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Violence and crowd control problems cause SXSW to consider limiting events

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AUSTIN, Texas -- Injuries and incidents of violence pockmarked this year's SXSW music festival in the Texas capital, causing organizers to consider scaling some things back for 2012.

At a 1 a.m. Saturday show by '80s pop band OMD, a camera boom broke and fell into the crowd. Four people were taken to the hospital with moderate injuries.

SXSW director Roland Swenson called the accident "disheartening" and added, "This is our 25th year, and we've never had anyone permanently injured."

On Friday night, Chicago pop-punk band Screeching Weasel's show in east Austin was cut short when singer Ben Weasel (Ben Foster), after lengthy diatribes between songs and some taunting of the audience, ended up in a brawl after someone threw an ice cube that hit him in the eye.

Crowd control was a problem at several concerts.

Late Saturday night, a throng of fans unable to get inside pressed against an alley fence at the venue where reunited Canadian noise-rock band Death From Above 1979 was playing. Eventually, the fence was pushed down, "inciting a mini riot" according to the venue.

"Some kid came over the top [of the fence], as soon as he came over the top the fence kind of went and everybody started coming in," the bar owner said.

Police on horseback intervened and cleared the alley, allowing the show to continue.

Thursday evening, the Strokes filled the downtown Auditorium Shores amphitheater to its 20,000-person capacity. When the gates were closed to any new concertgoers, several climbed the fence and jumped off the tops of portable toilets to get in. Minor injuries were reported.

Late Saturday night, crowds mobbed an unusual downtown venue, a decommissioned power plant, where Kanye West had scheduled a midnight show.

This concert was not an official SXSW event, and it was free -- to anyone who saw a tweeted promotion and RSVP'd via text message to the concert's organizer, the online video service Vevo. The company reports receiving 15,000 texts within the first two minutes after announcing the show. Capacity at the venue was 2,500.

Things soured when several thousand people who had received text messages saying they would be admitted to the show then received a second message apologizing and adding that they did not have a ticket, after all. Vevo issued a public apology, admitting "we missed this up" and saying they were "asked by the Austin Police Department" to limit the size of the crowd. (Kanye himself was uninvited to a fashion show earlier in the week.)

Despite that -- and the fact that entry would be granted only to those with a confirmed RSVP or other VIP access -- fans began lining up outside the venue early Saturday morning. Crowd control, I can tell you, was poorly planned and managed, with hundreds of hopeful and some angry fans pressing against a barricade demanding entry and shouting at police and security personnel.

MTV reports a spokesperson for SXSW says the festival will reexamine its approach to free events, "which appear to have reached critical mass," plus Austin city officials plan to limit permits next year for free shows.

In the video below from Austin's KXAN, Swenson attributed the restive attitude at some events this year on too many free events, which "attract an element of people who are troublemakers."

SXSW considers limiting free events:

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This page contains a single entry by Thomas Conner published on March 21, 2011 1:01 PM.

Kanye West, Jay-Z, John Legend and more party late into the night for SXSW diversion was the previous entry in this blog.

CD review: Britney Spears, 'Femme Fatale' is the next entry in this blog.

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