Pete Sears Recalls Grace Slick Causing The Jefferson Starship Riots

While having a chat with VintageRock Podcast, former Jefferson Starship bassist Pete Sears recalled the infamous 1978 riots in Germany and opened up about former bandmate Grace Slick‘s part in it.

During 1978, Jefferson Airplane had hit the road for a European tour to promote the band’s newly released fourth studio record, ‘Earth.’ There was no major problem with the tour schedule or performances, until one night. Their show in Lorelei Festival, Germany had to be canceled due to frontwoman Grace Slick’s ‘health issues.’ As the fans protested, the gig turned into a terror-fueled night.

Forty-four years after the ‘Jefferson Starship Riots,’ Pete Sears recalled the incident and explained what might have gone wrong. Pete disclosed that the band’s classic line-up broke up due to this unfortunate incident. As half of the band members were trying to convince Grace to perform, the other half was trying to persuade Paul Kantner to take the stage without the frontwoman.

The musician revealed:

”The band broke up because of a problem, but that was [when], you know, that big riots in Germany in 1978 [happened] that the original band broke up. We lost all our equipment at the riots at the Lorelie Festival. Half of us were at the hotel, trying to talk her [Grace Slick] in, talk Paul Kantner into going without Grace.”

The guitarist, Marty Balin, then expressed that he would perform without Grace but not without two of his bandmates. Then, Sears recalled that the band decided to cancel the show. As the members announced to the German audience that the show couldn’t take place, they also noted in German that the crowd could get a refund. However, something went wrong with the translation, and the audience went quite mad.

Pete Sears recalled:

”Marty said he’d go on without Grace, but not without [both] Paul and Grace. So, we ended up not going on. We told the audience they could have their money back. But I think there were certain parts that were left out a bit about giving the money back in the translation. And they went completely nuts.”

The audience set the stage on fire as well as damaging all the instruments they could find. The bassist explained that he had lost all of his instruments through the unfortunate incident and the whole experience was traumatic for Sears. He disclosed that Grace never left her room that night since she felt ill. Yet, for Pete, being sick had never stopped the frontwoman from performing.

As Grace was going through a hard time that night, Sears didn’t want to disclose the details. With the band losing the majority of their music equipment and facing absolute terror that night, the incident became a ‘turning point’ for Jefferson Starship. The riot would eventually lead to Slick’s departure from the band, and Pete emphasized that that night was significant in the band’s history.

Sears explained:

”They ended up setting fire on stage and chopping up the drum kit. I lost all my instruments on that. So, that was a very traumatic thing. Grace was in her room the whole time, but she was sick, she wasn’t well. Normally, being sick would never stop her from going on; but there was something else involved. I won’t get into it. She was having a really hard time, and it’s just one of those things, you know? We lost everything that day. That was actually, if anybody cares, a major turning point.”

With Jefferson Starship facing this unfortunate incident in 1978, Grace Slick was asked to depart the band. However, the frontwoman would rejoin her bandmates three years later, and the band would release their sixth studio record, ‘Modern Times,’ in 1981.

You can watch the entire interview below.