You know things are getting scary when Zack de la Rocha is the voice of moderation.
A gentleman next to me in the Rage Against the Machine crowd got this text message from a friend standing closer to the stage. And for the first time in my Lollapalooza-going experience, things got scary last night. There was a security breach, a few stops of the show, and more broken bones and busted noses than I've seen in a long time. Keep reading!
I maintained what I thought was a pretty safe distance at last night's show. Off stage right and a few hundred yards back, the show started with the audience around me yelling "Turn it Up!" It got louder, and much crazier.
During the show I spoke with people making their way from the front rows. One man told me a story of seeing a younger girl laying on the ground as dozens of grown men around her jumped up and down to the music. As another man tried to help her up, he was knocked down as well. The band's lead singer Zack de la Rocha stopped the set a few times to try and help people like her out. But as soon as a band like Rage starts rocking out again, it's no use. I hear that a few people actually died during the band's most recent European tour, and I can understand why. It's pure bedlam in that pit.
Which begs the question. Why does this band continue to play shows like this? Rage has a politically charged message about fighting the power. But does that message really translate to 75,000 people who paid over $100 to watch a concert? Or are these people merely paying for a chance to join a crowd and practice assault without the risk of arrest?
The most cringe-inducing moment of the night occurred when Zack asked the people in the crowd to "take care of one another" and save their anger "for the streets." I'm sure the Chicago Police Department loved to hear that. I wonder if Zack realizes that many of the security forces down at the front row of his stage are actually off-duty cops, working on the side to protect him. I wonder how he'd like it if they just walked off the job. Chicago doesn't need much more violence in the streets, Zack. But thanks for visiting.
Another problem last night. Reports are flying that maybe as many as 2,000 people stormed a gate here at Lollapalooza during Rage's set. As a fence opened to let a CTA bus out into the street, the people stormed from across Columbus and charged the gate. They broke into the festival, knocking down people, kicking over cans. A fellow media member told me that they even broke into the VIP cabana section and began causing havoc. No official report yet on how many broke in or if people were arrested, but I'll stay on top of it.
I snapped this photo last night as I was trying to leave the set early. That isn't the stage with the lights you see there. This is actually the STAIRCASE leading to the exit. Each night at Lolla, these stairs are an accident waiting to happen. Last night it was jammed full of people moshing, jumping up and down. Combine that with people in a panic, looking to either go up the stairs or down, and you have one terrifying situation.
There is one way to stop the Rage incident from happening again. They should never be allowed to headline a festival of this size. Instead, stick them in a 1 p.m. timeslot. This creates three situations:
1. The crowd will be smaller. Easier on security and on injuries.
2. It will be hotter. This makes people less likely to go as crazy.
3. People will be less drunk. This means when you punch your friend in the face, it will hurt him more.
I love Rage's music. They're passionate about their message, as ridiculous as it may be at times. But watching a crowd of this magnitude get such joy out of killing each other was a sickening experience. This was by far one of the worst moments I've encountered at Lollapalooza.