The Shit Heard Round The World

Who knew a few pigeon droppings could draw such international attention?

Kings of Leon ended their July 23 set at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre near St. Louis after only three songs because bassist Jared Followill was hit by droppings from the rafters.

That led to in-depth articles and inspired press releases, “Deep Throat” anonymous sources and a week’s worth of doodie jokes.
Including this one, because the question came down to, “How many pigeons pooped and when did they poop it?”

That’s because Kings of Leon and opening acts The Stills and The Postelles claim there was a flock of sadistic pigeons on the rafters, while the venue claims it was just one bird with an overactive metabolism.

Stills bassist Oliver Crowe told Toronto’s Eye magazine it was an infestation and he squarely put the blame on Verizon for not cleaning house.

“The venue fucked up big time,” he said.

“At the [First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre] in Chicago … they take high-powered hoses [to clear the birds],” he said. “Other venues call in a hawk guy to chase them away. If you run a venue and there’s that much money at stake, you should really do that – it’s not expensive.”

Crowe said during the second song he “felt something like an air conditioner drop, or like little droplets of water spray on my face.” He noticed the onstage carpet had 10-13 brown spots on it but decided not to worry about it.

“About two to three songs later, I bent over to do, like, a shoegazer move, and I felt something very substantial on the back of my head and down my back and for the rest of the show I was extremely paranoid and constantly looking up.”

Crowe said he warned the Followill brothers of the situation. Kings of Leon would later issue a statement that mentioned they had been warned of a years-old bird infestation at the venue.

A representative for the Live Nation-owned shed disputed the allegations in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch investigative piece. On condition of anonymity, the Verizon rep said the amphitheatre is nothing like a real-life Alfred Hitchcock movie and the bands fell victim to one pigeon that had its bowels locked open.

“Birds do go up in the rafters, and if you’re sitting under them, there’s a good chance you’ll get hit,” the venue source told the paper. “But you’re always dealing with birds coming and going. And you can have the same problem in the audience. If a bird shows up, you can have droppings.”

To combat that, Verizon uses several tactics plus regular checks by an exterminator. When the venue is not active, a siren runs all day to scare the birds away, and nail boards and paste that birds dislike are used to keep fowl from sitting on the rafters, the source told the Post-Dispatch. But that didn’t stop the “rogue bird.”

“We sent a rigger in, and he tried to shoo it. … The rigger got it to fly away but it flew back. So you just have to deal with it.”

Although Jared Followill said in a statement that the band tried to play through the mess but eventually gave up, the source said the band wanted out as soon as it heard about the bird droppings.

“They weren’t planning on dealing with the bird. They just dealt with how to get out of there,” the source said, noting the band’s tour bus was parked at the rear of the stage for a hasty exit.

Enter Andy Mendelsohn of Vector Management: “Jared was hit several times during the first two songs. On the third song, when he was hit in the cheek and some of it landed near his mouth, they couldn’t deal with it any longer. It’s not only disgusting, it’s a toxic health hazard. They really tried to hang in there.”

The Post-Dispatch investigated if bird droppings are a health hazard and, according to a fact sheet developed by the New York City Department of Health, the claim is debatable.

According to the St. Louis paper, Sugarland played Verizon July 25 without incident, although the band members did look up and pointed to the rafters at one point “but there were no bird sightings.” The Post-Dispatch also mentioned the time when Cyndi Lauper got a bird dropping in her mouth at a 2004 Massachusetts concert but continued performing.

The Stills’ Crowe told the Post-Dispatch that “significant amounts” fell on his head and neck, to the point where a stagehand ran over with a towel to wipe him off. He added that “everybody from the crew was freaking out, trying to find a solution. But there was nothing they could do.”

The venue exec told the Post-Dispatch that, after KOL voiced concern about going onstage, the band was urged to move a couple of feet to the left or right to avoid the droppings but the band said no. Crowe told Eye that there was a reason: “Because of how [their] stage is built, you couldn’t move Jared over. There’s too many things – like metal grids and pyro. He had to just stand there.”
Meanwhile, The Postelles issued a press release that they had survived the “shit-storm in St. Louis.”

“Amongst other things, a bird fell from the rafters and died while our drummer was setting up (services to be held next week),” the statement said. “Very fine clothing was ruined throughout the entire night … and our equipment was completely covered with … well, you get the point.”

Crowe noted to the Eye that the band played 45 minutes to the KOL’s three songs, “so we’ve dubbed [their concert] the best Stills encore ever.”

It’s a great line, but unfortunately, he didn’t stop there.

“Thank God the shit didn’t hit the fans,” he said.