The Seattle grunge band were drafted in after rising Bay Area thrashers Death Angel, booked to open the 49-date trek across the US and Canada, were involved in a horrific coach crash in the Arizona desert on November 28, 1990, which left drummer Andy Galeon critically injured. That, at the time, Slayer guitarist Kerry King had Alice In Chains pegged as "a hippy pop band" was, perhaps, a foreshadowing of the reactions which Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell's band would face from Slayer's fans when the tour got underway in the summer of 1991.
"'The lineup revolved every night, but it was always Slayer's crowd," Cantrell recalled in a 2002 interview with R&R (Radio & Records) magazine. "Most of the time we did pretty well. Other times they hated us. But at Red Rocks in Denver they really hated us."
The show in question, at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado, took place on June 5, 1991, a date Jerry Cantrell will never forget.
"That was one of those landmark moments for the band," the guitarist told Greg Prato for his oral history of grunge book, Grunge Is Dead. "We got fucking massacred. They started throwing stuff from the moment we came onstage. It was un-fucking-believable."
"That place was built up instead of back," Cantrell told R&R, "and if you get a good arc, you can pretty much hit the stage with anything. We had stuff raining down on us for about 35-45 minutes. We were constantly dodging shit, and people were spitting at us."
"Somebody had a big gallon jug that they had emptied out and pissed in," recalled a watching Kerry King. "They dumped it on Alice in Chains more than once. I was just like, Goddamn, that sucks."
Finally, Layne Staley decided he'd had enough.
"Layne got real pissed off, jumped the barricade and went straight into the crowd," Cantrell recalled. "He started singing and spitting right back in people's faces and trading blows with them. So we all jumped the barricades and did the same thing."
"We got right in their face, started kicking the shit they were throwing at us right back in their faces. And we finished our set."
As the band left the stage, Cantrell recalls thinking, "Fuck man, we better get out of here — we’re going to get killed."
"There were a bunch of Slayer fans out by the bus," he told Greg Prato. "We’re like, Oh shit, here we go. We walk up to the bus - they were blocking us from getting to the bus - and they’re like, 'You guys are alright. You guys didn’t puss out.'
"Alice in Chains had a fucking hard time on that tour," Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian told Guitar World in 2010. "We’d stand onstage every night and just watch them get pelted with anything and everything those crowds could throw at them. But you know what? In a lot of ways, it’s what made that band."
"When we got validation from the Slayer fans, we knew we were into something," Cantrell concluded in his R&R interview. "Nobody chased us off the stage, ever, except ourselves."