One issue at the Steve Aoki concert in January was the amount of non-students at the concert, Police Chief George Hughes said. Half the attendees weren’t Cal Poly students, but most of them were college-aged.
Kyle McCarty and Kayla Missman
Event staff left at midnight after the concert, but Recreation Center employees stayed to clean up the venue. The floor was slippery from cake and other unknown substances at the Associated Students, Inc. (ASI)-hosted event. Tiles had to be pressure-washed, and on Monday, more people scraped remnants off the floor of the main gym where the concert was held.
Workers were given gift cards and thank-you notes for their effort, said two ASI employees who worked the concert.
That was the aftermath of Steve Aoki’s performance at Cal Poly in January, which resulted in 14 arrests and six hospitalizations — including one for head trauma — and caused Cal Poly administrators to take another look at on-campus concert safety.
We learned that we need more staff, inside and out.”
—University Police Chief George Hughes
University Police Department (UPD), Vice President for Student Affairs Keith Humphrey and representatives from the Recreation Center and ASI met about the concert on Feb. 6, UPD Chief George Hughes said. They created a comprehensive review, including things that went well and what could be improved for the next concert.
The Aoki concert had more of an impact on the community than they expected, Hughes said. With the arrests and hospitalizations, the university impacted the local emergency room and jail, as well as surrounding neighborhoods.
“We learned that we need more staff, inside and out,” he said.
Still, Hughes and Michelle Crawford, assistant director for ASI programs and government affairs, said the concert itself was a safe environment.
ASI works with UPD, event staff and a third-party security company to determine the amount of staff needed for events. It’s customized based on the genre of the concert, the expected number of attendees and research from similar events in other locations, Crawford said. They also work with the production company — in Aoki’s case, Collective Efforts.
“As a broad statement, yes, we will have more security, but it’s also based off the next concert that ASI Events line up for spring quarter,” Crawford said. “I would be remiss to say we will always have 25 police officers, because an event may not dictate that. I think that we really need to be cautious and base it off the particulars of the event.”
For the Aoki concert, ASI events coordinator Missi Bullock said, there were 20 security officers from Miller Event Management, who helped with crowd control and mostly surrounded the stage to protect the artist. The company also provided four EMTs. Two ambulances were on scene, each coming with two EMT paramedic staff.
It was just way too crowded, way too many people, and I don’t think the administration was prepared for it.”
—ASI staff member at the concert
On ASI’s side, there were at least 50 people hired — working at the front, taking tickets, ushering and watching exit doors, fire pulls, smoking areas and bathrooms. UPD also had eight officers present, the maximum they could have at the event.
Still, employees working the concert said the biggest issue was ASI was caught off guard.
“It was just a really overwhelming experience for me, because we had not even a single-second break while we were working the concert,” said one employee, who requested anonymity because of an ASI media policy instructing employees not to speak with reporters. “It was just way too crowded, way too many people, and I don’t think the administration was prepared for it.”
One issue,discussed at the debriefing, was the amount of non-students at the concert, Hughes said. Half the attendees weren’t Cal Poly students, but most of them were college-aged.
Of the 14 arrests, eight were non-students. Police arrested one for possession of ecstasy, Hughes said.
During the debriefing, Hughes said they talked about limiting concerts to Cal Poly students in the future.
There were also issues with bathrooms at the concert, ASI employees said. One employee said the bathrooms were crowded and understaffed, and students were getting sick there — at one point, three girls passed out in a stall and had to be escorted to the first aid station.
There were long lines, even for the men’s restroom, and staff weren’t able to clean them.
“It was very understaffed, and they know it was understaffed,” the employee said. “It was a sold-out show, and it was EDM, and a lot of people were going to the bathroom to throw up or to do drugs, or whatever. And they (the university) didn’t realize how many people there would be.”
Several attendees at the concert were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, Hughes said, despite bag checks and pat-downs at the door — and some attendees were turned away for being too intoxicated. Five of the six hospitalizations were for overintoxication.
Crawford said “a good majority of participants” who were under the influence were stopped prior to getting into the facility, which was the responsibility of ASI and UPD.
The use of drugs and alcohol inside the concert was apparent, the employees said.
“I’m sure everyone there was not sober; it was pretty clear most people were ‘rolling,’” one said. “At any given time — you know, those little drug baggies — there were, like, 50 on the ground.”
Even besides intoxicated attendees throwing up in the bathrooms there was “garbage everywhere,” the employee said. There were also “people trying to hook up in the custodial closet — some guy was peeing in there.”
“I don’t think ASI was really prepared for what it was going to be,” the employee added. “I don’t think they had a good idea of what an EDM concert was going to be like.”
Staff were handing out vomit bags and cups of water to students, said Bullock. They had prepared for students to feel sick from dancing at the concert.
Bullock didn’t personally see intoxication, urination or students having sex, she said, but she and other staff members notified security of attendees who were having issues.
“It’s our job to point out people that are maybe having a harder time being in the facility or being safe with each other, so we would point them out to the police if they were looking like they were having a harder time,” Bullock said.
Event capacity for the Aoki concert was 4,000 attendees, Crawford said. In the future, with a similar event, they could push back the bleachers or limit attendance to make the concert more manageable.
“Lessons were learned from this one, but it was also a great success for a number of students,” Crawford said. “And we don’t want to lose sight of that, either.”