Screeching Weasel... R.I.P.?

March 24, 2011

 
In the wake of his controversial outburst at SXSW, Ben “Foster” Weasel seems to be a solo act once again.
 
The other members of the current incarnation of the band—including Chicagoan and veteran bandmate Dan “Vapid” Schafer, plus newcomers Adam Cargin, Justin Perkins, and Drew Fredrichsen—released a statement Wednesday evening via PunkNews.org saying that they’re bailing on the band, two weeks after the release of its new album “First World Manifesto,” at least for the time being, and seemingly including the three sold-out 25th Anniversary “Weaselfest” shows at Reggies on May 27-29.
 
“The un-calculated act put forth by Ben Foster leading up to and including the violence that erupted on stage is seen by the band as shameful and embarrassing,” the group says in its statement. “The sentiments and actions expressed were completely out of our control and in no way represent the band members' view points or moral compasses. As a result, the band has discussed at length and has come to the conclusion that as a group we will not likely be able to muster the dignity to attempt a live performance as ‘Screeching Weasel’ in the forseeable future. We each look forward to re-evaluating our involvement in the band as we move forward if we are given the opportunity.”
 
Neither Schafer nor a spokesman for Foster/Weasel have responded to requests for comment.
 
No charges have yet been filed against Foster stemming from the incident, but he has been widely pilloried on online punk forums and Web site message boards, despite his seemingly heartfelt apology. Though his actions are indefensible—as they would be if he or any performer hit any audience member, male or female—many of these comments are ignoring the context of the event: Weasel was goading and being goaded, and it all seemed like obnoxious punk-rock fun… until it went too far and it wasn’t.
 
Some have questioned why the performer did not ask security to deal with the heckler who hit him with a beer and threw a piece of ice that hit him in the eye. But club security workers interviewed immediately after the fracas said the girl who was hit was best friends with one of the venue’s owners, and they clearly were as aggravated at Weasel as many of the other club regulars were for his comments about the venue long before the flood of insults turned into a flurry of fists.
 
Unlike some musicians--Chris Brown immediately springs to mind--Weasel has no record of ever having been violent to any woman, in his 25 years in the public spotlight or in his private life. A handful of friends have rallied to his defense--including Joe Queer of the Queers--but most reactions have been over the top. Another that isn't came from Weasel's long-time friend (and mine), Jim Testa of Jersey Beat fanzine, the band's first major supporter outside Chicago, and still a fan a quarter-century later. His take can be read here.
 
Earlier reports in this blog about Weaselgate: