Will Fan had sprung for VIP tickets to Saturday night's Hard Summer event at the Forum in Inglewood. But before settling in for a night of dance music, Fan made a trip to the bar.
Then the night went haywire. A back door of the VIP section, where tickets began at $125, flew open and fans ran in from the parking lot in what Fan described as a "stampede."
"We saw about 200 kids run right through the bar area," said the 35-year-old Sherman Oaks resident. "It was a little scary. I saw the bartender push one kid down, but everyone else just ran around him. Eventually, security was able to stop more people from coming in. But the kids ran out of the bar . . . and basically hopped over the balcony and onto the floor. Then the music stopped."
The sold-out all-night Hard Summer concert, which featured a lineup that included U.K. dance duo Underworld and Canadian electronic rockers Crystal Castles, was halted at about 10:50 p.m., according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department, which cited "hazardous life-safety things taking place inside the event."
Inglewood police dispatched a riot unit, and by 1:25 a.m. Sunday, more than 17,000 attendees had been sent home.
The Hard-brand dance events are the brainchild of promoter and DJ Gary Richards, who said he's looking at a "seven-figure" loss from the event's cancellation. Full refunds are being offered to ticket holders, and all artists will be paid.
"We were teetering on the edge of thinking things were getting out of control, and then all of a sudden those crashers came in and started leaping from the lower bowl onto the floor," Richards said. "How do you stop 500 people rushing the gate at the same time? You'd need military at that point."
Fire department inspector Frederic Stowers said a number of ambulances were called to the scene, and that the most serious injury was a broken foot. On Sunday, the Inglewood police said four people were arrested for theft and drunk and disorderly conduct, but a statement released on Monday said no arrests were made.
Videos uploaded to YouTube show fans jumping 12 to 15 feet from the balcony. Prija Cash, 27, feared a riot. The Costa Mesa resident was trapped between an underground room with a second stage and the Forum's main floor for about 30 minutes as crashers rushed the gates.
Tickets to the event were general admission, meaning fans weren't assigned a specific seat. The downstairs dance floor was full by 9 p.m., Cash said, leaving fans that came to dance, but wound up confined to balcony seats, frustrated.
"It was advertised as a dance party, and people wanted to dance," he said.
Underworld observed on its website that the mood inside the Forum went from a "good buzz" to an "uneasy" feeling relatively quickly, as fans ignored a barricade to rush the dance floor. The act wrote that it was advised by its security team to leave.
Richards said security had been beefed up for the concert. "The Forum typically hires I think 200 security guards for events," he said. "We had 320 guards. There were 36 Inglewood police officers and nine fire inspectors. My partners had 10 to 15 meetings with those people to go over and over the plan."
The Forum's general manager, Tina Suca, stopped short of saying the venue would avoid dance acts but said "we're a fun rock venue." Another Richards event is booked for Oct. 31, but it will be moved.
"We learned that the Forum is just not the right place for an event like this," Richards said. "Knowing now that people will jump from balconies onto the floor, the Forum is not good for us . . . My brother and I used to manage [metal band] Slipknot back in the day, and those fans weren't doing that."