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Rochester’s history includes other dangerous incidents at concerts

Malik Evans standing at a podium in front of the police chief
Gino Fanelli
Rochester Mayor Malik Evans vows during a news conference on Monday, March 6, 2023, to investigate a trampling death at the Armory during a GloRilla concert.

The deadly surge that followed a Sunday hip-hop concert at the Main Street Armory was the most serious at a Rochester music venue in recent memory.

But the area has witnessed a number of dangerous crowd situations over the years, some resulting in injuries and arrests.

While authorities sort out what happened inside the Armory, Mayor Malik Evans and others also are grappling with how such events can be prevented.

“I love music. I love concerts,” the mayor said Monday. “But the most important thing is the health and safety of the residents of the city of Rochester and people attending concerts. And if the health and safety cannot be guaranteed, you will not be having a show in the city.”

Here’s a look at some of the past events and how officials responded.

In August 2022, a buckling stage at the Armory forced the cancellation of a metal show featuring Anthrax, Black Label Society, and Hatebreed. Much the same thing happened in 1993 at Water Street Music Hall, when the dancing crowd at a ska show featuring the Mighty Mighty BossTones caused the floor in front of the stage to collapse. No one was injured in either incident.

In 2016, the city revoked Water Street Music Hall’s entertainment license, citing specific incidents that “significantly impact the public’s safety and welfare.” Three of those occasions involved gunshots, the others brawls or people blocking traffic. Most of the incidents involved hip-hop shows, although one occurred during a concert by alternative country rock band Drive-By Truckers.

In 1995, an industrial rock band, God Lives Underwater, was playing a show at the Downtown Festival Tent for a crowd estimated at about 2,100 when an energetic mosh pit of young dancers formed in front of the stage.

Police said lead singer David Reilly challenged the crowd to throw the security guards out of the tent, with some people responding by tossing beer and a barricade at the rental cops. Pepper gas drifted over the scene. Reilly was charged with inciting to riot, a misdemeanor, and 13 other people at the show were charged with misdemeanor second-degree rioting.

Other incidents at concerts have been less intense, but nonetheless are a part of the city’s history.

One standout: The Rolling Stones’ 1965 concert at the War Memorial. A crowd of about 4,000 young Stones fans tried to push their way to the stage; with an unprecedented 120 police officers at the concert, the show was shut down after a mere seven minutes.

Afterward, guitarist Keith Richards reportedly said to the police, “This is a hick town. They were twice as wild in Montreal. They won't get hurt. You were too hard with them.”

A free concert at Ontario Beach Park in 1982 by the Rochester national touring rock band Duke Jupiter drew an estimated 25,000 people to Charlotte, leading to a massive traffic jam that took hours to untangle. The Monroe County Parks Department announced that it was canceling other shows scheduled for that summer, citing concerns for public safety.

Jeff Spevak has been a Rochester arts reporter for nearly three decades, with seven first-place finishes in the Associated Press New York State Features Writing Awards while working for the Democrat and Chronicle.