Grateful Dead icon Bob Weir has been known to get ticked off when unruly audience members talk loudly during his solo acoustic shows, but Monday night at Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley may be the first time the venerable singer-guitarist has actually stormed off stage in an angry huff.
Weir, performing a quiet opening set before an electrified show by his new Ratdog Quartet, became visibly upset about constant chatter coming from patrons at the back bar.
"He got so mad that he asked, 'Am I interrupting you? Am I bothering you?'" reported photographer Stuart Levine, a fan sitting in the front row. "I saw Bobby several months back at Sweetwater when he said something to the crowd, but he soldiered on and finished the set."
Not this time. In the middle of Bob Dylan's "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall," the 65-year-old rock 'n' roll hall of famer decided that he'd had enough, blurting, "That's it, I give up," before stomping off.
Weir, a major investor in the year-old club he helped design, returned briefly to tell the crowd that he'd be back with the Ratdog Quartet, saying they'd be louder, so it wouldn't matter if anyone talked or not.
That did not turn out to be the case. During a quiet passage in Ratdog's encore, a rendition of Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," Weir angrily yelled, "Shut the (expletive deleted) up" at the noisy audience.
In the aftermath of the blow-up, some online comments were aimed at Mill Valley's stereotyped image as a wealthy, self-absorbed enclave that some cynics disparage as "Me Valley."
"I think that in Mill Valley there is an enormous level of entitlement," one person wrote. "By this I mean that I've gotten the impression that people here in town feel that they can behave in any way they want, whenever they want."
Another critic went so far as to accuse Mill Valley of being "overrun with ... frat boy investment bankers and attorneys along with their Stepford wives and evil little spawn."
But Sweetwater manager Aaron Kayce said those critics are way off the mark.
"I've seen some of those comments and what people assume," he said. "But it was not the older, Mill Valley crowd that was the problem. Me and my staff were watching this thing evolve and it definitely was not the uptight, stuffy martini crowd that was talking. It was a lot of pre-inebriated, dreadlocked hippies, the same people who were smoking pot in the bathroom and checking out and trying to sneak people in. Those were definitely the ones causing the problem."
Kayce, who books all of Sweetwater's performers, said it would have helped if the show had been a sit-down affair like the recent acoustic concert by Justin Townes Earle.
"That's the most important factor in an environment like ours," he said. "We're never going to be a plush seat theater, but we need to promote the idea that this is a quiet affair."