Cincinnati Enquirer - June 1996

The city is turning away the popular band Smashing Pumpkins because it fears that its cult following of moshers could pose safety concerns. The Chicago band ASKED FOR A MOSH PIT AT RIVERFRONT COLISEUM concert so its fans could have an area to leap around, but the city said no. A mosh pit--usually an area without chairs where fans slam into one another and lift others to the stage--would be considered festival or open seating- something the city doesn't allow, Acting Cincinnati Safety Director Joe Charlton said.

Cincinnati has banned festival seating since 1979, when 11 fans died in a rush for the doors before THE WHO concert at the coliseum. But coliseum concert planers say they are stringent about safety and that this is an overblown reaction to last month's mini-riot at Pepsi's Jammin' on Main. Police armed with Mace and riot gear broke up the ruckus May 11 and arrested rowdy moshers in front of the band Seven Mary Three.

"We felt a little bit penalized for something at another event," said Bill Barrett, a Coliseum spokesman. "I was surprised because i thought we were making some progress. Times have changed. Its a known fact that moshing does go on" But not if the city can help it. While fans can mosh to their hearts at smaller venues such as Bogarts in Coryville, its against the law anywhere in the city for a place that holds more than 3,000 people, said Sgt.

Wayne Pfirrman, a city safety department liaison officer who works with the Event Planning Unit. The event planners--city, police, and fire officials--met with the Smashing Pumpkins promoters the week after the Jammin' event and decided to reject the proposal even before a public assembly permit was filed. Gayle Fine, the band's publicist did not discuss details of the negotiations or the band's concert in Ireland last month when a teen was killed in the crush of the mosh pit. She said only that the band would love to play Cincinnati.

The Coliseum is losing acts because of too many rules and regulations, Mr. Barrett said:"once the word gets out, agents won't even make calls regarding Cincinnati. Shannon Merry, 21, of Oxford a Smashing Pumpkins fan who moshed at Jammin' on Main, said this makes Cincinnati seem stodgy. "They don't have any fun anymore" she said," To soup security is one thing. To cancel everything--thats just uncool."

Uncool or not, it's safe said Bobby Sterne, who proposed this week that portable video cameras be mounted on poles for such events such as Jammin' on Main. "does this really add much to the enjoyment of a concert for people to go romping around like that?" she asked. Paul Wertheimer, founder of Crowd Management Strategies of Chicago, tried to find out for himself. The 47-year old has been moshing for three years.

He understands the dangers and the reasons the city would have for avoiding it. "In a city with the worst U.S. rock 'n' roll disaster in history, these people have to err on the side of safety." said Mr. Wertheimer who was a public information officer for Cincinnati at the time of THE WHO concert. While this is the first time Cincinnati has banned bands from having mosh pits, its happening in other cities. Boston officials rejected a concert by Gravity Kills last week, saying they wanted to avoid a riot. And Cincinnati officials say there's evidence that moshing has been dangerous here even before last month's scuffle. A March 6, 1995 report from a police commander to the chief details chaos at the Feb. 23, 1995, Pantera heavy metal concert, where fans tore apart wire-linked chairs to form a mosh pit.

"The music acted as a euphoric drug and the more Pantera played the wilder the crowd became." former District 1 Capt. Walter McAlpin wrote. Police made 32 arrests, and at least 8 people were treated for drug overdosing, alcohol poisoning, a dislocated should and knee he wrote. Thats just the kind of thing the city wants to avoid. "These young people have mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers." Mr Charlton said. "And if something tragically would happen to them, what would i say to them?" I would rather take the ounce of prevention. Once a life is gone, its gone.

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