Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. Usually, by default, we start at the beginning. Stories are easier when they are linear. So let me begin by starting at the end. I don’t think I’ll be returning to Ak-Chin Pavilion in the near future. Last night was the long awaited and once rescheduled Marilyn Manson and Slipknot concert. It had been a long while since I’d seen Manson and something always comes up that interferes with me seeing Slipknot. Alas, this is no different. Though, for the sake of accuracy, the situation was similar to Rob Zombie and Korn a few weeks back. Ak-Chin Pavilion has proven to not be able to secure he safety of their attendees in accessible seating.
I haven’t been to a show at Ak-Chin, known at the time as Cricket Wireless Pavilion, in some years. I stopped going simply because I didn’t have the cash to attend any band that came through that I deemed worth seeing. In those days, their security swept the pathways regularly. As they did, they’d chase off the obnoxious loiterers who found themselves lingering. This was normally because attendees wanted closer than what they actually paid for. Nevertheless, many would congregate in front of the accessible seats. I assume the theory was because they weren’t directly in front of seats. This being because of the space for the ramp to the front most seats in the 200’s section. No matter what the loiterers thought, they still obstructed the view and experience of those in these seats.
Since then, I started getting seats to the back of the 200’s section. For one, they are cheaper and they had been quality for my seating needs. Yet, since returning to Ak-Chin Pavilion, people have found their way right behind me. It’s quite convenient for them that they can see right over my head as they frequently invade my airspace with their phones and cameras. A mild annoyance that only gets worse. As there is no spacing between them and myself, they appear to find nothing wrong leaning against me and my chair. They frequently bump myself and the chair as they dance, scream at point blank in my ear, and are a general nuisance. There is no seating beyond the back of the 200’s until the 300’s start. Instead, there is a wide pathway from one side of the venue to the other. The same as the front of the section. Yet, this space is frequently populated by attendees who are adversed to the seats they chose and paid for.
This brings me to the concerts just recently passed. Unlike some years prior, while security does still roam these pathways, they pay these loiterers no mind. Between the wheelchair bound lady next to me and myself, we were bumped, kicked, punched in the back of the head, had our ears screamed in, wheelchairs abused as public arm rests, and nearly physically grinded upon intimately. When asked to please back off and give some illusion of space, these attendees rudely mouthed off and made it clear they didn’t care about those around them, no matter the accessibility needs that may exist. After more stern demands to not be assaulted during the show, these attendees simply waved us off as nuisances that should simply be ignored as if we were the offending party disrupting their concert experience. The only defense we had left was to ask help from Ak-Chin Pavilion’s security. Yet, after three separate attempts, two of them being successful instances of contact in the sense that we spoke to someone and they consciously responded, we were finally worthy of having two security personnel arriving to move those that assaulted us. It’s worth adding that this only did so good as they moved over to the same area of another subsection of the 200’s.
Alas, this became a case of too little too late as only a couple songs after these attendees were told to leave us be, Manson had finished his set and the crowd dispersed to get food and drink before Slipknot took the stage. The wheelchair bound lady next to me attempted to leave a little before the final song ended to beat the rush, to which she struggled with a new band of attendees that mindlessly huddled behind us and were shocked to encounter a wheelchair backing into them as they lingered in her blind spot. When the pathway behind the 200’s was more or less clear, the Missus and I decided that we had enough. Directed toward the customer service booth, we were set to lodge a complaint.
While we spoke to one of their staff, we were repeatedly told the phrase, “crowds change” to pin this on antics of a rock show crowd than the lack of security or their response. Furthermore, it was frequently mentioned that every crowd is different. I’m not sure how this correlates to our situation if it can at all. What became very apparent was that Ak-Chin had changed and they were not willing to take any responsibility for their shortcomings. As we spoke further with their staff, I mentioned previous experiences at the venue and how I saw the security personnel act then. As a suggestion, I mentioned maybe this should be put back into practice. It very well could, at the very least, lessen the frustration that may be caused if they swept through the pathways and made sure there weren’t attendees gathering outside their chosen and paid for seats. What was offered by the staff member, should we return and encounter a similar issue again, was that we could abandon our seats for the customer service booth. From there they can contact the security dispatch and maybe relocate us to different seats. This immediately sounded like an unbearably flawed plan as while getting security dispatch is great for getting the situation handled, they expect us to nearly leave the venue to ask for help with the front gate only a few more steps away. Furthermore, while I know the offer of potentially being relocated is supposed to be reassuring and maybe favorable in the event of a seat upgrade (closer being better on the simple premise that it’s more expensive, even for accessible seating), it only avoids the issue instead of making any form of effort if at all. After the conversation, I feel a lot of my concerns and suggestions fell on deaf ears. It was very easy for them to just blame the crowd and neglect any responsibility for keeping their attendees safe.
With it all said and done, I came to a realization that seemed asinine to me. I had been to far more rambunctious shows that put me in a massive crowd, just like Anti-Flag, only to emerge with surprise. Contrary to my assumption of being at the crowd’s mercy I was shown a near infinite amount of respect and kindness, all without the venue staff ever getting involved. Thus we left Ak-Chin Pavilion, frustrated, insulted, and thoroughly soaked to the bone thanks to the persistent downpour of rain early into the event. While one of those is in no way the venue’s fault, I had hoped to have a better experience overall. Instead, I was shown the very selfish nature of some attendees followed by the liability dodging wiles of the venue staff. Not only has Ak-Chin Pavilion proven they can’t secure the safety of their attendees, they almost expect you to ensure your own safety. I say almost considering all the “give high fives, not punches” signs plastered on their video screens. Ultimately, I’m left drained and thoroughly disappointed in Ak-Chin. Many of my early concerts were there and now I can’t help but feel that I’m simply not welcome.