The concert-going people of Finland recently got the type of protection that anyone who’s seen Scott Weiland live wishes they could have gotten… the ability to get their money back if the show is “well below reasonably expected standards.”
What does this mean, and how’d it come about? It all stems from a complaint about a 2013 Chuck Berry show in Helsinki, in which Berry was sick and not at his best performing. The Finnish Consumer Disputes Board set a precedent by ruling that the event organizer should refund attendees 50 percent of the ticket price.
Alas, fans can’t just demand their money back if they simply didn’t like a show. “Anyone seeking a ruling like this is always spurred by a subjective opinion, but that’s not enough to get a refund. What is significant is a generally agreed view that the concert was a failure, as it was in the Chuck Berry case,” the Board said. “There are numerous different performers at a festival and so it have to be evaluated as a whole. Even the marching order affects perception of the overall quality. A failed performance by a featured star is a bigger deal for consumers than one by a warm-up band,” it continued.
Still, that got the Uproxx Music staff thinking about shows we’ve seen that left us hollow and wondering What did I just pay for? Here are some of our worst concert experiences. Share yours in the comments.
The Orpheum Theater, Boston
Man, was I excited for this show. Like, super excited. I was big into Panic at the time, and you can’t find anyone from Maine who doesn’t enjoy a night in Boston. I drove down with a buddy; we enjoyed the scene outside the theater. How could we not? Beautiful weather, good people, everything was awesome. The Orpheum is a beautiful theater. I highly recommend it. Yet, my excitement came to a screeching halt when the show started. Why? Because Panic was playing two sets, and the first was acoustic. Acoustic? Come on, guys. I came to dance! I came to act like an idiot and relive my hippie-loving college days. Instead, we sat there, bored and falling asleep as the band trudged through a sleepy set. The second set wasn’t much better. By the time their traditional, never-ending drum solo came around, we had checked out, back on the road to Maine. I’ve never been more disappointed for something I was so excited for. – Ryan O’Connell
South Street Seaport, New York
Some acts can’t be faulted for not being great live acts because their music simply doesn’t translate to that medium. But touring is a necessary part of the business model for many, and so those acts do the best they can with what they’ve got. That’s fine. Give it the ol’ college try, and all that.
Kurt Vile did not give it the ol’ college try.
The setting I saw him in was particularly troublesome in that not only was it live, but it was outdoors. During the day. Vile’s hazy, rambling soundscapes aren’t meant for summer afternoons in the sun. Still, he didn’t do himself any favors, mumbling his lyrics from like a Bob Dylan Saturday Night Live impression while barely raising the tempo past 80 bpm as he hid behind his hair. Even his catalogue’s most fully formed songs were formless and lifeless. It was just lethargic and lackadaisical, and honestly I don’t think I’ve listened to his albums – which I used to love – since. It was so bad that I wanted a refund, and the show was free. – Tom Mantzouranis
The Orpheum Theater, Boston
I saw Ben Folds during his Way to Normal tour, and, to this day, I still complain about it. The show was a week before the album was released, but there was a “leak” about a month before that. Turns out, Folds orchestrated the leak by releasing the album with fake lyrics. He then proceeded to play only songs from Way to Normal, followed by the leaked versions. So, for over 90 minutes, Folds played a song with its real lyrics, followed by the same song with the fake lyrics. This was the only show I’ve ever been to in which people actually booed after it was done. – James Sullivan
Iron & Wine
Aquinas College, Grand Rapids
There are a lot of awful local shows that I endured by being part of “the scene” as a teenager, but that’s par for the course. The only proper show that I ever wanted money back for was an Iron & Wine show, although it wasn’t frontman Sam Beam’s fault in the slightest. This was a show booked and attended by college kids, which is to say that we arrived somewhat late for a show that had been oversold. This meant that we were not allowed in, and security was very intent on keeping us out. As such, we spent our time screwing around the campus, going into unlocked offices and doing other things collegiate degenerates do. We did get to catch some of the final song, “The Trapeze Swinger.” That was not enough bang for our buck, and I never went to a concert at a college campus again, partially because, you know, I stopped being in college. – Chris Morgan
Webster Hall, New York
Midway through her set, Ferreira refused a request for her biggest hit, “Everything Is Embarrassing,” because she didn’t want people walking out afterward. She was obviously too high and/or drunk to notice because we’d long passed that point. Whether it was the unintelligible banter, missed cues, or seeing her read from lyrics sheets, there’d been plenty of reasons to leave. My friend and I couldn’t tear ourselves away from the spectacle, however, and stayed until the bitter end. At that point, the singer seemingly gave up, falling to her knees and letting her super fans do most of the singing. – Eddie Fu
Performing is difficult. As someone who doesn’t do it for a living, it’s important to have an open mind and give artists the benefit of the doubt. Who knows what’s going on in their heads? But all anyone can ask is that they put forth a decent effort. When I saw Kitty at a showcase down in Austin, I felt my time slipping through my fingers, while several other hardworking artists were probably busting their asses in venues elsewhere across the city. The majority of her set was instrumental, as she forgot (or didn’t even care to rap) her lyrics. I understood her personality at the time was that of an oddball bundle of nerves, but I was truly disappointed in how my time was being wasted. Just a modicum of effort doesn’t seem like too much to expect, but I still was let down. – Michael Depland
This is a very ’00s answer, but I was a freshman in college and thought The Knux were amazing. They were one of the groups I was most excited to see when I drove 22-straight hours to get to my first Lollapalooza. My dedication was not rewarded. The group came on late and too drunk to remember most of their songs. They were terrible, even by the low standards of a mid-day rap set at a festival. And while I didn’t expect a full refund of my three-day pass, a discount sure would have been nice. – Alex Galbraith
Every time I see Animal Collective on a festival bill, I think, Hey, maybe this time it will be better. It never is. I understand the fascination with Panda Bear and the music he makes. I listen to it; I get it. But it just hasn’t worked live for whatever reason, and I’ve seen Animal Collective at least three times. Whether he’s disinterested, the sound doesn’t transfer, he’s too in his own head or otherwise, I’ve been disappointed every time. Maybe now I’ve finally learned my lesson. But probably not. Panda Bear is playing Pitchfork Festival next week, and chances are I’ll wander over to that stage to see if I can have my mind changed. – Martin Rickman
Counting Crows / Maroon 5
Nikon at Jones Beach Theater, New York
If you promise to have no follow-up questions, let me tell you a tale about the time I paid money, GOOD money, to see Counting Crows open for Maroon 5 at Jones Beach in New York. If you’ve never been to Jones Beach, think of the Jersey Shore, but with more stifling public transportation, and for the purposes of this show, an even mix of self-loathing CC fans and annoyingly youthful M5 fanatics. (If you combine them, you’ve got MC5, alas). All told, the bands played approximately 743 songs, or so it seemed, with pineapple-headed Adam Duritz withering around in the hot sun in a black t-shirt while singing “Colorblind,” and Adam Levine taking his shirt off, probably. It was the Jones Beach of concerts. Never again. – Josh Kurp