Last weekend, students and fans from all around the city wore their trendiest outfits and flocked to Canal Road, Lahore to catch a glimpse of their favorite musicians at this year’s Rhythm Fest. The lineup was immensely promising, with rapper Iqbal and ‘Jhooti Makkar’ singer Omar Mukhtar opening for the increasingly popular Hasan Raheem and the national favorites, the Young Stunners.
Tickets were sold at an incredibly low rate and considering that this seemed to be the first concert in almost 2 years, it’s not surprising that a very great number of Lahori youngsters had decided to attend this concert. The roads of Mughalpura and Dharampura were choked and getting from one end to the other took no less than 45 minutes at the very least. People could be seen getting out of their cars and excitedly running through the traffic before the gates of Royal Palm closed at 6 pm and stopped them from having the time of their lives.
Parking was impossible anywhere near the Club. So, after parking their cars further down the Canal Road, somewhere deep inside the winding lanes at the back, concertgoers walked for 15 to 20 minutes across train tracks, bridges, and through badly parked cars only to be disappointed. The gates had been shut and hordes of people were compressed against them, willing them to break. Apparently, tickets had been oversold much beyond the capacity of the venue. There was no room to twist or turn. Eventually, a group of intoxicated boys jumped up to scale the gates and walls, encouraged by the increasing din of the collected crowd. The increasing restlessness pushed me to grab my friends and force my way out of the thick wall of human bodies. Sure enough, 15 minutes after we left, a stampede broke out. Reportedly, a girl fell to the ground and sustained injuries in the process. Within the concert venue itself, the stage broke and fell upon some audience members, heavily injuring them. Further still, five attendees reportedly fractured their legs, while another group beat up a bouncer at the event. Needless to say, we were shocked at the turn of events. What was supposed to be a coming-of-age, return to normalcy, end of the pandemic, revival of the Pakistani music industry concert turned out to be more apocalyptic than cathartic. Twitter had a lot to say, obviously.
People also observed how eerily similar it was to the disaster at Travis Scott’s Astroworld Concert in Houston recently.
I don’t know if I even still need to say it, but I think this is why rich high schoolers shouldn’t be allowed to organize events of such a massive scale. Not only did the event turn out to be physically dangerous for concertgoers, many who bought tickets didn’t get to attend and were practically scammed. Additionally, the choked roads caused major inconvenience to the residents of Lahore who found it very difficult to go about their daily lives.