In the aftermath of last Saturday’s Swedish House Mafia concert’s stories of drunken revellers, stabbings and overdoses, Conor O’Nolan examines whether this behaviour is more of a phenomenon than a once off occurrence
Last Saturday, something not entirely unusual for a weekend in Dublin City Centre happened: at least three young men died from overdosing on illegal drugs, nine people were stabbed and countless others were assaulted or involved in minor altercations. Nothing about this weekend was particularly exceptional aside from the fact three concerts with a large capacity were happening in the Phoenix Park. On Saturday, 45,000 people attended the Swedish House Mafia concert. As the night wore on, rumours of assaults and people dying at the concert spread online via Twitter, and these rumours were clarified by online news sources the next morning.
People get stabbed in Dublin every weekend, people overdose on drugs every weekend, people drink too much and get aggressive every weekend. The difference last weekend was that it was a high-profile event and so, people decided it was a sudden cause for concern. Predictably, groups of people immediately started scrambling for a scapegoat and MCD drew a significant amount of ire online for their apparent lapse in their duty of care over concert-goers. Among many others, people were also keen to blame illegal drugs as a primary cause for not only the events that happened at the concert, but also the general collapse of civil society in Ireland or something equally dramatic.
It is hard to intimate that MCD are completely faultless in the events that unfolded at the concert, but it’s also nigh on impossible to blame them entirely. There could have been tighter security checks on the gates of the concert, but they would have likely been completely impractical if they are hoping to check 45,000 people going into a concert. The majority of the general public have no idea of the mechanics of managing an event of this scale. To suggest that there should have been further security measures taken seems pretty logical, but when you are dealing with a crowd this size, you can’t afford to hold people up.
Concerts like this and the Oxegen festival attract especially intoxicated crowds. If a large crowd of drunk people are stuck in a queue, someone is invariably going to start pushing and shoving and then chaos ensues. It might seem sort of nanny-like to assume the worst in people, but it’s a pretty safe assumption that this is how events will unfold. Having metal detectors onsite and possibly making people remove their shoes while being checked would probably make it much easier to detect weapons or contraband, but the delays this would cause would probably make the crowd significantly harder to control.
The death of three young men from overdosing is undeniably tragic, but the fact that they died lead a contingent of people commenting on the event to stray away from any sort of rational debate. Drugs were immediately blamed for any misbehaviour at the concert, and the fact that a rather large proportion of the crowd were more than likely paralytically drunk was largely ignored. Part of the problem is that Irish people are overly accepting of excessive drinking. People are free to drink as much as they want, whenever they want; the freedom of that choice is there, and that doesn’t necessarily need to be removed. The trouble is that people’s personal accountability is absolved when they’ve had a lot to drink. Behaviour like this, albeit not quite to this extreme, was expected at this concert, and that fact alone is genuinely pitiable.
Excessive drinking needs to be treated as a problem that is as significant, if not more significant that the use and abuse of illegal drugs. As long as it’s sociably acceptable or even considered fun to get drunk to the point where you can barely stand up, we as a country are wasting our time condemning other drug use. Alcohol needs to actively be considered a drug, the abuse of which is endemic in Ireland. Alcohol doesn’t need to be banned, but our collective attitude towards it needs to change. Once it is seen as significant as other illegal drugs, we’re probably more likely to get somewhere when trying to educate people about drugs. If we start acting less hysterical about drugs that happen to be illegal, we can probably educate people who choose to take drugs, so that overdoses will not be nearly as prevalent a problem and people who’d react badly to drugs just wont take them.
We are too quick to dole out blame to different parties involved without thinking of the bigger picture. It is easier to accuse either the organisers or the event or substances that likely had a negligible impact on the behaviour of those who caused trouble at the event. We’re not keen enough to criticise our society. Our treatment of large concerts like this as a grand piss-up is why things happened the way they did. If there wasn’t a concert on, several people would have still been stabbed and several people would have still overdosed, they just would have done it closer to the City Centre. These isolated incidents each weekend may be given less media attention because there is less shock-value in a single incident compared to the weekend’s events, but that does not change the root of the problem.
These kinds of scenes weren’t what we saw at the Stone Roses concert the previous Thursday, nor was it the case at the Snow Patrol and Florence and the Machine concert on Sunday, all held in the same location, all with the same capacity. Many have hit out at a so-called ‘rave culture’ or at the dance genre as a whole, but can a genre really be blamed for Saturday night’s events? One wouldn’t think so, given the wide variety of music played in the city’s bars every weekend. What set the Swedish House Mafia concert apart from the other two was a much lower mean age among revelers, more so than the music played. While Stone Roses attracted a much older, much more nostalgic crowd, and Snow Patrol saw the Park flooded with a much more docile audience with misty-eyed couples at every turn, Swedish House Mafia saw teenagers and those in their early twenties turn out in their droves, pills at the ready, preparing to get obliterated. This is the same attitude the majority of today’s youth approach every Saturday night out, and it is that which needs to change, more than anything else.