Music

Red hot pandemonium at Soccer City

Ben Kelly

Organisation of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers concert at Soccer City left a great deal to be desired, writes Ben Kelly.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers performed at Soccer City. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

The Red Hot Chili Peppers concert at Soccer City on Saturday was a lesson that rock concerts are not for the faint of heart, or liver.

On a perfect summer’s night with not a cloud in the sky, one of the bands that rock fans have been praying would come to South Africa took to the stage and blew us all away.

But while the band wowed on stage, performing (almost) all the songs the fans know and love and with the crowd in full voice, the organisation left a great deal to be desired.

The route from the park-and-ride drop-off point to the bridge which leads to the stadium left concert-goers clambering up a grass embankment. Granted, there were other, less perilous ways to get up to the stadium, but given that crowd control was non-existent, the herd took the shortest route.

After the concert we had to navigate our way through a very poorly lit and litter-strewn pathway to figure out how to get back to the buses.

Imagine, if you will, a few thousand people trying to proceed down a steep grass and dirt embankment at 11.30pm to get through a gap about two metres wide, with half the people seemingly over the legal limit.

Alcohol
All it would have taken was a few impatient, inebriated idiots at the back of the crowd and you would have been reading about the body count from the stampede and not just about organisational incompetence.

Security to get into the stadium was barely adequate and the supposed checks for people smuggling drinks into the stadium was a joke. We were warned a bottle of water we were carrying would be confiscated at the next check point, but that check point never came.

Inside the stadium, things did not improve. I hear the bars ran out of beer, but I wouldn’t know because the queues for drinks were just too long to bother with. Others were clearly made of sterner stuff, and I saw people exiting the stadium with mountainous collections of plastic beer mugs.

On one abortive trip to procure beer, one of my party witnessed a girl in a very poor state and tried to get security to organise some medial attention for her, to no avail.

The chaos we experienced made it to the front page of the New Age on Monday, with some concert-goers reporting that they had left before the headline act because they feared for their safety.

Social mediam criticism
Big Concerts has issued a statement in response to this, denying there was any chaos or any significant incident that required them to step outside of standard operating procedure. Tweets from the official Big Concerts account placed the responsibility for the facilities squarely at the doors of stadium management.

But these platitudes ring hollow when confronted by the reality on the ground and the flood  of criticism on social media.

When you have 90 000 people getting in and out of a venue for a concert and where plenty of alcohol is going to be consumed you should make sure that your crowd control is top notch. And Big Concerts failed miserably on Saturday.


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