After a Stagediving Death at Webster Hall, NYC Venues Face a Hard Decision
Photo by Luke O'Neil
Over the weekend it was reported that 21-year-old Alberto Scott died after stage diving at a concert by Ohio metalcore band Miss May I at The Studio at Webster Hall. Initially reports said Scott died on the scene of the stage dive. But sources later said he collapsed and died outside of the venue; a video and a police report corroborate that Scott fell as he exited the venue. Witnesses said Scott certainly hit his head when stage diving at the rowdy show, but he seemed fine until he fell to the ground.
"We don't know what the patron was doing that evening but the video footage does show him walking out on his own power and then collapsing at the exit," Rich Pawelczyk, C.O.O. of Webster Hall, wrote to the Village Voice. He added simply, in regard to venue policies, that, "We don't condone stage diving."
Not condoning stage diving and utilizing security to stop the practice are two different things, and venue owners face a hard decision in explicitly prohibiting what many concertgoers see as part of the experience.
"If you do implement a no stage-diving policy," Rami Haykal, co-owner of the Williamsburg venue Glasslands, told us, "people think that you're an asshole for not allowing that and just trying to prevent the kind of thing that happened at Webster." Glasslands, which is about the same size as the Studio at Webster Hall, doesn't have a stage-diving policy. But Haykal noted that knowledge of a venue's programming should be tied to safety.
"Obviously for some of the rowdier shows it's the responsibility of the venue to hire additional hands," he said. "It's hard to judge the needs of each show explicitly. Security is one of those things that's hardest to figure out for a venue. We just decided we needed something bigger and more professional. But making sure you can still stay afloat and make it a safe experience for everyone is the goal."
Glasslands, like many venues in the city, employs an outside security agency to handle crowd control, including things like "making sure people don't get hurt or fall if they're crowdsurfing," Haykal said.
"It's our job to limit the liabilities of any venue that we're employed in," Richard Allen, the founder of Forte Security, told us. Forte handles Glasslands, as well as security at many other New York City venues of varying size, including Pianos, Arlene's Grocery, Output, and many others. "Most of the places that we do work in don't allow any of that stuff like crowd surfing or stage diving. It's a liability at all these venues when they let that stuff happen. In fact, we additionally insure any venue that you're at. But it's really up to the policy of the venue."
Venues under the manifold of The Bowery Presents have been tight-lipped about the situation. Representatives at Webster Hall seemed mostly interested in relieving the venue of culpability, which is somewhat understandable.
"Of course I worry about things like that," Edan Wilber, who runs the DIY concert space Death By Audio, told us. "I want people to stay safe and I like to think that if you are at DBA you can appreciate what it is and respect those around you. I feel like most people coming here know what to expect. And when it' s a rowdier show the people who get rowdy know what they came for and it's never the point to actually cause harm, it just happens. Fortunately I haven't had to deal with anything major in that sense. I hate stage diving. Hate it. If I had my way only the band would ever set foot on the stage for a set."
Tuesday morning, Miss May I acknowledged the death of Scott head-on. "We were deeply shocked and saddened to hear this news," read a post on the the band's Facebook page. "We are awaiting a full report from the New York Police Department. In the meantime, we'd ask that all your thoughts and prayers be with his family. We have been made aware of a webpage that is raising funds to help pay for his funeral costs. We will be making a contribution and we'd strongly urge others to do so."
You can donate to Alberto Scott's funeral fund here.
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