Fierce Chicago quintet the Orwells ended their Saturday night Spillover Fest set early after Trees staff tried to boot them off the stage and a fight broke out.
It’s unclear at this point what led to the ass kicking or who even received it. The Orwells’ lead singer Mario Cuomo had reportedly been spiking his microphone after each song as if he were a football player making a touchdown, which pissed off Trees’ sound guy and led to a fistfight that ended with the Dallas police’s arrival.
A video posted to YouTube shows Cuomo locked firmly in a headlock with someone who appears to be the Trees sound guy sliding across the stage and sending a trashcan-launching stage-diver into the rabid crowd. As they trade punches in the midst of torn stage curtains, security swarms the stage to pull them apart.
Calls to Trees’ owner Clint Barlow and messages to the Orwells’ band management have not been returned. John Iskander, owner of Parade of Flesh, which books Spillover, declined to comment for this story.
The Orwells, who’ve been making music together since 2009, were dubbed “garage punk bambinos” by Rolling Stone. Cuomo — along with his cousin Dominic Corso, Matt O’Keefe and twins Grant and Henry Brinner — formed the band when they were in high school in Elmhurt, Illinois, soaring into the spotlight with 2012’s Remember When, a '60s psych rock-influenced album, followed by 2014’s Disgraceland, a “cheesy” '70s rock-influenced album.
The Orwells were evoking the aggressiveness of '80s punk rock on Saturday night at Trees, allowing fans to stage dive, take selfies and crowd surf. One fan threw her bra onstage, and Cuomo wore it like a necklace as he spiked his microphone in between songs, sending loud pops reverberating through the venue.
Cuomo stopped the music at one point during the band’s set and told the crowd, “This is the only venue where they punched out Kurt Cobain for no reason,” one concert-goer who wished to remain anonymous later recalled.
But the Orwells’ lead singer was mistaken. Cobain got his ass kicked for hitting Turner Scott Van Blarcum, a tattooed behemoth who worked security at Trees, in the head with his left-handed guitar. So Van Blacrcum slugged Cobain in the side of the head, sending him 10 feet across the stage, according to a 2005 report by former Observer columnist and local music historian Jeff Liles.
“[Dave] Grohl jumped straight over the front of his drum kit, and [Krist] Novaselic tried to tackle the guard,” Liles wrote. “There were bodies strewn everywhere, beer bottles flying toward the stage and total mayhem in the audience.”
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Fans who attended the show told the Observer that prior to the ass kicking, the Orwells put on a hell of a show until the sound guy cut off the band’s sound, turned on the house music and tried to drop the curtains on the band.
The crowd had been demanding one more song, and Cuomo tried to deliver, then fell to the stage as he tried to push back the closing curtains, at which point total mayhem ensued. The crowd began screaming as the band grappled with the curtains, another fan climbed the stage, grabbed the puke-filled trashcan and launched it into the audience. Cuomo and the sound guy appeared from the side of the stage, locked in a vicious battle.
Cries for security soon followed.
"The stage flooded with security," one fan later recalled. "It was mostly like the lead singer and guitarist getting taken down, and the drummer was standing there like, 'What the fuck do I do now?'"