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Live @ Lolla: Marcus survived Rage Against the Machine!

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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.

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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.

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Comments (4)

Brad:

First of all, when you write an article make sure you at least use spell check. There is nothing more annoying than having a writer use grammatical errors in his/her article. Secondly, What did you expect from an event of this magnitude. People came from all over to see RATM. I agree it got CRAZY, but I expected that. IT'S RAGE! This was a monumental show that will be talked about for some time. I am a high school teacher and this was my first time seeing RATM and I was blown away. The chaos was not just down front. By the end of the night, mosh pits were everywhere. We had to move from are area when things got out of control a few hundred yards back. But again, it's Rage Against The Machine! I'm sorry for those who got hurt, but trying to be down front at a show like this is Crazy! Did you not expect that to happen? What a great overall show!

more accurate:

This article is closer to capturing the true experience of the Rage show than anything else I have read -- it is certainly more accurate than the whitewash in today's Chicago Tribune. "Terrifying" is right, especially down in the pit, and the menacing atmosphere was nerve-wracking even in areas with a little more breathing space. Were many people there to "practice assault without the risk of arrest"? Based on what I saw, I would say yes, although the assault took the form of an insanely dangerous crush rather than an out-and-out riot. It was scary; but it's obvious from the post-show commentary that a lot of fans get off on the danger and injuries, or at least defend them as being part of the mosh scene. Sickening, yes -- ultimately that was my reaction as well (although I did enjoy hearing RATM's blistering set).

Harry Dinwiddie:

You know things are getting scary when Zach De La Rocha is the voice of moderation.

Best quote ever.

Donna:

I didn't know what I was getting into when I pushed up front with my son, 23 and daughter 19. I was able to get out over the security fence - which I thought was safety. You had to walk down a walkway to the front of the stage (that was a trip!) and then walk to the left to exit. Up in the front were packs of drunken fighting young white guys (I am a 55 year old not-drunk-at-all mom) and the security guards were pushing me into this group. Fortunately, I had stood still and refused to be pushed and they let me stay there in the front row where the security guards were. I witnessed maybe 10 plus people who refused to leave being knocked to the ground and handcuffed and lead away somewhere to the right towards the stage. The security guards were doing their jobs but they looked frightened! And there was absolutely NO Chicago police presence, save two beefy plainclothed guys in the front who appeared to be observing the actions of the security guards. I wonder how many arrests were made? And how many people were hurt - or badly hurt? But ultimately, and this is my fourth Chicago Lollapalooza, I blame the city and Lolla for letting in too many people and then not anticipating a dangerous situation last night. I know people were hurt (thankfully, not me or my kids, who stayed in the crowd but were okay). What amount of people did the city and Lolla decide was a "sold out" situation? I don't really want to go back today after the frightening experience last night.

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