July 14, 2006

The Who

The year was 1980. Months prior during the same tour Eleven Fans were Killed at a concert in Ohio headlining The Who.

I am not writing about this to be morbid or to blame anyone for the tragedy, but I want to set the stage for my experience a few months after this horrifying incident.

Imagine standing in line for hours to see your favorite band. As you wait for the gates to open the crowd is rowdy and anxious. The majority of them have paid for a seat in the stadium, but you adore this band and want to get as close as humanly possible so you have opted for general seating admission.

You have a plan - when the gates open you will rush to the grass area and get right up near the stage! Nothing can stop you, this is the concert you've saved your money for, you've marked your calendar, you've waited and today is the day!

The gates open and the crowd literally rushes in. Apparently everyone else in the front of the line had the same plan as you did. Suddenly you hear screaming and feel the pressure of the mob pressing in on you. You are surrounded and can't move. You are being pushed and shoved. The next thing you know you are hearing your own voice crying out for help.

The sound of your yelling is muffled as you are pushed to the ground. The frenetic crowd has lost all sense of humanity. People are plowing past you, stepping on you, trampling you underfoot.

Lucky for you, someone grabs you just in time, you are spared death and are taken to the hospital with broken ribs and bruises. But the last thing you remember seeing was that woman lying next to you begging for help. Her screams were silenced as the crowd lunged forward ignoring her pleas. She is killed, dead on the grass in front of the stage.

The next day you read in the paper about those who had lost their lives in an effort to get close to the band. One woman was the mother of two young children - you just know it was her that you saw as they pulled you to safety. Why? Why her, why not me?

Of course this is a fiction account of a real occurrence - I wasn't there. But I did have a similar experience a few months later when the same thing happened at the Anaheim Stadium here in CA. Fortunately after the tragedy the security and crowd control at these events was better able to handle this type of mass pushing and shoving.

I remember standing in line in fear as the crowd closed in on me. When the gates opened I clung to my boyfriend as we were rushed in with swarms of others that were determined to get to the front. I started crying. He pulled me out and we stood and let the crowd surge past. We traded our general admission tickets to a couple that had seats because I was so afraid to get hurt in that mob.

For anyone who has read here, I was almost crushed to death at a Rolling Stones concert in '85. When I tell people that they think that surely I am exaggerating. No, unfortunately I'm not. I can somewhat imagine what it felt like for those 11 people to be so absorbed into the crowd that they fell and were tossed and trampled like rag dolls.

Maybe I'll share the Stones incident at another time in detail but for now I'll just say that I was literally lifted off the ground in the crowd and felt like I could not breathe. A HUGE guy appeared our of nowhere and lifted me up and out to safety. He was like an angel, a big black strong angel. I can't say for sure if he saved my life, but it sure felt like he did.

Gosh, I don't know what inspired me to write to about this tonight but I felt like sharing it.


Jeff said...

Great story, very descriptive, made me feel like I was that person. Anyway, sorry to hear about that experience. To me I love General Admission at least when it is close to the stage. I love the atmosphere of the people and I also love the fact that the most dedicated fans get to the front, not the ones who paid the most. The only downfall to the GA is how rowdy it gets, believe it or not the most rowdy GA crowd I've ever been involved in was Weezer, a pop rock band. I've seen many shows in GA even Metal bands like System of a Down but that Weezer experience was ridiculous, I was a bit afraid for my Girlfriend's safety.

Layla said...

Jeff, after I wrote this I felt kinda bad cause I know you are going to see The Who. I like GA seating too. I think I wrote this because I was in the mood to write last night but nothing else would come to me. I can't wait for you to see The Who in concert and tell us all about it!

Jeff said...

No, it is very relavent, I'm glad you wrote it. It was one of the most important moments in Rock history. I hope I didn't come off as me making it sound like you don't like GA seating because I didn't mean for it to sound like that, I was just saying why I like it.

Smoking Christian said...

I always took the opposite approach. If it was "Festival Seating" I made a mad dash to the very back of the place.
I saw the Rolling Stones in 1972 in San Diego. I went to the worst seats and got to enjoy hearing "Exile on Mainstreet" the first time, performed live. It doesn't get better than that, does it? Anyhow, on the way out I noticed broken glass everywhere, all the windows to the auditorium had been smashed. The next day I read in the papers about knifings, stabbings, stabbings with knifings and all sorts of mischief. Did my strategy keep me blissfully unaware of all this mayhem? You bet!
Of all my one million live concerts, I only "rushed" the stage once. It was the Beach Boys during their "SURF'S UP" period with Blonde Chaplain. (sp?) What ever happened to him? Anyhow, that was even too great for me. I had to get as close as possible. Fortunately, this occurred at the basketball gym at UCSB. I was not killed.

Layla said...

Thank goodness you lived to tell these stories! Especially the Beach Boy one!

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