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Concert safety: From language to dress to mosh pits, parents have a little homework to do

By Caitlin Orton and Hillary Bowler

Deseret News

Published: Thursday, Sept. 1 2011 6:46 p.m. MDT

"They're just kind of throwing caution to the wind," Sorber said, describing the screaming and erratic behavior of audience members at the many country concerts she attended while living in Nashville, Tenn. Juxtaposing such behavior with how she teaches her children to behave can confuse kids because it sends a "dualistic" message, she says.

Issues of safety

In light of the recent Indiana State Fair accident, concert safety has become a viable topic. As Sugarland fans waited for the concert to begin on Aug. 13, winds clocked at up to 70 mph caused the stage to collapse, killing five people and injuring 45.

While such hazards can't be completely prevented, especially in outdoor venues where safety is largely dependent on the weather, safety mishaps can be minimized.

At all sizes of venues, general admission or festival seating tickets typically guarantee a spot to stand among a crowd of hundreds to thousands. A Salt Lake City law bans free-standing crowds of more than 2,000 people, with exception to venues applying for a one-time permit 30 days before the concert. The ordinance had been passed shortly after The Who concert tragedy in Cincinnati in 1979 when 11 fans were crushed to death.

In 1991, AC/DC performed at Salt Lake City's Salt Palace with almost 13,000 fans present. Despite the ordinance, a crowd of thousands stood brushing shoulders waiting for the band to play.

"When AC/DC came on, there was a jolt forward," said Brandi Burton in a People Magazine article. She was a teen at the time who attended the concert with her roommate Elizabeth Glausi. "Immediately, Liz and I were knocked down. … People were falling on top of our faces, our bodies."

While Burton survived, her roommate died three days later.

A "mosh pit" wasn't the force behind the accident, but standing crowds oftentimes lead to the activity, especially if there's room for fans to move in and out of the crowd. Some call it dancing, but mosh pitting is essentially a group of people jumping around. As speed and excitement pick up, there is a lot of physical contact. Cellphones are lost and shoes go flying.

What begins as a movement of expression for concertgoers can quickly turn into a rowdy crowd, and people sometimes get hurt. In Tycksen's experiences, mosh pits have been a constant, and she warns against them.

"People start fighting," she said. "It comes with the territory."

But Casey Jarman, founder and director of the Twilight Concert Series, says "most pits are a positive thing."

"At almost every concert there's a mosh pit," Jarman said. "People need to express themselves because they're really excited to be down there. It's a fun release."

Pioneer Park in Salt Lake City, where the Twilight Concert Series is held, is big enough to accommodate concertgoers wanting to sit in lawn chairs and those wanting to be nose-to-nose with the stage. With ample space, concertgoers can mosh freely.

Being scrunched between other concertgoers is less pleasant and less safe when the attendee isn't wearing sturdy attire. Jeans, tennis shoes and a T-shirt are pretty standard, and deviating from that can lead to unexpected problems or injuries.

"I've seen the girls show up to concerts in heels and skirts, then they're in a crowd of people being thrown around," Tycksen said. "I break the rules. I wear flip flops and my feet get stepped on all the time."

Being properly hydrated is another precaution many don't consider before, during or after a concert. While many parents worry about underage drinking and delinquent crowds, the mixture of dancing, sweating and stuffy venues can lead to people passing out or getting sick, such as in Titmus' experience.

"A lot of times they're not physically ready to go to the show," said Kevin Lyman, founder of Vans Warped Tour, a multi-stage concert outdoor series that tours the country each summer. He added that concertgoers often show up dehydrated from the start.

"It's just the basic simple things," Lyman said.

How to prepare

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