AC/DC Case

Tuesday, 4th November 2008

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Here’s an article from the Ogden Standard Examiner about the AC/DC case that I worked on back in the 1990s.

AC/DC Return to Utah

AC/DC returns to Utah 10 years after tragedy
Venues take precautions to protect fans, but more work needed, expert says

Friday, April 06, 2001

Standard-Examiner staff

When AC/DC takes the stage Thursday evening, most everyone agrees, there’s little chance of a repeat of the tragedy that occurred the last time the heavy-metal rock band came to Utah.

On Jan. 18, 1991, three teenagers were killed at an AC/DC concert in the old Salt Palace Acord Arena. Fourteen-year- olds Curtis Child of Logan and Jimmie L. Boyd of Salt Lake City, and 19-year-old Brigham Young University student Elizabeth Glausi were crushed to death when the crowd in front of the stage surged forward just after the band began playing.

Steve Harms, director of marketing for the E Center of West Valley City, where next week’s concert will be held, says the two events are completely different animals.

To begin with, it’s not the same kind of seating setup. Ten years ago, the configuration on the arena floor was “festival seating,” meaning general admission, standing- room only. One concert safety expert calls festival seating “the most dangerous crowd configuration,” since audience members are competing for the same space.

Next week, all seats throughout the arena will be reserved.

“A lot of things have been done over the years to alleviate something like that (the 1991 tragedy) from happening, but in this case you alleviate it by putting all the people on the floor in assigned chairs,” Harms said.

Harms also said the simple passage of time has affected the type of crowd he expects to see: “I mean the audience is going to be different.” he said. “Those people are all 10 years older now.”

Harms’ boss, E Center general manager Kevin Bruder, said his venue’s primary concern is to provide a safe, comfortable environment, and he’s confident that will be delivered at next week’s show.

“So far, everything we’ve seen on AC/DC has been wonderful,” Bruder said. “They’ve had no incidents in the past 10 years. Everything points to the fact that the show is going to be successful. … We take pride in being well-prepared, and we have a good understanding of what’s happening out there.”

Safety still an issue
But just because all parties think next week’s AC/DC concert in West Valley will be safe, that shouldn’t be interpreted as a blanket statement that concerts today are safer than they were 10 years ago, according to one concert safety consultant.

Paul Wertheimer, owner of the Chicago-based Crowd Management Strategies, says rock concerts are still an accident waiting to happen.

Wertheimer has been called “Rock’s Ralph Nader” and “The Marshal of the Mosh Pit.” He was the public information officer for the city of Cincinnati back in 1979 when 11 people were trampled to death at a Who concert. He was subsequently selected to head a concert safety task force there and wrote a landmark report.

From there, Wertheimer found it impossible to escape concert safety issues. From about 1984 on, whenever a problem dealing with concert safety arose, someone — the media, a lawyer, citizens’ groups — would seek him out.

In the early 1990s, Wertheimer finally decided somebody had to start speaking up. He now runs Crowd Management Strategies, consulting on concert safety problems around the world.

The problem
The problem, Wertheimer says, is that there are no industry-wide guidelines to address public safety at concerts.

Julie Herrick, spokeswoman for the International Association of Assembly Managers in Coppell, Texas, said her organization is doing just that. “We’re in the process of developing some guidelines,” she said.

However, Wertheimer becomes fairly apoplectic when he hears that.

“They’ve been “in the process’ for 20 years,” he said. “Just like they’ve been in the process of creating a database. … Five years from now, you can call them and they won’t have any standards. They’ll still be in the process.”

Wertheimer says the industry is playing “Russian roulette on safety.”

“The concert industry as a whole is like the tobacco industry,” Wertheimer said. “They’re in a state of denial. It’s an industry that learned nothing from Salt Lake City, or from the Who in Cincinnati.”

Banning festival seating
Wertheimer says the good news is that some arenas and venues are doing a good job of ensuring safety on their own.

Despite the deaths, he still holds up Salt Lake City as an example of how concert safety can work. In 1982, the city — reacting, in part, to the Cincinnati deaths — passed an ordinance banning general admission seating in arenas and concert halls with a capacity of 2,000 or more.

Unfortunately, he says, that ban was ignored in 1991.

“As a result of ignoring that festival-seating ban, three kids died,” Wertheimer said. “Had they upheld the festival-seating ban, those young children would still be alive today. Can safety laws work? Yes, they can.”

Wertheimer was hired as an expert witness by R. Craig Clark, a lawyer representing the family of the Logan teen killed at the 1991 AC/DC concert. But before Wertheimer could be deposed, the parties in the lawsuit settled. Families of the other two victims also settled lawsuits.

The E Center’s Bruder says that his venue does have festival seating for some shows, and that many of the pitfalls of festival seating can be avoided with adequate preparation.

Bruder said the key is a combination of appropriate staffing and training, limiting the number of tickets on the floor, keeping other fans from sneaking down onto the floor — and knowing what shows will work as general admission and which should be reserved seating.

“It just takes a heightened awareness, really, and just doing a tremendous amount of research as far as what the tour history is,” Bruder said.

Time to change
Wertheimer said progress is being made in the area of concert safety, but it’s not occurring in the United States.

Right now, he said, Europe is taking the lead in establishing standards, rules and regulations for concerts. He wants to see the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll do more.

“We’re now 49 years old,” Wertheimer said of the rock concert. “It’s a mature industry, we know the right things to do, we’ve got the resources and the know-how. We could solve the problem literally tomorrow if we wanted to do it.”

But Wertheimer said some in the industry don’t want to admit there’s a problem — saying that he inflates his figures and that the incidences of death are much lower than he claims.

But, Wertheimer says, even one preventable death is one too many.

“Why should anyone die at a rock concert?” he asked. “It’s a musical event, it’s not going to Vietnam. Yes, most times nobody is killed at a festival-seating concert, but is that something to brag about? “Hey, we had a concert and nobody died!'”

Source : w w w . s t a n d a r d . n e t

Stiff Upper Lip Tour Special

2 Comments to 'AC/DC Case'

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  1. Jim Spence said:

    Thursday I was searching for sites related to Marketing and specifically admission marketing report and I found your site.

    Thu 20th November, 2008 at 5:00 pm
  2. Utah-Per said:

    To Jim Spence: Thanks for stopping by.

    Mon 26th January, 2009 at 7:56 pm

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