T-shirtgate at the concert gates

I remember my first dissection. I was in 4th grade and they had set up tables in the school library where we would be guided through the slicing and dicing of a cow’s eyeball. I’m not overly squeamish, so it didn’t bother me too much as long as I didn’t think too hard about it. Today I’m going to guide you through a dissection and I guarantee it’s going to be messy and it’s going to be ugly.

1st June 2012. My burgeoning interest in Axl Rose was only a few weeks old, but when the report hit the news wire, family and friends made sure that I had heard: “Axl Bans Slash T-Shirts!” Look! Look what that nutjob did now! What a hateful, spiteful, petty man! {Insert giant eyeroll here} This already smelled of rotten fish. Get out your scalpels, friends, and let’s tear this hack job apart.

First cut: Consider the source. Most people who saw the article had it pop up in their newsfeed via Yahoo or GuitarWorld or some other source. But way down at the bottom of the article was a little note listing the original source: a British music magazine called NME. That won’t mean anything to the casual reader, but after having just read pages and pages of articles about Axl and Guns n’ Roses, I immediately recognized the name NME as notoriously anti-Axl. With headlines like “Axl Rose Falls Headfirst Onstage” and “Axl Rose’s Best Tantrums,” it’s plain that NME revels in any chance they get to throw more dirt at Axl. So right off the bat, we should be wary.

Second cut: The second sentence tells us that band management has banned anyone wearing Slash t-shirts from entering the gigs on the UK leg of the tour. Wow, anyone? One of the first rules I learned in my high school Written Composition class was to avoid unprovable generalizations. Marks off for poor writing skills. Next, I did a little bit of research via a couple of the main Guns n’ Roses fan forums. These people are fanatical about documenting who has attended concerts, so I knew that there would surely have been a few at this same concert. I was not disappointed to find that message threads had already been started regarding the NME article. Some people jumped on the bandwagon and bashed Axl (yay, fans!); some were skeptical, saying that they had seen people in all manner of Slash gear at shows they had attended — even people dressed in full-on Slash regalia — with no harassment from security. There was a very small minority, however, that did report either hearing an announcement regarding Slash clothing or saw security asking people to turn their shirts inside-out at a smattering of shows. So then the question is, who gave the orders?

Cut number three: In the NME article, James Revell, the Slash-clad fan, is quoted as saying, “I believe they asked me to do this because Axl Rose has some problem with Slash and if he saw me wearing the shirt he might have stormed off stage.”

Uh huh.

When the reporter asked a security guard, he said “management” had instructed them to do this; whether arena management or band management remains unclear. But, based on the conjecture of an angry 18 year old, blame automatically gets laid at Axl’s feet. Then, like a bad game of Telephone, the news wire jumps all over it and we see headlines morph from “Guns n’ Roses Bans Fans From Wearing Slash T-shirts” to “Axl Rose Bans Slash T-shirts,” with every manner of speculation and rumor-mongering contained within the articles. When we boil it down, this whole media firestorm stems from one quote by one witness. Shouldn’t there have been plenty of other half-naked Guns fans with a story to tell of how big, bad Axl Rose wouldn’t let them wear their Slash t-shirts? And nowhere was an attempt made to contact either the venue management or the band management. And, amazingly enough, this was not an issue on the remainder of the tour, including rock festivals where both Axl and Slash were playing at the same venues. Wouldn’t it be conceivable that there were fans attending both shows and possibly also wearing a {gasp} Slash t-shirt? Or are only British fans in Slash shirts offensive to Axl? Still smells like fish to me.

Fourth cut: The article says, “an NME source noticed that a member of the crowd was bare-chested under his jacket.” A bare chest? At a rock concert?! Stop the presses!! Seriously, all it took for this sharp-eyed “source” to hone in on this kid was that he was bare-chested under his jacket? Unless the kid was doing backflips or had mounted a soap box to decry the injustice wreaked upon him, wouldn’t most people just walk on by? Wow, I must not have what it takes to be a real reporter.

In this latest incident, Guns and Axl remained silent, largely because they felt they have already dealt with it before. Oh yes, this isn’t the first time people have prattled on about the supposed Slash t-shirt ban. A big deal was made of it after a concert in Winnipeg in January 2010. Shortly after those allegations were made, Fernando Lebeis, Axl’s manager, wrote on the Guns n’ Roses message board to say, “We did not advise any security to ban any sort of apparel… If they did, they did it on their own accord, or under someone else’s order — from within their management.”

But that wasn’t good enough for some people. A moderator of a Guns n’ Roses fan site kept pursuing the story until TMZ and other outlets blew it up. And once that happened, Axl blew up and made an appearance on the message board to tell this woman just what he thought. This is another case where I agree with his reasoning, but his methods make me cringe. A few days later, on February 16, 2010, Axl addressed the situation again on Twitlonger (a lengthier version of Tweets), although with less vitriol (guess he had had enough time to cool off).

Canadian tour n’ Slash banned nonsense: which I addressed live as soon as it happened but hey fake allegations from unreliable sources bein’ negative n’ all especially w/us n’ these issues got more weight to n’ 4 aholes. Fabricated from a 2001 bs RS piece from Rock N’ Rio. Bottom line: Never happened, end of story. %@&$ TMZ, Contact Music, Spinner (I got ur attitude.)

(And, I love ya, Axl, but dude. Seriously. Commas!!)

The 2001 Rock in Rio incident that Axl references involved a front-row heckler. Axl ran down the lowest part of the stage during the second song of the set (“It’s So Easy” at about 5:44 on the video link). As he goes into the bridge, Axl leans forward, very deliberately flips off someone in the crowd and then points his finger right at him to insure that this guy knows that Axl is on to him. As soon as he finishes that line of the song (which, weirdly, also seems it could be directed at the person in the crowd — “See me hit you; you fall down”), Axl says, “Get that guy outta here! That guy right there! Are you listening to me, Mr. Security Man? That guy: gone!” He grins, then as an afterthought adds, “Hand me that shirt. Thank you,” as an unseen person tosses up a wadded shirt to him. Axl takes the shirt, picks up singing as he runs back up to the mainstage and throws the shirt out of the way. And that’s the last we see or hear of it. What was on the shirt? No one knows. It may not have even been the graphics that were the problem — there were lots of people in the crowd swinging shirts around their heads. The shirt didn’t seem to be the main issue anyways. So, from that incident where not everything is clear, we get wild and misguided stories that crop up every few years. It’s like the monster that will never die — chop off one head and another grows back. No wonder Axl gets frustrated! It would drive me nuts, too, to be continually ignored or taken for a liar.

When this latest tour ended, I contacted Jarmo Luukkonen, who is creator of the site Here Today Gone to Hell, and now allowed the privilege of touring with the band. Obviously not the most unbiased source in the world, but, from what I can tell of him through his message board, he likes to get to the truth of a situation. I asked him whether he saw people in the crowds wearing Slash gear or whether they were turned away. His response was briefer than I would have preferred, but at least he did respond. The entirety of his message was:

“Hey, I think as usual, things just get twisted and blown out of proportion.”

Which is what I suspected all along.

What’s left on our dissection table then?

  • One unhappy, bare-chested fan
  • One security guard just “following orders”
  • And one weighty accusation

That’s not a news story, folks; that’s a personal anecdote and the source who perpetrated it had no business doing so with such flimsy information. So the moral of the story is: anyone can be a journalist! Woo hoo! No, wait. The real moral is: CHECK YOUR FACTS! And before you click “share” or spout off ridiculous comments, take another look at that scandalous news article and be sure you can extract any real news from it.