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Monday November 28th, 2011
STAGE FRIGHT



Hidden within one of Montreal's beautiful autumn spaces, the bass pounding rhythmically and lights gyrating colourfully, the ravers cheered emphatically. Another fun Free Party outdoors, stars shining, moon waning, wood cracking - and then the horror.

At 3:16 am last Saturday, in a wooded area near Hochelaga-Maisoneuve, the stage built 8 hours earlier by a crew of 6 people suddenly collapsed. The stage housed a DJ Booth, 4 speakers and 2 sub-woofers, as well as 8 large canvases placed for decoration and two black-lights. 5 people were injured, including the Disc-Jockey who suffered a broken arm and a fractured shin.

The stage was about 5 feet off the ground, the back-drop structure fencing the back part of the stage was another 6 feet above that. The entire structure was pieced together with 2x4 beams of wood and other planks of wood. Witnesses also attest to seeing tree branches and tent-poles in a few places as well. Of the 6 people who put the stage together, only 1 had experience in building such structures, and the job of creating the stage was completed within 3 hours. Some people who questioned the promoter of the event upon their arrival say he claimed that the stage was safe and sound, tried and tested, before the party began. The opening DJ admitted that he was told to get up on the stage and begin only 20 minutes after the structure was completed, "I really didn't feel safe, but I bounced around a bit during the first tune to check, and it seemed solid - aside from a few creaks I thought I heard, but it was hard to tell with the loud music".

It wasn't until the 4th DJ got up onto the stage, bringing his girlfriend with him, that the structure seemed to sway and cave with the weight of him, his girl, the previous DJ , and his 2 friends. One of these friends overheard his buddies talking "Dude, I'm done, lets get off of this thing, it ain't fuckin' safe". 15 minutes later, just as the song that was playing dropped the kick drum back into the mix, one of the two criss-crossing beams beneath the stage gave way and the entire structure canted to the right. Off balance, and presumably drunk, the DJ onstage stumbled with his full weight falling to the left, and as yelps of shock from the crowd overtook the music, creaks and grunts of strained wood joined them. The speakers tumbled forward into the crowd, the stage collapsed inward, and the back-drop fell every which way as it was pulled awkwardly by the decorative canvas stapled onto it. Complete Disaster. Total destruction. One of the Turntables had fallen on the Dj, causing his leg injury, as his right arm was sunk into the debris. For one minute, no one moved. Luckily one responsible raver, known as Alexandre, trained as a First-Response Paramedic pushed his way through to the front of the crowd and began assessing and nursing wounds.

Due to the injuries, an ambulance was called, but only nearby, as the promoters scrambled to put the sound-system back into place on ground level, hoping to continue the party. The injured were helped by their friends over to the paramedics who seemed stunned, "We arrived at the scene at 3:45, heard some sort of Techno music off in the woods, but our priority was taking care of the injured individuals. There were mostly cuts, bruises, and splinters, except for two people with fractured limbs, and one with a broken arm." The paramedics also said that only 2 of the people hurt went to the Hospital, the other 3 returning into the woods. Assuming there was something strange going on, the Ambulance driver contacted the Police to inform them of the incident. Law enforcement arrived on the scene at approximately 6:00 am. They arrived to an empty clearing just beyond some trees. "We found a big pile of wood, abandoned. We could not tell what it was supposed to be at first, originally assuming it was intended to be used for a bonfire. Obviously, we put 2 and 2 together and realized it was a stage-like structure that had collapsed". They claim that the stage's construction material was a mixture of rotting wood, planks, branches, rope, nails, screws, and 2x4's. Shoddy, at best.

In the days following the event, all the pieces of the puzzle came together. The structure was designed on the spot by the one person, aided by 5 others who knew nothing of construction. It was also done in a rush, the extra materials scavenged from the surrounding area. 4 of the helpers admitted to being high or drunk at the time. In total, only a dozen screws and about 20 nails were used to keep it all together. There was over 1000 pounds of material on the stage. Approximately 400 pounds of material was used to build the stage. With a DJ or two thrown on the stage, the result was a very fragile, top-heavy, poorly built structure that was doomed to fail. Another raver later told me "I fuckin' told [the promoter] that if he couldn't afford professionals, then he shouldn't have a damn stage at this party. But no, he told me he needed a stage, that it was all part of the trance".

Luckily, there were no more injuries, and none too severe. The party continued 30 minutes after the incident, but many patrons had already departed. Within 45 minutes after the music had restarted, everyone had left. One witness stated "Dude, the vibe was awful, I mean, we got hurt friends and a big shit pile of wood next to us, plus half the speakers were fucked! We got out of there man". Both the promoter and person in charge of the stage building refused to comment.

Shakespeare once wrote "All the world's a stage", but what he failed to mention was that it isn't a very well built one.
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