Slayer’s 1988 Seat Cushion Riot: A Night of Chaos in New York

The night Slayer played at New York’s Felt Forum, fans didn’t just headbang. They ripped seat cushions, tossed them like confetti, and made metal history.

Key Takeaways
  • The concert took place on August 31, 1988, at the Felt Forum in New York, as part of Slayer’s “South of Heaven” tour. Danzig and Testament were the opening acts.
  • Fans started throwing seat cushions, leading to chaos. Tom Araya had to plead for cooperation but to no avail.
  • The aftermath led to extensive cleanup and costs for the venue, affecting its future bookings of heavy metal acts.

The Bands, The Venue, The Tour

On August 31, 1988, the Felt Forum in New York became ground zero for one of Slayer’s most unforgettable concerts. Nestled within the famed Madison Square Garden, the Felt Forum had seen its share of events—from concerts to boxing matches. But that night, it hosted something far more intense.

Danzig and Testament set the mood as the opening acts. Danzig was making waves with their new self-titled debut album. Testament was basking in the success of their album “The New Order”. Both bands were electric, getting the crowd fired up for what was to come.

This concert was part of Slayer’s “South of Heaven” tour—a tour that was already shaping up to be a major milestone in the band’s career. Media coverage and online video footage of the event would add to Slayer’s infamy, making it a night many would never forget.

No Seats, Just Chaos

By the time Slayer hit the stage, the crowd was already buzzing. Testament and Danzig had done their jobs well, revving up the audience for the main act. But nobody anticipated what would happen next.

This spark quickly ignited the entire venue.

As Slayer started their set, a few fans in the back decided the venue’s seat cushions were better off airborne than under their behinds. This spark quickly ignited the entire venue. Even as Tom Araya, Slayer’s frontman, pleaded for “cooperation”, it was clear his words were falling on deaf ears.

Security scrambled, but the chaos had reached a tipping point. The air filled with flying cushions, looking like a strange, anarchic snowstorm. The scene got so intense that Araya had to turn off the spotlight to dodge incoming cushion projectiles.

Araya realized the gravity of the situation, telling the crowd, “We can probably never play here again because of this shit.” Unfazed, the fans continued their cushion rebellion as Slayer closed their set with “Angel of Death”, turning the Felt Forum into a battleground of foam and fabric.

The Financial Toll on Felt Forum

When the dust settled—or more precisely, when the last cushion hit the ground—the venue was a disaster zone. Upholstery and foam bits were scattered as far as the eye could see. Those cushions weren’t merely tossed; they were decimated. The Felt Forum looked like it had been through a small war, requiring a costly and extensive cleanup and restoration process.

Upholstery and foam bits were scattered as far as the eye could see.

But it didn’t stop at cleaning up foam bits. Oh no, the chairs themselves had to be inspected for structural damage, which meant costs were mounting by the minute. This chaos led Felt Forum’s management to hit the pause button on booking similar heavy metal acts, even affecting their event calendar for some time.

The seat cushion debacle led to a broader review of security measures at the venue. After all, if a bunch of metalheads could bring the house down with seat cushions, who knows what could happen next?

The Cushions Fly, but Slayer’s Legacy Soars

Now, let’s talk legacy. Thanks to a bootleg that spread faster than a mosh pit on fire, the “Seat Cushion Riot” show is no passing fable. Nope, it’s carved into Slayer’s history like the lyrics of “Angel of Death” into a hardcore fan’s soul. If you ever questioned whether Slayer lived up to their reputation, this bootleg is the exhibit A you’ve been looking for.

Dubbed one of the most infamous incidents in metal concerts, this riot of foam and fury has made its way into books about Slayer. Yep, there are books about Slayer, for those of you who thought metalheads only read liner notes. It added another layer to the already outrageous infamy of Slayer shows. When it comes to raw energy and unpredictability, Slayer concerts aren’t just another gig; they’re basically punk rock family reunions where you’re not sure if Uncle Bob is going to give you a hug or throw a cushion at your head.

And so, the “Seat Cushion Riot” remains an unforgettable chapter in the wild annals of Slayer lore. Cushions may fly, but legends never die.