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Arts & Entertainment

Large turnout & crowd control issues punctuate first day of Portola Music Festival

After Saturday’s crowd control issues at the Warehouse stage at Portola Music Festival, the event organizers beefed up security outside the stage, which was a massive warehouse. | Source: Sarah Holtz/The Standard

This weekend’s first-ever Portola Music Festival—organized by the same promoter behind the Coachella Music Festival—promised a perfect elixir of festival magic: An eclectic lineup and San Francisco’s temperate September weather.

As a result, many thousands came to Pier 80 in the Dogpatch neighborhood on Saturday and Sunday, dancing next to the ocean in sunny 80-degree weather.

But it was common consensus among several colorfully-clad festival goers whom The Standard spoke with that organizers Goldenvoice, the same national outfit behind the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, should have sold fewer tickets, as long lines and crowd control issues plagued the festival.

In particular, one of the bigger stages was located in a giant warehouse that had restricted entry points and sometimes required waiting for entrance. That frustrated some attendees—general admission tickets were $200 a day—who according to social media videos rushed into the warehouse, hopping over crowd control barriers.

One security guard who declined to give his name described the scene as “awesome, like World War Z,” a reference to a 2006 zombie novel and 2013 Brad Pitt movie of the same name.

“They were at capacity so they were trying to not let people into the Warehouse,” said B. Towne, who was working security at the festival yesterday. “They were clearly at capacity, so they were trying to do one in, one out. But people started climbing the fence and they knocked it over.”

In response to these complaints and videos of the incident, festival officials said they had addressed the issue. On Sunday, there were visibly more security measures in place around the warehouse.

“There was a minimal, isolated issue with a festival stage entrance yesterday,” wrote Ryan Cunningham, a festival spokesperson in an email. “This occurred within the confines of the grounds and was quickly addressed and corrected. There were no reported injuries and the festival continued for another 6 hours without incident.”

The San Francisco Fire Department said they treated one injury yesterday—a sprained ankle—but that it was unrelated to any overcrowding issues.

The festival overcrowding caused other issues. Lines for food and even festival merchandise (the sweatshirts were popular after the fog rolled in around 7 p.m.) were long. 

“It was so crowded last night that we couldn’t hear the music,” said Yurie Choe, who attended Saturday. “So we left.” 

But others said that it was a great first go-around.

“Lines were a bit long at times, but overall it was executed well and it is great to see events back on in San Francisco again,” said Emily Shaw.