What a crowd surge looks like

Originally published at: What a crowd surge looks like | Boing Boing


Thanks, but I know what a crowd surge looks like, along with crowds in general – like no place I wanna be!

I never did get the appeal of huge concerts, being surrounded by screaming strangers. Ugh.


Honestly, all the best shows I’ve seen have had very limited audiences - the largest might have been Portishead, which was a few hundred people maybe? I’ve seen the Cure live, and that was at an amphitheater… they were great, of course, but I was sitting up way back away. Not ideal. And I went to a couple of Lollapaloozas back in the day… not nearly as fun as small, intimate venues with a smaller crowd.


I was in such a crowd at an outdoor music festival – the first year, so they were definitely still working out the kinks – and at the worst point spent 40 minutes with my feet only occasionally touching the ground. You can imagine what breathing was like. People were grabbing anyone’s children and putting them on their shoulders to get them above the crush.

That’s what people don’t realize: even if everyone is a decent human being and wanting to be careful, if you’re being crushed you’re being crushed. You can’t fight when the wave comes, you just have to hope you’re still breathing when it’s over.


It’s not just concerts that can be dangerous. When I was a teenager visiting Taste of Chicago on July 3rd (basically a big food tasting event held downtown with millions of visitors) I was lifted off my feet, crushed into the people around me, and carried a few blocks away from my relatives. It’s a scary feeling knowing that there’s nothing you can do but try to stay upright and keep breathing.


Terry Pratchett used crowd surge as a recurring theme in “Unseen Academicals”, calling it “The Shove.”

I’ve been near the front of a small one of those in the 70s at a stadium concert. Thousands of people who were sitting on the grass stood up and moved towards the stage when the next band started playing. If it wasn’t so muddy, it probably would have been worse; as it was, I was carried a few feet forward, and it was exhilarating and terrifying, mostly terrifying.


I read someone’s account of this weekend’s tragedy, and they described it as some being drowned in other people. This visual definitely adds to the deceptive language and makes it all the more horrifying.


That was nightmarish to watch.


I appreciate both watching the Gallagher brothers doing the right thing, and watching them do it exactly how I imagined they would: with Noel acting like a bit of a wanker while Liam silently touches his junk.


I think the biggest concert I have been to was Barenaked Ladies at Kemper Arena, which had seats. Followed by an outdoor concert with They Might be Giants.

All the others are lesser known bands who bring in maybe a few hundred people at the Grenada. Even then sometimes those feel a bit too tight for me. I can’t imagine something like that Oasis concert.

I’d LOVE to see Fatboy Slim or Prodigy live, but they typically play like large dance festivals and that is just too many people.


They are one of the funnest bands to see live. Everyone should go see them, whatever size venue. You will have fun, guaranteed.


They were my first concert and a good one. (I was like 19 or 20 before I ever went to a show). It was at annual KU Concert on the Hill and someone threw a shoe on stage and they stopped and like, “If someone throws something else up here, we are leaving. You might think its cool to throw things at people you don’t know - but it’s not.”


I’m going to see them at the Fox in Oakland next April or so. Very much looking forward to it. I think it’s the 30th anniversary of “Flood”.


Yes. Famous case at a sporting event.


We saw them at one of the shows for families, so it was in the middle of the afternoon. That day a tornado hit downtown (which was about 5 miles away), so they kept us there and played a few more songs.

The Homestar Runner puppet put in an appearance, too.

I’m sure it will be a blast! What a great album!


I have a friend who was at Hillsborough in 1989 (though as a Nottingham Forrest fan in with all the Liverpool fans where it all got crushed). He doesn’t talk about it.


A bit late to see the Prodigy live, that’s one gig I am sad to have missed


I appreciate this view from above. It is like a shock-wave. It is made of individual people but the shock-front looks circular: the fact that people are facing forward most doesn’t count. I wonder how close crowds come to doing this, but just stop short. Can we measure the tipping point? This is the sort of thing that AI is good at.

I do not like big crowds. Football fans who individually may be nice people give up their identities to be an atom in a crowd, and attack people on the other side because they are the other side and nothing more. This shows my unreasoning fear has some sort of mathematics behind it, and I am wiser for the seeing.


The thing here is that there have been tragic events like this in multiple gatherings over decades. Such that in the 80s and 90s venues put up barriers in the middle of the space to separate the crows and break the waves of crush.
This is a sad, horrifying and preventable phenomena. I hope the lawyers sue the promoters and the venue such that safety becomes a more important part of the profit model for big shows.


In 1982 I had tickets for the WHO at the Pontiac Silverdome. I was working for a radio station so we were able to get in early before the regular folks. We even got a tour of the stage. After our job was done we had our choice of seating, 90,000 general admission tickets.

We were on the main floor right at the stage then we looked behind us(it was still empty), 11,000 people no seats. That was a big old nope. We went up to the upper seats and watched the insanity.

One of the best shows I saw was Brian May at a less than 1,000 seat theater in 1993. I also like very small venues or outdoor festivals like state fairs or local street festivals.

Saw the Tubes a few years ago with a crowd of around 300. Cool stuff. Cheap Trick played in a small parking lot in Detroit quite a few years ago, also way cool. Paul Rodgers did a show in a parking lot in downtown Detroit a few years ago. We had VIP seats for that one. The best way to see a show.

I could go on and on, I really do love small venues.

My kid and her husband on the other hand are off to California in December to see BTS with 70,000 of her closest freinds. I believe she is on main floor. Also a big old nope but, they do keep announcing masks are strictly enforced and they are recommending two masks. Vaccinations are also required. But still… Nope.