A star-studded lineup featuring Sage the Gemini, Ty Dolla $ign and Kehlani drew one of the biggest crowds in years to UCI’s Shocktoberfest 2015, but along with big names came big issues with crowd management, leading to student safety concerns in the chaotic line of thousands leading up to the venue.
Doors to the Bren Events Center did not open until 7:00 p.m. last Friday, but attendants began to trickle into line as early as 3:00 or 4:00, vying for floor seating given to the first 700 students. The annual concert, organized in part to support UCI Athletics, drew an estimated 4,500 attendants this year, according to Student Services Vice President, Nicole Dizon — marking the largest Shocktoberfest crowd in recent memory.
“It was the first time in years that it actually filled up,” said ASUCI President, Parshan Khosravi. “It sold out in less than 24 hours.”
As 7:00 drew closer and more concertgoers flocked to the Bren, the line — a maze of 10-foot-wide sections snaking through the courtyard, cordoned off by ropes tied to trees — became rowdy.
Dozens of student services staff members were on hand to tame the crowd, making sure nobody stepped out of line to cut through sections, but they were vastly outnumbered by an excitable crowd of thousands trying to push, trample and cut their way through the line to be among the first 700 students granted coveted floor access wristbands.
“They put barriers at the front, but everyone in the back was pushed together, shoving and arguing and sweating. I had other people’s hair in my mouth,” said second-year criminology, law and society major, Alyssa Telles. “I think the main problem was that the lines were so thick; it was more like a mob than an orderly line.”
Telles’s guest attendant, Jacob Bower, 20, added, “People were pressed up against the ropes and the trees. I tripped into one of the planters; it was like a 6-inch drop, and one girl fell completely. A guy in line next to us told a lady that the planters were a safety hazard, but she said she couldn’t do anything about it.”
Student Services staff flanked the crowd, attempting to corral the line into order by insisting that nobody get out of line for any reason at risk of losing their spot. Many students complained of feeling sick or claustrophobic, but were told that if they left, they would have to return to the back of the line.
“One girl behind us really had to pee, and she asked the Student Services staff if she could quickly leave the line to go, but they told her they couldn’t let anyone leave for any reason. She started asking around for a bottle to go in, and she ended up peeing right there in the middle of the line,” said Alondra Garcia, a second-year anthropology major. “A girl in front of us was complaining of being nauseous too, but nobody would let her out to get a breath of fresh air.”
Many students who waited in line for hours hoping for floor access were left disappointed at the disorganized crowd management, which enabled students who arrived later to push their way to the front for floor seats at the last minute.
“A group of friends and I had been waiting in line since 4:00, and we still didn’t get floor access wristbands, which is the only reason we waited so long,” said Leizelle Bancale, a second-year public health major. “We were the first people to get cut off, which was really disappointing because I know we would have been in the first 700 if people hadn’t been pushing and shoving their way past us when the doors opened.”
After the event, frustrated students implored ASUCI Student Services to account for growing crowds and put more safety measures in place for years to come.
“People were compressed in the crowd to the point where some students had difficulty breathing due to line jumpers. Some of us had the fear of being trampled to death because of the way these ‘college’ students were acting,” said third-year international studies major, Vilson Marangco. “Good thing there were active bystanders attempting to tame the line and take care of people who fainted or vomited.”
Marangco later posted a plea to Shocktoberfest 2015’s Facebook page, highlighting the need for safer crowd control in years to come.
“ASUCI, a suggestion for next year: allow for purchase of floor and arena seats separately and the distribution of wristbands for the floor to be held at Student Govt. & Student Media earlier in the week,” said Marangco. “For future events, we must prepare for crowds more efficiently, effectively, and most of all, safely.”
Student Services Vice President Dizon assures students that ASUCI will take more precautions next year in anticipation of larger crowds.
“On behalf of ASUCI, we sincerely apologize for students’ experiences with the line and the admission process,” she said. “Next year, Student Services will work more closely with the Bren Events Center and security to implement a more organized and safe wristband distribution system and station more security within the line itself. We hope this can ensure students’ safety at next year’s Shocktoberfest.”