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June 13, 2016


There’s a reason that the adage “The Show Must Go On” exists—because in most cases where a show might be cancelled, there are too many reasons for forging ahead. The crowd is full of people who’ve paid good money to be there. The venue wants to be paid. Investors have paid good money to see it happen. Hundreds of people are working at the show and they want and need to get paid as well.

So when does it make sense to cancel a show? When the safety of any or all of those people comes into play, which is what happened at the Governor’s Ball last weekend in New York City. As you might have seen on the news, cancelling even one day of an event the size of the Governor’s Ball turns out to be a huge deal. But the much bigger deal was the threat that Sunday’s weather posed to the tens of thousands of attendees, who had enjoyed the first two days of the festival in comfort.

As Day 3 of the Governor’s Ball’s shows were set to begin just after noon on Sunday, June 5, Stageline’s stage supervisor began to get weather alerts. He wasn’t the only one—the show’s organizers were getting the alerts, as was everyone in the crowd who had an alert set up on their phones. Serious weather was coming.

Of the four stages on site, one was a Stageline product—the SAM575, which was hosting Chet Faker, Courtney Barnett, Eagles of Death Metal, Fidlar and Whitney. While Stageline’s mobile stages are an industry leader in safety, they nonetheless require attention to extreme weather, and extreme weather was what was on its way. On Randall’s Island in the East River off of Manhattan, the warnings were dire: by six o’clock PM, winds were expected to be exceeding 60 mph (96 kph). To top it off, there were lightning warnings. The SAM575 is rated to a maximum of 60 mph with windwalls (90 mph without) and to keep it standing with all banners and gear in winds higher than that would be a risk to everyone’s safety.

Stageline’s crew was already making preparations when the order came from promoters to shut everything down and evacuate the park. We’d begun to remove the straps from our SAM575’s wind-wall in order to allow the wind to pass through the structure safely. After that, we dropped the ceiling of the stage down with the trusses and rigging to make sure they weren’t in any place that they would be dangerous to attendees. We have to get those things down well in advance of the winds picking up, since there’s no way we can safely work at that windspeed, and having that amount of heavy equipment 34 feet in the air is a bad idea when the wind gets dangerous.

At the Free Press Summer Festival (FPSF) in Houston, Texas, our techs were busy dealing with the exact same problem on Sunday night, as they rushed to respond to a lightning warning caused by thunderstorms passing by. Unlike the Governor’s Ball, the FPSF was able to avoid total cancellation, meaning their sets by headliners Deadmau5, the National, and Violent Femmes were able to continue after the lightning passed more than 10 miles beyond the festival site.Back in New York, the wind peaked only above 30 mph (48 kph)  during the evening storms, and our crew was able to continue working safely to break down the stage between six and eight in the evening. We were as sad as anyone to bring the stage down early (and in such miserable conditions!) but we won’t ever compromise safety.

Responding to extreme weather is something that Stageline techs have to do more and more as climate change creates violent fluctuations of temperature at unexpected places and times. Who would have thought that the same time as we were dealing with extreme weather in New York City, on the northern east coast of the US, we would also have to be dealing with storms in Texas? Whether it’s the changing climate or this year’s tangle with El Niño, it happened, and it will probably happen again. Our duty is to make it as safe as possible for everyone working on our stages and enjoying what they have to offer, and that remains our highest priority.