Smash Mouth and Gladys Knight Facing Backlash for Holding Concerts at SeaWorld

Last time '90s pop punk band Smash Mouth was in the news, the lead singer was so furious that he had to be subdued by security after someone threw a slice of bread at him onstage. That was in June and made for some pretty great video. Now, Smash Mouth is being accused of putting a paycheck before the safety of imprisoned orcas — at least that's what activists are saying upon hearing that Smash Mouth agreed to perform at SeaWorld Orlando this weekend.

“Shame on them for putting money before what's right and wrong,” says Candace Crespi, a self-proclaimed animal-rights activist from Plantation. “There's no denying that these whales and dolphins are suffering.”

Smash Mouth is booked to play at SeaWorld's Bands, Brew & BBQ festival this coming weekend. Two days ago, Crespi launched a petition calling on the band to pull out. So far, the petition has attracted more than 4,600 signatures. R&B singer Gladys Knight is also performing, and 2,600 people have signed another petition directed at her. 

Smash Mouth and Gladys Knight have not commented on the issue. But they wouldn't be the first bands to cancel on SeaWorld after backlash from animal-rights activists.

Since the documentary Blackfish aired on CNN two years ago — exposing the dangers of keeping orcas in captivity and featuring interviews with former trainers who speak of their regret over harming the animals — celebrities like Howard Stern, Harry Styles, and Alec Baldwin have begun speaking out against SeaWorld. The negative attention has spurred a growing movement against the Orlando-based theme park.

In November 2013, the Barenaked Ladies canceled a show at SeaWorld after a petition was circulated on the internet asking the band not to play. A week later, pigtailed country singer Willie Nelson also canceled his show at the Orlando-area theme park. Then, a few days later, classic-rock band Heart did too.

SeaWorld's Bands, Brews & BBQ takes place every Saturday and Sunday from this weekend to March 6, with food, beer, and live music. Admission is $94, but an additional $10 to $40 is needed to attend the show, depending on the package. (A 10 percent discount is offered to military veterans.)

SeaWorld is not announcing the musical guests for the series until the week they are scheduled to perform — likely because of past experience with bands canceling last-minute due to negative publicity. On SeaWorld's Facebook page, one commenter wrote, "If the Sea World haters wouldn't harass the musicians, they would be able to give us a little more notice." Another supported the park, writing, "I'm glad not all preformers [sic] are falling for the lies. I boycott bands that boycott SeaWorld." 

On the petition, activists are prompted to call Smash Mouth's management and post on their Facebook page and Twitter accounts.

Stacia Pride from Holiday, Florida, says: “The music is so loud... It is sad to scare all of the Orcas, Dolphins & other animals!! Please think about what you are doing!! Please choose to Be a Voice For the Animals, instead of promoting captivity!!”

Rachel Armstrong from Canada says: “It is too bad that Smash Mouth has decided to sink to that level, I always had 'Accidentally in Love' on my playlist for if I ever get married. Now the song just won't have the same happy feeling for me.”

Crespi reached out to the band's manager, who allegedly told her that band members “appreciate the concern but have no comment."

“I hope they do the right thing,” Crespi says. “If that doesn't happen, I hope no one shows to their concert and that it inspires other people to try to make a difference when their favorite band decides to play at a captive facility.”
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Jess Swanson is a staff writer at New Times. Born and raised in Miami, she graduated from the University of Miami’s School of Communication and wrote briefly for the student newspaper until realizing her true calling: pissing off fraternity brothers by reporting about their parties on her crime blog. Especially gifted in jumping rope and solving Rubik’s cubes, she also holds the title for longest stint as an unpaid intern in New Times history. She left the Magic City for New York to earn her master’s degree from Columbia University School of Journalism, where she spent a year profiling circumcised men who were trying to regrow their foreskins for a story that ultimately won the John Horgan Award for Critical Science Journalism. Terrified by pizza rats and arctic temperatures, she quickly returned to her natural habitat.
Contact: Jess Swanson