What’s Happened to Concerts?

As of this writing, nine people are dead from the November 5th “Houston Stampede” with many more injured including a 9-year-old boy now in a medically-induced coma.19-year-old Ezra Blount died on Sunday, November 14, 2021, becoming the 10th victim.

This isn’t a total surprise. Rapper Travis Scott has a reputation and past convictions for encouraging this kind of thing. He’s reportedly even celebrated people getting hurt at past concerts. Scott, the organizers and other performers such as Drake are facing over 100 lawsuits and counting.

But Scott and the organizers aren’t the only ones at fault. No small amount of blame also rests with the people who attended. They were out of control from the outset.

As emergency crews attempted to reach injured people in the crowd, people jumped atop ambulances and danced. Danced!

Woodstock 1969

Scott’s Astroworld music festival ran just a few hours with an estimated 50,000 people in attendance. Compare this with Woodstock in August 1969, held on a 150-acre dairy farm in eastern New York. I’m sure most everyone reading this has seen the film.

Woodstock ran for three days — actually a bit longer — with an estimated half million in attendance. For those three days, that country farm was the third largest “city” in New York state. Only one of the four primary organizers had any prior experience running a music festival. The costs and logistics overwhelmed all their planning and so they winged it.

They were novices, perhaps, but took their social responsibility seriously. At first they expected a crowd of just 50,000 (the same as Houston). For this they lined up 18 physicians, 36 nurses and 27 medical assistants to cover 8-hour shifts around the clock. They had a 30-bed hospital tent and auxiliary trailers. When the crowd grew they pulled in more resources.

And the in midst of everything, the festival was hit with a thunderstorm that threatened to topple the sixty-foot towers with lights and speakers. Yet as the movie depicts, the crowd took it all stride and had a grand time.

Clip from Woodstock film

Not everything went well. Three people died, two from drug overdoses and one was run over by a tractor while he slept in a muddy spot near some cars. The driver didn’t see him. There were several miscarriages, some bad acid trips, not enough enough food and water, and horrendous traffic jams getting in and out.

There are reports that several births took place but none are officially confirmed. Overall the mood of Woodstock was mellow and harmonious. Despite arduous conditions, these half million people demonstrated a friendliness and common humanity that feels almost inconceivable today. Bonnie Geffen, age 16 at the time, reports “I didn’t even witness a harsh word or a raised voice.”

Jack Johnson Concert

Scott’s Astroworld mass-casualty event and Woodstock offer a stark contrast in how people can and should behave.

These two events are the extreme examples, but I’m personally thinking twice these days about attending any concert beyond the orchestra. No one got hurt, but I was not happy with the crowd behavior at a Jack Johnson concert that David and I attended several years ago.

The venue was perfect, Blossom Music Center in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Northeast Ohio. There’s lawn seating but David and I had tickets for seats in the last row of the pavilion pictured here. Even last row seats there are excellent.

When Johnson took the stage the crowd stood and roared its approval, clapping and cheering the start of the concert. No problem. We stood too and clapped. After he started his first song we sat down expecting that others would also. But they didn’t.

All these people who paid for seats stood throughout the entire concert to the very end. We stood a few times and got an occasional glimpse of Johnson, but mostly we sat looking at people’s butts. I was disgusted.

What has happened to concerts today?

Title image of Woodstock (James M. Shelley) and the inset (Chic Chicas) are used under Creative Commons license.
I believe the brief clip from the film Woodstock, used for editorial purposes, qualifies as Fair Use.

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