When entertainment draws crowd, crush of humanity can be terrifying [Unscripted column] | Entertainment


I’ve by no means been one to go to rock concert events anybody would assume would get wild, even once I was a younger grownup. My musical tastes have led me to occasions the place you’d be extra prone to see big seashore balls being batted round than of us headbanging or crowd browsing.

But, once I watched the scary cellphone footage from inside the crowd on the Astroworld Pageant in Houston, the place a number of individuals died after the group surged towards the stage whereas rapper Travis Scott was acting on Nov. 5, I had a robust response. As I noticed individuals file their buddies unable to maneuver or breathe, and their muffled screams for assist, I noticed I may determine with a little bit of what they have been going by means of.

Watching these movies of desperation, I used to be viscerally transported again to a Saturday night in December just a few years in the past, once I acquired caught in a tightly packed crowd of vacationers on the streets of Manhattan, watching the annual musical vacation gentle present that’s projected on the facade of the Saks Fifth Avenue division retailer.

That night, as I stood within the crowd to catch the present earlier than heading to a daytrip bus that may take me again to Lancaster, I discovered myself in a scenario that turned from jolly to harmful within the area of a few minutes. With barricades erected alongside the sidewalk, a crowd of lots of had packed itself right into a block of restricted viewing area to benefit from the vacation spectacle.

Instantly, neither I nor anybody round me may transfer even a limb for a number of minutes. Individuals making an attempt to exit the group have been thwarted, and a few individuals acquired downright pushy and nasty of their try and extricate themselves. Little youngsters in strollers, packed in amongst grownup legs, began to scream because the adults round them yelled and wriggled.

I used to be terrified. The air was skinny amid that crowd. I feared I’d get injured, and past that, that I’d by no means make it again to my bus earlier than it was to depart for house.

After I was lastly capable of pull myself free and stroll just a few yards onto a aspect road, I discovered myself huddling with two girls vacationers from Britain who expressed shock that we’d all simply discovered ourselves in that scenario whereas in quest of a bit vacation leisure.

A crowd at an leisure or sporting occasion exists in two states without delay: It’s each a group of people and a singular, residing organism that may simply take by itself persona — be it benign or sinister.

If you’ve been in a crowd that turns harmful, you always remember the expertise.

Almost 40 years in the past, whereas working for a newspaper in Stroudsburg, I used to be accompanying and reporting on a gaggle of nuclear-disarmament activists who had traveled to New York for an enormous demonstration in Central Park — a rally that included a live performance part, that includes the likes of Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor. Miraculously, our group discovered itself comparatively close to the stage, on the entrance of a crowd police estimated at nicely over a half-million individuals.

The vibe turned tense for a couple of minutes, nevertheless, when Bruce Springsteen made a shock look on stage.

The gang whooped, then surged ahead to get a greater have a look at The Boss. I allowed myself to be carried alongside, with a purpose to keep away from being knocked to the bottom and, maybe, I feared, stepped upon. Happily, the scenario rapidly subtle itself, and the group settled right down to be enveloped within the music and the spirit of the day.






Astroworld Music Festival crowd 2

The gang watches as Travis Scott performs at Astroworld Pageant at NRG park on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021 in Houston. 




Watching the Astroworld footage, I additionally remembered being glued to the December 1979 TV information stories of the music followers who died amid a surging crowd on the entrance to a live performance by The Who in Cincinnati, Ohio. That incident resulted in that metropolis’s ban on unassigned “competition seating,” which had turned the hunt for one of the best seats right into a lethal free-for-all.

I may perceive the way it occurred.

When ready for the doorways to open at a late-Seventies live performance by the Prime-40 band America, in Penn State’s Rec Corridor, I used to be anticipating that the craziest factor that may occur that night time could be the group singing alongside to “Ventura Freeway.” However first, I used to be caught up in a mob of scholars operating to seize unassigned seats on the health club ground. I noticed just a few individuals stumble and fall, however, fortuitously, nobody acquired damage.

Whereas on the entrance to an auditorium at Penn State within the early Nineteen Eighties to listen to Jesse Jackson and former unbiased presidential candidate John Anderson converse, the group behind me inexplicably surged towards the entry doorways. My physique was pushed contained in the foyer, whereas my arm remained outdoors, being pressed on by the group till I assumed it could break. My yelps of ache alerted some fellow residents who pushed the group again so I may pull my arm inside.

If a scary second like that may occur on the entrance to a lecture collection, for gosh sakes, it’s not a stretch to think about a tragedy occurring at a live performance with a big, overly enthusiastic crowd.

It might be awhile until we all know what the investigation will uncover concerning the causes of the Astroworld catastrophe. And I don’t fake to have the logistical solutions as to tips on how to quell that crowd-organism as soon as it takes on a terrifying persona.

I solely know that, if I need to watch the Saks Fifth Avenue gentle present in New York, I’ll by no means once more try it at peak viewing time on a busy vacationer Saturday.

Mary Ellen Wright is deputy crew chief for all times and tradition for LNP | LancasterOnline. “Unscripted” is a weekly leisure column produced by a rotating crew of writers.



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