In this era of social media, the Joshua Homme incident at KROQ acoustic Christmas took unprecedented proportions on Sunday: during the performance of Queens of The Stone Age, he kicked Chelsea Lauren, a photographer who was in the pit, and whether he wanted to kick her camera or something else doesn’t matter anymore, she ended up spending some time in the ER for minor injuries. It doesn’t matter if she was seriously injured or not, it looks really bad for Homme and I would certainly have been pissed off if I had been at her place. Whatever invisible rules she may have not respected – some people have suggested this – such punishment was not justified and whatever substance Homme was on that day – he seemed drunk or high – his behavior can be compared to a drunk driver who takes the wheel, this was irresponsible and probably non intentional, as he didn’t realize what he was doing.
I want to be clear, this is not in defense of Homme’s bad boy behavior, I repeat I would have been mad if I had been at Chelsea’s place and I won’t blame her if she ends up suing him. I am not looking to excuse him, driving under influence is still a crime, no matter how unaware of your actions you are. He did a bad, irresponsible and dumb thing, he apologized at length on Instagram by posting these two videos, and the woman was not seriously injured, so let’s move on?
Wait! I could not check the internet yesterday without stumbling on a conversation about it, endless threads of the same repetitive thing, expectedly a two-sided affair, with die hard fans defending him on one side, and others calling him the worst names on the other side. Why do these people continue to argue for hours on such a subject? Is there an end to this? Do they expect to convince the other side? What were we doing before social media? And can we agree on something between ‘He is a piece of shit and an asshole’ and ‘you can kick me in the face anytime’? People can be so one-dimensional sometimes, there’s not even an ounce of nuance in these highly judgmental opinions, and as it is often the case with social media, this story got the worst out of humanity.
I can’t defend his irresponsible and restless behavior, but I can’t stand this endless backlash, this burn-the-witch movement and flow of insults. People make stupid things, even intelligent people.
And the ‘I hate him and his stupid music’ argument is unbearable, because it is not an argument of course. Well, if you didn’t like his music in the first place, were you looking for this moment to say it? This is the sempiternal question of the separation between the art and the artist, his music has nothing to do with this regrettable accident, these are two different things. You can judge a man based on his actions but if you judge the music on the man’s actions you are dead stupid.
Also, the idea that a fan is ‘disappointed’ in a performer, a musician, an artist because of a behavior is ridiculous. Homme is not your brother or your father, and artists are not role models, they never should be and they certainly don’t owe anything to their fans behavior-wise. People are always confused about this and many are looking at their music idols as if they were the next incarnation of Christ. I understand being annoyed by the behavior of an artist whom you like, but the continuous flow of condescending discourses I have read on the internet has to stop. We are human, he is human, we will both make stupid mistakes and Joshua Homme doesn’t have to behave accordingly to the hero standards his fans have applied on the pedestal status they have put him on. There are no heroes, being a hero is a myth, and it’s clear that the music ‘heroes’ of the past would have not survived during this internet/social media age. Performers have always behaved badly but there were no phones to capture each of their moves in the 70s and 80s. Now, we have to deal with this constant surveillance and recording, which could be a good or a bad thing.
Ideally, the story should be between him and Chelsea, but it obviously can’t stay there in 2017. Homme only truly owes apologies to the photographer, and he doesn’t owe apologies to anyone else, but in this social media era, every single action had to be addressed to every single person on the planet because everyone saw a video and everyone was virtually kicked in the face. That’s stupid and insane, but as a result you have all these people screaming at him from all the corners of the internet, whereas only one person was in the pit.
Of course it necessarily gets very personal because fans get very close to a band like QOTSA, many of them have met the band and think they have a ‘relationship’ with the guys. I have myself met Joshua two times and I can’t complain, he was very nice and I could tell that this is a man who pays attention to people…. But I digress, because he obviously didn’t this time.
It gets very personal and this is why I felt the need to write something about the accident, at the risk to participate into this endless collective rant. Artists sabotage their career all the time, actually this may have been one of my favorite songwriters’ specialty. Elliott Smith may have never kicked a photographer, simply because this wasn’t the style of his live performances, simply because he was not playing hard rock and was half the size of Homme’s. However, he got into fights a few times, and I have seen him on stage in the worst shape and state of mind you can imagine. It’s actually interesting that Homme covered Elliott’s song ‘Christian Brothers’. When most people think Elliott only wrote songs about drugs and addiction, I think he mostly wrote fuck-you songs and Joshua knows that, you can feel it in his version. Homme is no stranger to sabotage (this is not the first incident of this kind) and he is no stranger to burning bridges with people (Kyuss anyone?). What happened this weekend is just another example. So may be there is a similarity between both artists there, getting lost in music, getting lost in performance as he said in his apologies, and being careless about the consequences of his actions. I can see Elliott Smith there.
I don’t know what’s going on in Joshua Homme’s life, may be he had a meltdown, may be he is under a lot of pressure, may be the best artists are doomed and destined to sabotage their career. I doubt this is the end of his career though, he will survive.
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It’s nice to read a properly thought out piece on this subject rather than the knee jerk, love him/hate him stuff I have read to date. I do think that Joshua is a little out of control at the moment though and probably needs some support from his family/real friends. We watched him at Peaceful Noise in London last month and he was hell bent on picking a fight. Granted, there was a guy in the audience who was inappropriately calling out requests etc but Homme was overtly aggressive in his tone at what was a show promoting tolerance. I agree entirely though that we should never put rock stars in places in our minds where they may inevitably let us down.