Mark Calderon literally didn’t know what hit him. The Color Me Badd singer was wrapping up a show by his vocal group at the Vine at del Lago Casino in Tyre, N.Y. on Saturday night (July 21) when he was “blindsided” by longtime bandmate (and high school friend) Bryan Abrams, effectively ending the concert, resulting in Abram’s arrest and, it seems, causing a major rift in their three-decade relationship.
The duo had been touring nonstop for the past three years performing their melodic pop tunes, and while Calderon tells Billboard they’ve had their share of issues over the years — “it’s like any other family, you have your disagreements, you go through things” — nothing like this had ever happened to them onstage. Video of the incident posted by a fan shows Calderon wrapping up the gig by singing their signature hit, “I Wanna Sex You Up,” along with two dancers, when Abrams charged in from the side of the stage, pushed the singer down and then left again.
A report on the incident from the Seneca County Sheriff’s Office noted that officers responded to a call from the casino on Sunday morning and arrested Abrams, 48, for attempted assault in the third degree, a class B misdemeanor. The report confirmed that Abrams shoved a “fellow band member on stage causing him to fall into some sound equipment on the floor. The victim was transported by North Seneca Ambulance to Geneva General Hospital where he was treated and released for neck and back pain.” Abrams was arraigned and jailed on $2,000 bond; it was unclear at press time if he had posted the bail.
Saying his neck and back are still sore several days later, Calderon spoke to Billboard from his home in Cincinnati about what happened that night and what the future holds for the group best known for “I Wanna Sex You Up,” which peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1991 (logging 51.5 million on-demand U.S. streams and 484,000 digital downloads to date, according to Nielsen Music), while “I Adore Mi Amor” and “All 4 Love” both hit No. 1 in 1991 and 1992, respectively.
“The hotel security grabbed us from our rooms and walked us to the stage and I saw Bryan was intoxicated pretty heavy,” Calderon says. “I was really concerned about what was going to happen…we got backstage and I asked him, ‘Are you going to be okay? I’m really concerned about you.’ He said, ‘We’re gonna kill it tonight!’ And I thought, ‘Oh, no.'”
The duo hit the stage for the first song, “All 4 Love,” and Calderon noticed that Abrams was flubbing the lyrics, which concerned him. He didn’t notice, however, that his partner had walked off the stage. But once he realized Abrams was gone, he figured it was to get a towel or speak to the sound engineer. “He has never come on stage and left and then never came back,” says Calderon. “This was a first.” Calderon says there have been times when Abrams has not shown up for a gig or decided to leave, forcing him to do a show solo, as well as times when he says Abrams has performed while intoxicated.
By the third song, Calderon, 47, realized he’d probably have to do the whole gig by himself with just the dancers. After an hour, just as he was finishing “I Wanna Sex You Up” and saying his goodbyes to the crowd, unbeknownst to him, Abrams came back on stage and “all of a sudden he shoves me and blindsides me and I’m on the ground. I’m thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, what just happened?’ And I go into shock because I’m in front of all these people and this just happened. Wow. What do I do next?'” By the time he was finished apologizing to and thanking the crowd, Abrams had left the building and when Calderon walked backstage he realized his neck and back were really sore.
After a trip to the hospital to get some X-rays, he says he began to feel like he had whiplash, and notes that he’s still sore several days later. Calderon would not discuss whether the pair had even gotten physical before, but he says for now he’s not taking Abrams’ calls. “I know he’s tried to reach out to me, but I’m not going to take his phone call,” he says. “I don’t want to talk to him.”
Calderon hopes his friend gets the help he needs, but the plan going forward is to get ready for an upcoming show on Saturday (July 28) at the Indiana Grand Casino in Shelbyville, Ind. and see what happens. “I’m gonna be there. I will fulfill my obligation,” Calderon says. “I love the fans and I love the music and I will always show up for every show. I’ve never missed a Color Me Badd show.”
Billboard was unable to reach Abrams through the band’s management at press time.
Watch footage of the incident below.