By Felicia Giwa
Close your eyes and picture yourself at a Kendrick Lamar concert. The crowd sings, “We gon’ be alright. Do you hear me, do you feel me? We gon’ be alright.” As the crowd cheers, Kendrick gets ready to close the show with his hit song “HUMBLE.” Half way into the song Kendrick looks into the audience and takes a moment to tell the crowd “thank you” for coming out tonight for his show then continues to finish the show. But as Kendrick leaves the stage you hear gunshots coming from the crowd. People are panicking and screaming trying to make their way to the closest exit.
The dark reality is that this can happen anytime anywhere. In 2018 mass shootings are something that we must all face. And concerts and music festivals which used to be a haven for music lovers have also become places of risk and uncertainty.
On May 22, 2017, a terror attack occurred at Manchester Arena after an Ariana Grande concert. Twenty-two people were killed due to the bombing. On October 1, 2017, a gunman opened fire on an unarmed crowd at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada. Fifty-eight people were killed that night. It was the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in United States history. These tragedies show that times are changing for the average concertgoer. The days when people could go to concerts knowing that they would be safe are gone. Today, people worry that there is a chance of being injured or losing their lives before they buy tickets to see their favorite performers.
Festivals were created as a haven for listening to great music with other music fans. Back in the 60s and 70s when music festivals first became popular, most people didn’t think about the possibility of mass shootings or bombings. At festivals like Woodstock, hippies were focused on peace, love, and music. They were tired of the Vietnam War and all of the hatred in the world. So, they fought against it with flower power. They believed that peace and love would win against hate and war. Festival goers were concerned about making sure that people were having a good time and enjoying their favorite singers and bands. Even though hippies are long gone and so is Woodstock, people today still value the shared peaceful community concerts offer. However, out of necessity, music festivals today like Coachella and Lollapalooza are finding themselves as concerned with security as they are the music.
Logistically speaking the job to protect thousands of people at one major event is a challenging one. Promoters and event organizers have the responsibility to help protect performers and festivalgoers by adding more security. At the Austin City Limits Music Festival, the security takes all the proper precautions when it comes to the safety of its festivalgoers. Festival organizers work with the Austin Fire and Police departments and the Austin-Travis County EMS year-round to insure the safety of the people attending the festival. Throughout the years the festival has kept adding more security measures such as pat downs, bag searches and a larger police presence. Even the Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said that the festival itself is probably one of the safest parts of the city during that time. However, even with these security measures it is sometimes still not enough. So, why do we still go to festivals and concerts?
To the average music junkie all this information about mass shootings and bombings can sound very frightening, especially when social media and the news covers it 24/7. Many people feel that concerts, festivals, and other large gatherings are too dangerous. Some might even suggest we should listen to music in the safety of our homes instead of taking the risk of attending these events. Sure, we could do this, but we would lose that thrill of hearing our favorite bands live with other fans. It makes sense that live concerts give us something more to enjoy than listening to music all by ourselves with earbuds on. As humans, we love to be together during the good times. It’s the connection and closeness that we enjoy about concerts and festivals. The connection with the artist and the other fans is what makes it a great experience. There is always the chance of danger when stepping outside of our houses, but that is what living is all about. Life is about taking risks, just like the hippies did when they protested the Vietnam War. They knew the risks, but they did not care. Maybe we should be more like the hippies. Maybe we should respond to the current dangers by continuing to gather peacefully at concerts and festivals. We should fight against the hate not hide from it.
Music festivals and concerts should be fun places for people to safely get together and enjoy great music. They have been around a long time and are not going anywhere anytime soon. Events like the Las Vegas mass shooting and the Manchester bombing are forcing us to change the way we look at concerts and music festivals. We don’t have to stop going to them, but we do need to be more cautions when going to them. The real truth is that concerts and music festivals will never be 100% safe but we can never stop working to make them safer. That way we can keep jamming out to our favorite singers and bands together.