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Crowd Chatter Incites Bob Weir to Walk Off Stage at Sweetwater

Grateful Dead legend gets angered by people who reportedly wouldn't stop talking while he played a solo acoustic set. He later returned for a set with his new Ratdog Quartet.

In a move the Sweetwater Music Hall's manager called "heartbreaking," Grateful Dead legend and Mill Valley resident Bob Weir walked off the stage at the venue Monday night in the face of unrelenting crowd chatter.

Weir, who was playing a solo acoustic set prior to a performance by his new Ratdog Quartet, walked off angrily in the middle of a rendition of Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall.” The walk-off was preceded by a number of indications that Weir was growing irritated with the chatter, and he asked those engaged in extended conversation if he was interrupting them.

After a few more seconds, Weir said, "OK I give up. I'll be back up later with an electric band and we'll be loud enough and that will be that."

Venue manager Aaron Kayce said a disruptively talkative crowd is one of the one of the most difficult aspects to navigate for a music hall, especially considering that everyone in the audience – "some to listen, eyes closed, immersed in the music, others to blow off steam and catch up with friends" – bought tickets to the show.

"Though we can encourage people to be quiet, and in retrospect I wish we had taken more steps to ensure a quieter room, there is unfortunately no law or rule against talking at a bar," Kayce said. "We hope that folks who have spent their hard earned money to come see an artist will be quiet when said artist is performing, but we also know that's not always the case and people go to shows for different reasons."

Kayce said the incident has caused venue management to implement some new protocols and reinstitute some old ones for acoustic shows. Those include making solo acoustic shows by big-name artists seated affairs, which they've done in the past for Weir as well as Justin Townes Earle.  

"When we know it's a more delicate show, we will also make an announcement before the set reminding folks to be aware of their volume levels and ask that if they really need to chat to please head into the cafe," Kayce said, adding that they'll be posting signs to that effect for similar shows.

"And we'll have security guards going through the room asking folks to please keep it down, though we did this to an extent but it simply got away from us," Kayce said.

Weir later returned to the stage with his new RatDog Quartet, telling the crowd, “It’s okay, we’re not going to try to do anything particularly delicate now,” before kicking off the set with “Friend of the Devil” and “Deep Elem Blues,” according to Jambands.com.

Weir was evidently still frustrated with those in the crowd who would not stay quiet, as he shouted “Shut the f**k up,” (see videos above) in the middle of the encore rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Knocking On Heaven’s Door.”

The incident sparked a backlash on social media Tuesday, particularly on the Sweetwater's Facebook page, with Johnny Dempster writing, "In 34 years of me going to see Bob Weir either with the GD ..Solo ..or Ratdog, I have never seen him get upset with the audience ...respect the artist and show some class ... Everyone should have gotten the message when he first told the audience 'shhh' ..the band deserves an apology from those in the audience who made him have to say, 'shut the f**k up ...Twice!"

Michele Earl Waldman posted, "Great show! Hope that fact doesn't get lost in all the drama."

Bill Haines March 11, 2013 at 10:32 PM
Bottom line: Bobby was right. STFU and listen to the music. If you want to talk, go to the lounge, or don't buy a ticket at all. What's the point of going to a concert if all you want to do is talk? Show some respect, not only to the performer but to the other people in the audience as well.
PatMonk March 15, 2013 at 07:51 PM
Agree with all comments about "entitled..ignorant..disrespectful..yuppie.." etc. Whilst free speech is to be fiercely protected, common courtesy should be observed. Yes you have a right to 'to enjoy yourselves', in public or in private, but so do we, so STFU. if you gotta run your mouth take it outside, or join the rest of your bridge crowd puking and polluting North Beach.
Gypsy Wagon March 16, 2013 at 05:23 PM
Awwww, people suffering all around the world, going hungry, dying and that cunt thought it was heartbreaking that ugly 'ole Bob left in a huff. Perhaps it's because Bob sucks ass? Always has, always will. I'd talk through it too. Loudly. While throwing rotten fruit.
Carl Keane May 06, 2013 at 06:16 PM
This whole deal makes me remember some idiotic things I did along these lines in my twenties....grew up in LA....and a stage production of The Iceman Cometh with Jason Robards came to town and an actor buddy had very hard to get tickets...being the 80's he also had a a prodigious amount of cocaine because the show was SIX HOURS LONG....if you know that particular recreational drug, you um, tend to blab...we thought we were whispering until Jason Robards glared at our dumbasses before continuing the play....we were asked to leave and I believe we ended up The Whiskey, still blabbing! Live and learn.
Julie May 06, 2013 at 09:17 PM
That's a great story! It sounds like something you'd read in the Pacific Sun under, "Great Moments in Rock n' Roll"...

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