Now we know how to cause a near-riot among electronic dance music fans in New York City. Book a major headliner who hasn’t played in the States for more than five years. Pack the venue past capacity with little to no crowd control. When the show is shut down by police two-and-a-half hours early because the venue doesn’t have the proper noise permits, create a bum-rush by announcing that the show is moving to another, much smaller venue. Then watch as the crowd stampedes for the exits.
This was the scene at the Beekman Beer Garden at South Street Seaport this past Saturday night as fans packed the waterfront venue to see Eric Prydz, a Swedish house producer who took time to make a stop in Manhattan while in the States headlining the second annual Identity Festival, a traveling electronic music show.
Fans shelled out nearly $70 a ticket for a chance to see the legendary UK-based producer and DJ, who, due to a fear of flying, has not played in the U.S. for years. Prydz took to the stage at about 12:45 a.m., but just after 1 a.m., a promoter came on stage and shut off the sound, announcing that they were working with police to get the show going again. The sold-out crowd began to grow hostile. Promoters allowed the headliner to play for another five or so minutes with the sound at a much lower volume. Prydz was visibly agitated, throwing dirty looks at the promoters and turning the sound up louder to please the crowd.
Finally, the sound was cut entirely. Prydz lifted his hands helplessly, his gesture part apologetic, part angry. Then, all hell broke lose. Without any thought to how they were going to disperse the crowd, a promoter got on the microphone and announced that the show would continue uptown at Pacha
, a much smaller venue in Midtown Manhattan.
The show, which was supposed to go till 3:30 a.m. was being shut down more than two hours early, and the 3,000 fans in attendance began rushing toward the horribly bottlenecked exit. Some patrons attempted to step inside the barricade at the front to avoid being trampled, but were shoved out by security, causing fights to break out as people smashed into each other. In the dozens of concerts I’ve attended during my time as an EDM fan, I have never been more afraid for my safety.
With the street flooded with thousands of angry and inebriated fans, the fight for cabs began as patrons rushed to beat the crowd. Many fans complained that they had flown in from out of town just to see the legendary Prydz play a U.S. show, and they weren’t about to go home after seeing him play for only 20 minutes.
Up at Pacha though, the scene was even worse. The intimate New York nightclub was already at capacity with another EDM show for Madeon, a French electro producer.
Fans crammed inside hoping that their night would not be a total waste, but because the club was at capacity, no fans from the Prydz show were even let downstairs to see the stage. The concert-goers waited for hours in a packed corridor being herded by security from one standing area to the next. What had started as rave heaven on a pier in Manhattan had turned into rave hell. Prydz did eventually play at Pacha at around 4 a.m. I believe. We could hear him from where they kept us standing, but none of the fans who came from the prior show were ever given access to see him.
Police officials from the 1st Precinct in Manhattan confirmed that the show was shut down because of “excessive noise,” and said that nearby residents had complained. According to a spokesperson in Community Affairs, Beekman has had ongoing issues with noise complaints. I put in several calls to Pacha and Beekman to get their official response but haven’t heard back.
This tells me something very important – concert organizers should have known that their show was at risk of being shut down.
Employees whom I spoke with at Beekman after the event say that Prydz voluntarily stopped playing, and maintain that they were not shut down. Yet the evidence does not bear this out.
As a writer in the EDM scene and an avid concert goer, I have this question for Beekman and Pacha, the company that promoted the event: How could you plan and sell out an event to nearly 3,000 people knowing that there was a good risk of it being shut down early? This is dishonest and dangerous.
Promoters and venues must be held to a higher standard. As fans in the EDM community, we have to stand up to these people who put profit ahead of safety. Every time a venue fails to plan properly, it leaves a bad mark on the scene, one that is not deserved by the fans.
When you’re selling thousands of tickets for upwards of $70, you can afford to hire crowd control at the entrance, you can afford to book a venue that won’t have issues with sound, and you can afford to invest in tools like text message alerts that could be used to disperse a crowd much more safely and orderly than a promoter causing a stampede with a few words spoken into the microphone.
To Beekman and Pacha: shame on you.
You owe your fans and the scene that supports you an apology and a refund for your dishonesty and spin tactics. Own up to your mistakes and do better next time around.
To Eric Prydz, I am sorry that your first time playing back in Manhattan turned out the way it did. Your fans love you, and we promise to do better next time if you ever decide to come back.