Snowflake—not exactly the most complimentary of rock ’n’ roll descriptors. And, tied into all that's wrong in the world today (Donald Trump, Lauren Boebert, and your dad), it’s a term that's become actively offensive. Unless, that is, your name is Donald Trump Jr., Marjorie Taylor Greene, and your dad (who not only walked to school 40 miles uphill in the blinding Winnipeg snow, but did so happily while shoeless and buck naked).
But sometimes, when the VacoCast Pro Achilles Walking Boot fits, you gotta wear it. Have a seat Zack de la Rocha, who, until last week, seemed up for anything from going to war with Wall Street to signing up for duty in the Zapatista revolution. Now, either having spent too much time, or not enough time, at the gym with his personal trainer, he cancelled Rage Against the Machine's current tour because, um, his leg hurts.
Snowflake. Seriously, even if 92% of his Achilles tendon has been ripped from where it's supposed to be attached to, he's still got a good 8% to hobble around the stage on.
His showing up to work with a doctor's note has been part of a pattern. If this fall has taught us anything, it’s that the music world is now a safe haven for snowflakes of all different persuasions: blunt-force alt-agitators, pop royalty, and proudly out-there experimentalists.
Justin Bieber kicked things off in early September by cancelling all tour dates until next spring to “prioritize his health.” The reason? After coming through a battle with Ramsay Hunt syndrome earlier this year, Bieber found that playing live was taking a toll on his body. Things finally came to a head in Brazil, where, following a show, he jumped on his socials to post: “After getting off stage, the exhaustion overtook me and I realized that I need to make my health the priority right now. So I'm going to take a break from touring for the time being. I'm going to be OK, but I need time to rest and get better.”
You know who else is frequently exhausted after a day at work? The short list includes ditch diggers, professional hockey players, choreographers, stonemasons, newly-minted sleep-deprived mothers, welders, roofers, dishwashers at the Keg, and your father (who walks to work 40 miles in the snow every day uphill, shoeless and in his birthday suit). And no matter how exhausted they all are, they get up and go to work the next day. There's an old saying that goes “sleep when you're dead.” That's also when you use up your sick days.
Just days after Bieber, the unspeakably awesome Santigold announced she was cancelling a long-anticipated North American tour for a whole host of reasons.
In an extended post, she wrote: “I want to tell you that for me it has taken a toll — through anxiety, insomnia, fatigue, vertigo, chronic pain, and missing crucial time with my children,” she continued. “In the place that I’m in, in the place that the music business is in, it feels like I’ve been hanging on, trying to make it to the ever-distant finish line, but my vehicle’s been falling apart the whole time — the bumper fell off, the wheels one at a time, the steering wheel, and finally the whole bottom fell out. And here I am thinking, ‘Should I just hold the doors up and run?’ And my little heart that has been working way beyond its limits, my whole body in fact and my soul too, are screaming at me.”
On the anxiety front, Santigold deserves nothing but sympathy, understanding, and sincere well-wishes. Same with the Beebs if his exhaustion was of the mental-health variety, or part of a Ramsay Hunt hangover. Few things are more important than mental health or legitimate health scares. The world is a better place when we are supporting those who are struggling.
As far as good old-fashioned fatigue, chronic pain, and the bumper falling off, that never stopped Prince from hobbling around backstage on chronically bad hips for decades. He might have been reduced to riding a Walmart-shopper-brand scooter around before the show, but when it was time to perform, his royal highness put on his purple platform shoes and danced like a motherfucker.
Pain has never stopped Iggy Pop who tours in constant agony—including a twisted spine and bad hips—after years of rolling around in broken glass and peanut butter, swan diving onto cement floors, and being punched out mid-performance by enraged bikers.
Once upon a time the show always went on, no matter what kind of condition one was in. And not just when the landscape was overrun by famous—and famously entertaining—trainwrecks like Keith Richards, Keith Moon, Sid Vicious, Janis Joplin, Steven Tyler, Grace Slick, Courtney Love, and Ozzy Osbourne during the ant-snorting years.
Remember when Run the Jewels' Killer Mike intercepted a fan who tried to attack El-P at a 2015 SXSW showcase, the altercation leading to a viciously torn shoulder? After being advised to go home and heal up, the rapper tweeted “Doctor, I’m not leaving the road,” and then promptly made good on his promise.
When Dave Grohl fell off the stage during a 2015 show in Sweden (announcing, quite accurately, “I think I just broke my leg”), he not only finished the entire 28-song concert, but did so with a doctor working beside him in real time. And then built a, quite frankly, goddamn awesome throne that he sat on, mid-stage, for the entire rest of the tour.
And when Axl Rose broke his foot while pulling double duty as the singer for both AC/DC and Guns N’ Roses in 2016, he simply tied his fresh-from-a-Jamaican-vacation cornrows back and asked Grohl if he could borrow his chair, screeching while seated during live shows. That bothered no one, with the possible exception of those who showed up hoping to see him play enraged human cannonball in a kilt. You can't have everything.
And now, if you're a Rage Against the Machine fan who was looking forward to screaming along to “Killing In the Name” and “Bulls on Parade” in Vancouver next spring, you can't have anything in the way of a live appearance. Included in the tour cancellation was a planned March 11, 2023 stop at the Pacific Coliseum.
The official word from de la Rocha? That would be: “I have a severe tear in my left Achilles tendon and only 8% of my tendon was left intact. And even that portion was severely compromised. It’s not simply a question of being able to perform again, but extends to basic functionality going forward.”
(In the interest of full disclosure, let's interrupt things here for a second. As much as I'm normally loath to interject myself in a story, I once called an ambulance to take me to emergency after I herniated two discs during a ball hockey game. But that really hurt—like a lot—to the point where anyone averse to pain would have done the same thing.)
Back to the matter at hand. Seriously, what the hell? Sure, de la Rocha wouldn't have been able to cut an extra-funky rug during Rage Against the Machine's unassailably excellent cover of Afrika Bambaataa & Soulsonic Force's “Renegades of Funk”. But what was stopping him from being carried on stage on a stretcher, then gingerly sitting down and bulldozing his way through “People of the Sun” and “Calm Like a Bomb”? All the while, chanting RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) as a mantra between songs.
Except, you know, the problem of his foot basically hanging on by a thread.
Snowflake? Ask your dad.