Drink & drugs at venues!

Last night’s local news; a major incident was declared by our ambulance service at a large DJ concert, where about 100 young people were treated by paramedics for problems related to ‘drink and drugs’ with some being hospitalised. For me the question is why this happens: A night out for enjoying a concert becomes a medical emergency yet no traumatic incident or accident was to blame!

I can remember the change. In 1985 I went to Croke Park to see U2, with support bands throughout the day. The tickets (about £15!) stated that no alcohol was allowed in the grounds. We were all searched, and there was a skip at the entrance where everyone who had drink was made to dispose of it. One guy was being refused entry. He was being told “I don’t care that you have a ticket. That ticket tells you we can refuse you entry. You’re inebriated. You’re not getting in!”
Only soft drink on sale. The stalls were charging about £4 for a 2 litre bottle (normally then about 60p!) so extortion was present, and it was a hot day! But I managed to get right to the front for The Alarm playing ’68 Guns’ and it was a tight squeeze but amidst a joyful bouncing singing crowd of sober revellers. I heard REM for the first time and swear the lead singer came down into the crowd after their set and walked right past me. Michael Stipe was not a celebrity then, and it was before the celebrity cult had really taken off. Great day in the sun! Topped off with a U2 finale in their hometown; nothing like it! This was not my first live concert, but as good as any previous had been, if not better.

1986: Karen and I had just met. I invited her to go with me and my friends to Slane Castle to see Queen. I cannot recall how we were informed but no drink bottles or cans were allowed into the venue, since they could be used as missiles or weapons, but there was no ban on alcohol. The event was sponsored by Harp Lager! We saw guys walking in with 10 gallon plastic drums they’d emptied their beer into, so they had obviously prepared. We got a spot on the grass fairly near the front but couldn’t sit since it was a typical Irish wet day, so we stood in the rain as the support acts played. Chris Rea, The Bangles… finally Queen were on stage! Then all the people at the back decided they wanted to be at the front. My friend’s brother and I formed a barrier behind the women to stop people forcing through us but then this huge gorilla came CRASHING between us, knocking us flying. I managed to land a punch on his back and he reeled around, fists up, slurring something about killing me. He was so drunk that one right hook would’ve floored him, but right away the drunkard’s brother came between us, apologetic and telling him to shut up, shuffling him on through the crowd as I shouted at him to ‘tell him to behave’ or something like that. Then things got worse! We got spun around like a tornado had hit the field, and Karen and I lost our friends. Next thing I knew, she was kicking out around her, shouting “SOME PIG GROPED ME!”  One poor guy, who looked innocent and bewildered, was receiving most of her kicks. I realised the culprit had melted away so I grabbed her hand and headed backwards out of the storm, to a safe spot with air to breathe. Just then, about halfway through their second song, Freddie Mercury started shouting “whoa! Stop guys, STOP!.. Stop the music!” and the band went quiet. He continued, “there’s a lot of pushing and shoving going on down there! Cut it out!… If this doesn’t stop, we’re going home! I MEAN IT!” The crowd seemed to ease and soften, and at his command, everyone moved back. When he saw it was better, he just said “look after each other out there, OK? Hit it again, guys!” That man was a legend, and a showman!

1987: 3 days before we got married, Karen and I hiked down to Dublin for the U2 Joshua Tree tour, but this time, Karen just refused to enter the playing pitch and insisted we sit in the stands. I understood; concerts would never be the same again. At the U2 Pop Tour in Belfast, we managed to get ushered up onto the wheelchair stage when Karen took a sort of panic attack just seeing the crowd, even though I promised we’d stay at the back. Got the best view ever, so I told her to get panic attacks at more venues!! As we left, I noticed how the vast majority of the people were sober, with only a minority of staggering drunks, but I wondered, in that crowd, what problems had they caused?

The concert last night was attended by 9,500, so again, the 100 or so treated for ‘excessive alcohol’ or whatever it actually was, would seem to be a minority. Those who had turned up already under the influence were refused entry, so something to praise the organisers for there. They had hung around outside and thus caused the huge incident. Not to say there was zero trouble inside, but it was minor by comparison.

Why have we gone the way of allowing a small number of idiots, who cannot enjoy a great concert without the need to get totally wasted, to ruin our own enjoyment? I have fond memories of concerts pre-1986 yet really mixed memories after that. Is it corporate sponsorship by drinks companies? Have we really a new generation who approach this differently, or has it just always been the same? Is it government deregulation? Or promoters bowing to some ‘demographic’ that shows them that most people want to drink at these venues? All I know is I wish it would go back to the way it was!

Grace be with you!

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