As the weather warms, many of us start flocking to concerts, festivals, and other big events at crowded venues. With the masses comes the need for detailed security plans and staff. If all goes well at an event, it can be easy to forget about security guards that keep the artists and audience members safe. Occasionally, though, the security pros themselves make the news.
This happened earlier this month when pop singer Taylor Swift performed at the Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia during her “Eras” Tour. Swift stopped her performance to berate a security guard for aggression toward Kelly Inglis Kelly, a concertgoer from Baltimore.
Audience members reported later that the bouncers were being forceful when trying to get people to move off the barricade. Speaking about the event, Kelly said: “Basically, the guard had been, like, harassing our group all night… he just kept telling us not to touch the rail and every time we did anything, he was like, on top of us.” Swift was heard to say things like “Hey! Stop!” and “She’s fine” to the guard.
This incident brings attention to the question of what constitutes appropriate behavior by audience members and security staff. Of course, concertgoers have the right to dance and move freely, but they should be mindful of barricades. While it is the security professionals’ responsibility to ensure fans don’t rush the stage or act erratically, some guards take it too far with overzealous control tactics.
Yet for every story of an overly aggressive guard, there are many instances of crowds that got out of control with tragic consequences, or artists who were put at risk because security was lax. In November 2021, an overflow crowd of 50,000 people descended on Astroworld at a Houston event run by rapper Travis Scott. Fences were overrun and 10 concertgoers were crushed to death, with hundreds injured. And who can forget last year’s “Netflix is a Joke” festival, when comedian Dave Chappelle was attacked by a crazed fan who pulled out what appeared to be a gun?
How can we all enjoy relaxed, fun entertainment events that are also safe for all? This requires a combined effort between audience members and security professionals.
Safety Tips for Attending a Large Summer Event
1. Make sure others know where you are. It’s best to stick together with friends when heading to the restrooms or concession stands. Cell phone reception may not be great in a stadium or other large venue, so don’t rely on devices.
2. Find an exit route near your seat. When a crowd starts panicking, like at Astroworld, it can be challenging to find an exit route, or it may be blocked. Once you have identified an exit, check periodically to see if that route is still available; if not, find a new one.
3. Stay toward the back of the crowd. If you really want to be closer to the front, try to avoid being at the very front of the stage near the guard rails. In the event of a stampede, this can be a problematic location.
Tips for Security Professionals at Large Events
1. The best way to protect artists and the audience is to be vigilant about who has access to the venue. For instance, you may not want to let intoxicated or inappropriately noisy individuals into the venue because of problems they can cause.
2. Make smart choices about how to enforce the rules. While it may be preferable to have audience members stay several feet away from a guard rail, it may also be okay to use your judgment about the level of danger in a specific situation. Teens getting excited over a musician may not pose the same threat as intoxicated adults, for example.
3. Be prepared to call for police or emergency services when a situation escalates. This may be especially pertinent when there is overcrowding or stampeding. When security guards notice the first signs of this, they can prevent tragedy by communicating with those who can help.
When security staff and audience members stay mindful of safety issues and good communication, the results are more enjoyable events for all.