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Stage collapse incidents, more, spook concert industry

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Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips tweeted pics of damage at Tulsa outdoor show.
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By Andrew W. Griffin

The Current

September 2011

OKLAHOMA CITY -- A chill has descended upon the world of outdoor music festivals in recent weeks as serious incidents have plagued some venues that were holding concerts outside and bad weather caused stage equipment to fail or fall.

We saw this here in Tulsa on August 6 during the highly-anticipated Brady District Block Party Music Festival featuring The Flaming Lips and Primus when a severe thunderstorm caused part of the stage backdrop, including lighting, fell amidst strong winds.

Fortunately, no one was severely injured in this “weather-induced show stopper.” Media pictures showed Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne fleeing the scene and a video at shows the piece collapsing as wind-whipped rain descends on the crowd, stagehands and band.

Lips bassist Michael Ivins told Rolling Stone after the incident, “We were all on stage thinking, ‘What are we actually doing to do here? Then the screen started moving.”

The show, however, was canceled and the Brady District Block Party organizers are currently working on a possible reschedule date for the concert.

Mickey Newman, with DCF Concerts, which put on the Brady District event, said in their case the weather forecast said nothing about expected severe weather.

“It wasn’t in the forecast,” Newman said. “It showed up out of nowhere.”

“Thankfully no one was hurt,” he said. “It was a scary situation.”

The Flaming Lips show was later rescheduled and held this month.

Sadly, circumstances were more deadly in Indiana, when, on August 13, at the State Fair in Indianapolis, a strong gust of wind caused a stage setup to collapse just before the country band Sugarland was about to take the stage. Five people died in this storm-related catastrophe when the stage fell on them and over 40 others were injured. At press time, reports said more fatalities were possible and an investigation is ongoing.

The Current heard from Tom Drummond, bassist for Better Than Ezra. He played alongside Travis McNabb, Sugarland's current drummer, for many years when McNabb played drums for the New Orleans-based alternative band. Drummond said he heard from McNabb and said: "They are all ok, just (a) sad situation."

This summer’s violent weather – something we here in Oklahoma are intimately familiar with – has been hitting the festival circuit pretty hard. Covering a Cross Canadian Ragweed show at an outdoor festival in western Oklahoma a few years ago reminded me of this as those strong winds whipped the stage and covered the Red Dirt band and the audience with a  layer of red dirt grit.

And while covering The Great Divide reunion show at the Tumbleweed in Stillwater in late August, Red Dirt Report reported on the bit of burning material that fell from the lights and landed near a security worker standing below singer Mike McClure. What had fallen and burned was never explained.

In mid-July, in Ottawa, Canada, rockers Cheap Trick was playing at the Ottawa Bluesfest when “a thunderstorm with gale force winds” caused a stage to sway and collapse, injuring a stagehand while the band escaped uninjured.

And at another Canadian outdoor concert event two years ago, at Alberta’s Big Valley Jamboree, a storm appeared suddenly just as country star Billy Currington was exiting the stage and actor Kevin Costner and his band Modern West were about to take the stage. Costner was caught beneath the stage and a member of Currington’s band survived with a broken arm.

Concert promoters know there can be dangers when holding outdoor shows. This summer has been particularly deadly and while weather forecasts can help and constant monitoring of weather certainly helps, predicting downdrafts of wind and other factors is not always 100 percent.

(EDITED for RED DIRT REPORT September 16, 2011)

Copyright 2011 The Current

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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