All “Hands on Deck” For Surprising Concert Event Resolved By Good Team Work and Collaboration between Venue and Front of House Security
© Written by Alan CROWTHER CCTP BA(Hons) Econ, Senior Consultant MSS
Work Undertaken By Concert Venue Prior To Concert Performance
The amount of work that goes into putting on a concert by the performance venue is very exhaustive from business development who accept and facilitate the booking and its package from the Hong Kong organiser to service and planning delivery who sort out all the fine detail in respect of the back of house and front of house set up. Security deployments are drawn up depending on the stage design and time for entry prior to performance start time not to mention whether the concert is all seated or a mixture of seated and standing or all standing with different zones.
The organizer is responsible for dealing with the permits required from both the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department in terms of concert floor set up including fan zones and the Fire Services Department who vet the floor plan for egress in emergencies. It is generally accepted that these checks are safety checks and acceptance is a sign of approval of the plans. Indeed without this approval the concert would never take place. Other licences required such as liquor licences are normally the responsibility of the venue.
During my time as Head of Security I have come across a wide range of issues that require attention in respect of concerts some of which require more attention than others but one performance by a K-Pop group surprised me for all the wrong reasons. The concert in question was for a mixed standing and seated concert for approximately 8000 fans in respect of a new and upcoming K-Pop male group that were booked to perform on two consecutive nights and as usual the back of house security had been booked by the organizer albeit the security provider was not one that was normally used for concerts.
On the day of the first concert a walk through of the concert hall was undertaken with the organizer and the back of house security to check who was responsible for which areas and on the safety measures used such as mojo barriers and routes to be taken for standing fans who would be processed in an adjacent hall.
It is generally accepted that the back of house security is responsible for the area from the front of the mojo barriers to the artist changing rooms and rear of stage and its entrance and exit doors, while front of house are responsible for anything behind the mojo where the fans stand. It is also accepted that the back of house security would also monitor the pit area at the front of the mojo and tend to fans who require assistance normally by extracting them from over the mojo barriers. Again it is given that the standing fans will enter their standing zones first so they are full before the seated fans are allowed to enter the concert hall normally from the first floor so that seated fans are not tempted to jump down to the standing zones if the entrance was done in reverse. During the walk through I was informed that the stage was a tour stage taken to every concert venue and consisted of a semi-circle which had an inverted “V” shape sticking out from the middle of the semi- circle which would have part of the standing zone boxed in by mojo barriers between the limbs of the “V”. This area was normally a wide square area with a larger standing area behind however due to the width in the hall between the seated fans area the square shape had become an oblong area approximately 9m wide by 18m long before reaching the remainder of the standing area which was much larger. This was noted to be an area that had to be paid attention to by the back of house security should fans become too hot and dehydrated.
K-Pop Standing Area Pen behaviour
K-Pop standing fans queuing areas can become problematic as fans insist on being in the same order as the queuing number on their tickets. Take for example pens are set up for up to 20 fans from 1 to 20 and 21 to 40 etc. Fans insist on being in the same order as the number on their tickets and fans that have a larger queuing number than a smaller queuing number must not be in front of the smaller queuing number as this can cause protests from the concerned fans. This is especially so when gimmicks such as VIP fans are introduced who go first into the standing zone but don’t have numbers on their tickets or when a VIP pen is placed between two numbered pens.
Surprising “Layer Cake” Effect of Populating the Oblong Pit Area
On the first concert night the standing fans were led into the concert hall in small groups who on the arrival at the oblong immediately lined the mojo barriers as all three sides of the oblong had a stage view because of the sticking out “V” part of the stage. Indeed when other groups were led in they also lined the people who lined the mojo rather than stand in the centre of the oblong at the front much like multiple layers of a layer cake. Once the oblong was full according to the numbered tickets the remainder of the standing area fans were led in again in small groups who again lined the mojo barriers that extended sidewards from the opening of the oblong pit area. This initially was not a problem until the remaining fan area was full and the seated fans were admitted to the concert hall.
Once all seated fans had entered and taken their seats some movement from the back of the main standing area was noted that was caused by standing fans trying to gain access to the oblong pit area and later on to specific people pushing forwards causing a ripple effect that compressed those fans in the oblong pit area. Initially this was bearable however just before the show started some movement was noted along the latitude and longitude axis in the oblong pit area that was both surprising and worrying. Soon after this started some fans in the oblong pit started complaining of feeling too hot and faint however they could not leave the oblong pit area as other fans would not give way for them to leave for fear of losing their current position. It soon became apparent that those fans who were too hot needed water and those who felt faint needed to be extracted. Water was immediately summonsed by the venue and front of house security who noted that the back of house security had not extended up to the “V” section of stage behind the mojo barriers. This area was immediately filled by both venue and front of house security. At the same time security was dispatched to stop people pushing deliberately in the main standing area behind the oblong pit area. As this was being done venue and front of house security were stood on the steps at the rear of the mojo barriers acting like human derricks pulling and craning those fans who wanted out from the oblong pit area over the top of the mojo barriers. Approximately 60-80 fans were fished out which then created room in the oblong pit area to separate the fans in that area from the main standing area as a line of bouncers had lined up in a row across the mouth of the oblong pit area.
A discussion then took place on how to ensure that no more fans pushed forward from the main standing area into the oblong pit area otherwise there would be a crush. Eventually senior management in the venue authorized multiple layers of single mills barriers supported by front of house security staff and bouncers with the aid of plastic cuffs to join the single mills barriers together. This worked and the concert got underway without further incident with the aid of both security and porters supplying water to the standing area fans in the oblong pit area.
The lessons learned from the night were put into practice immediately on the second night as well as a cap on the number of fans allowed in the oblong pit area which was less than the first night. This allowed the second night to pass off without further incident.
The venue as a result of the wash up meeting after the concerts between venue security and venue safety resulted in a professional crowd flow mechanics company being engaged to comment on the acceptable width and length of standing oblong and square pit area set up in the front of the main standing area and to also ascertain how many fans should be allowed into similar areas in future concerts.
It is of note that without the professional and collaborative attitude of both venue and front of house security the events experienced on the first night could have turned out far more problematic than what transpired.
All rights reserved. October 2020. English version only.
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