I published this on my old blog about three years ago. Maybe someone will actually read it this time!
In mid-July of 2005, Older Daughter, her best friend and I attended the Vans Warped Concert in Denver. We had last been to Vans about 5 years earlier. At that time the crowds were substantial but manageable, and the heat was manageable as well. Vans 2005 was quite a bit different. The crowd was HUGE–probably the biggest I’ve ever seen at any outdoor venue. The day was steamy, which makes being in big crowds even more uncomfortable. I had to spend lots of money to keep us hydrated. A large lemonade cost $5.00. I don’t remember what water cost, but it was pricey too.
Despite all this, we were having a good time, except that it was impossible to get close enough to see any of the big name bands play. The crowds during these popular gigs were so enormous that we’d be standing somewhere off in the far distance, craning to see the stage where the tiny little band members (from our perspective) were playing their tiny little instruments and singing with tiny little voices.
Having had enough of this, I suggested that we head to the Dropkick Murphy stage about thirty minutes before they were supposed to perform so we could actually see and hear the music. Many other people had this idea too; it was already getting crowded. I was about three rows back, and Older Daughter and friend were right behind the barrier. It was surprisingly fun to stand in that expanding crowd–there was a kind of joie-de-vivre in the atmosphere that was almost intoxicating. I decided that I really liked these people. I liked the preppy guy with the buzzcut standing in front of me who would turn and smile every once in awhile and ask me to pour some of my water on his simmering head. I liked the young man with the piercing blue eyes and his diminutive girlfriend standing next to me with whom I struck up a benign yet enjoyable conversation. I even liked the smell of all the sweaty bodies surrounding me. It was kind of a sweet and tangy smell; not too bad at all. All was right with the world, until…
Everything exploded. The Murphys made their entrance, and within seconds, I was engulfed in a teeming horde of bone-crushing bodies surging relentlessly toward the stage. Somehow my left arm ended up twisted behind my back in a pose that would make a contortionist seethe with envy. I had no idea my arm was so flexible! I somehow managed to free the arm before it was yanked out of its socket, only to find that I was now being crushed in front and on both sides so severely that both my arms and shoulders were folded inward toward the center of my chest. My ribs were being compressed so tightly that I was sure they would break at any moment. I couldn’t breathe, and in an instant, I was totally overcome by panic, which is a deadly emotion to have in a situation like this one. Panic really is blind; a film had clouded my eyes and I could see nothing but shadows. In a frenzy I turned around and began to force my way out of the crowd. It was extremely difficult to move through them because they were pushing forward as hard I was pushing back. At one point I stepped on someone’s foot and went down, twisting my ankle on the way. “This is it,” I thought melodramatically, as I struggled to stand up on my painfully swelling ankle, “I’m going to get trampled to death here. What an awful way to die.” All hope was not lost, however. A couple of men in the crowd saw me struggling and picked me up. I was on my way once again, feeling a bit more calm and much more determined.
A funny thing happened as I continued on this journey. A very small and very weepy girl grabbed the back of my t-shirt and held on for dear life as we wound our way to freedom. When I looked over my shoulder at different times during our escape, more people had attached themselves to our makeshift conga line. By the time we reached freedom, there were at least 15 people who had grabbed on and gone along for the ride.
Older Daughter, who I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t think about even once during my panicked escape, also went through a terrible ordeal. She was at the front and was repeatedly battered against the metal barrier. Older Daughter is petite; she’s only weighs about 105 pounds, so she was really in trouble. One of the Security guys noticed her desperation and pulled her over the barrier to safety. Older daughter’s friend managed to stay through most of the concert, but her neck and back were injured.
After all this, I began to wonder if being crushed to death during concerts is a regular occurrence. It isn’t–so far there have been about 130 people crushed or trampled at some time before, during or after a show. At a 2000 Pearl Jam concert in Denmark, 9 people were crushed to death. Those poor unfortunates! I can’t think of a more frightening way to die.
Will I ever attend Vans Warped again? Perhaps, but I’ll stay far away and listen to the tiny little bands play their tiny little songs. That’ll suit me just fine.