March 1990: Depeche Mode Fans Riot in Los Angeles

Monday, March 20, 2023
Depeche Mode at Warehouse Records LA, March 20, 1990

The date was March 20, 1990. The location: Wherehouse Records, a massive Los Angeles music emporium on La Cienega Blvd, directly across the street from the famous Beverly Center mall. The occasion: British synth-pop outfit Depeche Mode was scheduled to show for a fan meet-and-greet and in-store record signing to commemorate the release of the band's full-length effort, Violator.

Sponsored by the famed KROQ radio station (which at the time was known for breaking then-emerging acts such as Depeche Mode, New Order and the Cure), the word quickly spread that Dave Gahan and company were coming to town. What happened next, no one could have expected.

"I was an avid listener, and KROQ was always the first to announce anything Depeche," DM fan Mike LaJoie told Almost Predictable in 2020 about the event. "As to what made me go, it was a rare opportunity to meet the band and get an autograph. I came very close at the premiere of 101 around a year before, but wasn’t able to get close enough."

LaJoie was not alone; an estimated 20,000+ Depeche Mode fans flocked to the record store, creating a massive line of people that stretched for nearly two miles: "By the time we got there, there were 200+ people in line I’m guessing, maybe more," LaJoie explained. "The line started at the entrance to the store which was off the street around the inside of the little shopping center. It continued out to La Cienega in front of those now famous windows. We were past those windows before the line turned the corner onto 3rd Street.

"As the day progressed people were getting more and more excited. Everyone had their favorite item with them and were guarding it with their life," he added. "That was until about 5pm. As people were getting off work, more and more people were showing up. I heard KIIS FM had announced the signing, and with 'Enjoy the Silence' breaking the top 10, that’s when the masses showed up. We were hearing rumors that the lines was getting in the double digits of blocks long."

Those good vibes quickly turned sour when KROQ revealed the sheer number of fans in attendance over the air, and the realization that most who'd turned out for the event would not be meeting Depeche Mode. The group arrived by limo at 9pm, with security guards escorting the members inside. That's when all hell broke loose.

The massive line of fans dissolved into a mob scene, rushing the store and pushing up against the giant picture windows along the front of the building. Security had to blockade the door to prevent people from crashing inside. By 10;15, local police determined that the situation was no longer safe, hustling the band members out of the store and back into the waiting limo. The announcement was made that the in-store had been canceled, which only incited the mob scene even more.

"It was like a tsunami of humanity. I’ve never seen anything like it," LaJoie marveled. "We tried getting a little closer when there was no longer any semblance of a line. By that point there were people everywhere. Bottles started flying about, people climbing trees, it was mayhem. At that point we decided it wasn’t safe to stay down there so we retreated to the 2nd floor of the parking garage where we had a bird's eye view of the riot police trying to organize the chaos. It’s not like we could get out anyhow. It was probably at least 60-90 minutes before we could leave."


In the aftermath of the riot, Depeche Mode's record label, Mute, wanted to find a way to give those disappointed fans something special. The result: a rare promo cassette, entitled The Wherehouse, which came with a band interview, and "Something to Do (Metal Mix)," which was unreleased in America at the time. In order to secure the tape, L.A. fans simply had to send a self-addressed envelope. The tape even featured a photo from the riot as its cover art. See it above.

Watch a special compilation video chronicling this wild moment in Depeche Mode history below.