No, that’s not a headline from The Hard Times: On February 13, rockabilly trio Three Bad Jacks played a show at the Rebel Lounge in Phoenix, Arizona. In the middle of the show, frontman Elvis Suissa decided to incorporate fire into their set, squirting what he later said was rubbing alcohol across the floor in front of the stage and setting it ablaze. A video captured by Instagram user evilchavo shows this taking place:
You might say to yourself, “Wow, setting something on fire in a venue with ceilings that low seems like a really bad idea,” and you’d be right. Merely seconds after Suissa sprayed another batch of what he claims was rubbing alcohol on the open flame, the venue’s sprinkler system kicked in, as seen here:
As the venue’s sprinkler system did what it was supposed to do, a member of the band got on the mic and instructed the crowd to calmly disperse through the nearest exit. Nah, just kidding, one of ’em yelled, “We fuckin’ rock!” Don’t believe us? There’s video of that, too:
Because of this, the Phoenix Fire Department had to be called to turn off the sprinkler system and the Rebel Lounge was forced to close to assess the water damage to their property. The club has remained shuttered since February 13, canceling numerous concerts (including one tonight for a band called the Rain Delay, ironically).
Now here’s where it gets really good: Suissa took to Three Bad Jacks’ Facebook page to address the incident, first posting on February 15, “We have played what feels like a 1000 shows in Arizona and we used rubbing alcohol EVERY show we have ever played… No one mentioned anything about sprinklers to us or not to do fire. THE SHOW WE PLAYED IS THE SHOW WE WERE HIRED TO PERFORM.”
Suissa goes onto say he is “not going to slander anyone or say anything bad” before then accusing the venue of not paying his band, commenting, “The venue was packed and they kept all of the money.”
Rebel Lounge owner Stephen Chilton issued a statement via Facebook, saying in part, “Three Bad Jacks did not have permission to use fire. They did not ask anyone at The Rebel Lounge for permission nor would any such permission have been granted. We have since learned that this band has had prior incidents of using fire in their set after explicitly being told not to do so.”
Suissa responded with another lengthy Facebook post, writing in part, “Phoenix you have proven to be some of the meanest people on the face of the earth… I kept my mouth shut in order to protect the Rebel Lounge . But you people would not stop till you ruined us. YOU ARE THE REASON THIS SHIT IS HAPPENING. I did not want any harm to come to this venue. Even though they ripped me off and did us wrong i was tight lipped.”
Suissa also includes a variety of pictures of his iPhone and laptop but gives little context for any of them, saying in the Facebook post, “After the last email no calls I could not get a hold of the guy. My call to Steve Monday after the show was not replied to, I tried folks.” He then defends his use of fire in the club, remarking, “This was no Great White incident . This was a Great Water incident brought to you by some unprepared dipshits.”
Now, for a little bit of science: Isopropyl alcohol, commonly referred to as rubbing alcohol, comes in two consistencies—70% and 91%. The 70% isopropyl alcohol has many common household uses, from cleaning window blinds to removing ink stains. But 91% isopropyl alcohol is used for more heavy-duty cleaning such as stripping paint. If you can’t tell by the percentages, the 91% isopropyl alcohol has more alcohol and less water in it, thus meaning it will burn bigger and brighter, as seen in this side-by-side comparison video below:
Had Three Bad Jacks used 70% isopropyl alcohol in their set, there is virtually no way the flames would have gotten as big as they are in those Instagram videos of the incident. It is clear the band was using 91%, which looks better from a pyro standpoint but clearly poses a larger threat to the patrons.
While it is true that rubbing alcohol burns “clean”—meaning it burns itself out on most surfaces, leaving little to no evidence the surface was ever on fire—there is an inherent danger to inhaling isopropyl alcohol. Exposure can cause headaches, nausea and vomiting, as well as irritation of your mucus membranes and in some people, breathing difficulties.
So what’s the takeaway here? First off: Do not use pyro in your band’s set unless you are a trained professional and have cleared it with the venue ahead of time. Second off: Don’t be an idiot who complains about not getting paid when your stunt ended up flooding the club and costing them thousands of dollars in damages and lost business. Be lucky they haven’t filed a lawsuit against you yet.