Crowd Control

It began innocently, as most things do. The WHPK DJs and staff members who had been asked to volunteer for the Lightning Bolt show on Saturday night walked onto the quads, just after dark. Some of them helped carry speakers from the Reynolds’ Club, and some arrived separately later on. The sky was overcast and unpleasant, but the temperature seemed to have risen, perhaps in a pleased anticipation of the event (though more likely because of a very brief warm front which would cause torrential downpours around 10pm).

At seven, two hours before the show was scheduled to begin, a crowd of overeager fans were shooed away by staff from the basement of Cobb Hall, an academic building known for its small hallways and precarious stairs. DJs whispered amongst themselves, sharing stories of strange and memorable antics. Some fans had reportedly arrived as early as one, and traveled from across the great Midwest. Cobb is open on the weekends but rarely used, and the fans had situated themselves in the halls. By a quarter after seven, the fans, some attired in face paint and bandannas in tribute to their favorite band, spilled out of the building and into a fairly orderly line out of the front doors, stretching towards the center of the quads. The line continued to grow, and as the weather got colder and the bands finished loading in, a certain anxiety spread through the more and more bedraggled crowed. Finally, the wristbands which guaranteed admission were handed out to the first 125 arrivals as even more throngs of eager noise fans were turned away. Some impromptu gangs attempted to build what they deemed a “Cobb Overflow Party,” but after some discouragement from WHPK staff and UCPD, they moved along.

The back door of Cobb was open for bands to load their equipment in; Lightning Bolt and their three roadies had just pulled up, having missed the exit on the South Side and found themselves on the other side of downtown. It began to rain, unpleasant and chilling, and the crowds disbanded quickly. A gang of young fans offered the staff assigned to guard the backdoor a series of increasingly tempting bribes: “four homemade cookies wrapped in foil… they’re chocolate chip,” “ten dollars,” “a cigarette,” “my love,” “seventy-five dollars”–becoming more or less facetious until one of them suggested just rushing the door, to which a wet WHPK DJ responded, “Please don’t.” With a little more security intervention the creative teenagers were off, once more, scattered away from the general vicinity, where, in twenty minutes, the show would begin.