, but were not allowed in as the over-sold show was in violation of fire codes.

Perhaps the most infamous Slayer concert is the “Seat Cushion Riot.” Still touring behind South of Heaven, Slayer played New York’s Felt Forum on August 31st 1988. As with the Hollywood show, Danzig served as the opening act. By the time Danzig’s set was finished, the barricade had collapsed. It was clear that the show was going to be brutal before Slayer even played a note.

Throughout the show, the pit was particularly violent. Tom Araya was forced to address the crowd during the set, asking for “cooperation.” A futile request for the crowd to step back fell on deaf ears. Bouncers tried to rescue kids from getting crushed as Tom told the rabid crowd to “be easy” on kids trapped in the front.

In the back, mayhem of a different sort began to unfold. Fans had started ripping seat cushions from chairs and tossing them across the venue. The scene is captured on bootleg video. Slayer left the stage after playing “Ghosts of War.” A sea of seat cushions whizzing through the air is clearly visible.

Eventually Tom Araya came back to address the crowd. He immediately asked to have the spotlight turned off so he could see the projectiles being hurled towards him. Clearly agitated, Araya pleaded with the crowd to “Stop throwing these fucking cushions around!” Attempts at intervention were useless and the damage had been done. Araya is correct when he tells the crowd, “We can probably never play here again because of this shit.” Slayer then closed their set with “Angel of Death” as seat cushions continued to fly. Finally the show was over and Tom signed off by shouting, “Good night, assholes!”

Long after the chaos subsided, Tom and Dave reflected on the night when overzealous Slayer fans destroyed the Felt Forum. Here, we learn of seat cushions being lit on fire and a police presence during Danzig’s set.

Thanks to a widely circulated bootleg, the “Seat Cushion Riot” show has become firmly engrained in Slayer history. It offers undeniable proof that Slayer deserves every bit of their legacy.

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