My Chemical Romance seem to revel in the dark and the dank, two things in short supply in the sun-dappled city of Orange, California (official motto: "A Slice of Old Town Charm"). So when the band played a free show in the parking lot of the city's Best Buy, some, um, style clashes could probably be expected. And according to MCR frontman Gerard Way, "style clashes" is putting it mildly.
"The Orange Police said that we were trying to incite a riot and that we used excessive foul language, and they threatened to arrest us for trespassing," he said. "They were giving us a hard time all day. And after we finished playing, the police said that we would never be allowed to play in the city of Orange again."
That's only one version of what transpired at Saturday's concert, sponsored by Los Angeles radio giant KROQ-FM. The Orange Police Department has a far different account of how things went down.
"The supervising officer who was over there told me that [the band] began their show with a profanity-laced tirade. Not just profanity, but vulgarity," said OPD Sergeant Dave Hill. "I guess just draw a distinction between an arena show, where you pay money to get in and hear them curse at you, and an open-air concert in the parking lot of Best Buy, where grandmas and grandpas are walking by and saying, 'Oh my gosh, listen to what's coming out of their mouths.' "
Here's what is known for certain: According to the OPD, a crowd of approximately 3,000 people gathered to watch a free concert by "two popular rock acts" (MCR and the Donnas). The event began at noon, with My Chemical Romance scheduled to sign items from 1-2 p.m. and to take the stage at 3:30. The crowd was so large that it was not possible for everyone to have something signed in the time allotted. So Way promised that "even if it took all night to meet everybody, we would do it" — which is where all the problems began.
"You don't want to promise people anything and then turn your back on that promise," Way said. "So when I got onstage, I told everyone that we were going to play, dry off and then meet up with everybody."
"The music was cranking, and there was a lot of activity in the crowd, trying to start a mosh pit," Hill said. "And that [announcement] just made the audience more excited. So much so that the sergeant was close to preparing to shut down the show."
Hill says that the sergeant in attendance decided to allow My Chemical Romance to finish their set. But according to Way, after the police initially threatened to pull the plug because of the amped-up crowd, they then began looking for another reason to end the show. And he claims they found that reason in his lyrics.
"Halfway through our set, our manager started motioning for me to come over to the side of the stage. I thought something really bad had happened," Way said. "I went over to him, and he said, 'You have to stop cursing, or we're going to get in a lot of trouble, maybe even arrested. Or they're going to try to shut the show down.'
"And we weren't even told we couldn't curse," Way continued. "There are two or three dates on the Warped Tour where you're not allowed to curse because it's surrounded by residences. And we've always respected that because we didn't want to get event promoters in trouble."
"We have residential areas directly to the west and a hotel directly to the east [of the Best Buy]," Hill said. "And it's my understanding that the sergeant at the event spoke with the manager after the show was over, and I am not aware of any threat to shut them down if they kept cursing."
My Chemical Romance finished their set without incident, but when they tried to meet more of their fans, trouble arose again. Way says that police threatened to arrest them for trespassing if they were not off the Best Buy property by 5 p.m., the time their city-approved permit ended. They agreed, and as a result they had to turn away thousands of fans.
"It took 15 security guards to get all the fans to leave the parking lot," he said. "It was probably the biggest bum-out of our career."
"My understanding is that our sergeant didn't even communicate that to the band, but instead told KROQ and Best Buy security that this needs to be closed by 5 p.m.," Hill countered. "And there was no uproar from the crowd."
Hill also insists that it is ridiculous of the band to assume that they are "banned" from the city of Orange. They're more than welcome back any time. They'd just have to file an application with city officials like any other act wanting to play a show in the city.
"I can tell you, straight up: We could have My Chemical Romance, Marilyn Manson — anybody — come into the good old conservative city of Orange, and we would evaluate their application individually," he said. "If My Chemical Romance came back in June and wanted to play a show, they would get the same consideration as if ABBA wanted to come and play in Orange."
"We never want to drum up nonsense just to get press. But we were told that we were no longer allowed to play that city," Way said. "And I think now that there's press coverage, they're probably going to deny it, and they're not going to get us, and I think that's the only positive thing that can come out of this."