A-Trak and Fool's Gold staff handle the crowd/police situation sidestage, not long before the event was shut down. (Photo: Devon Maloney)
Every year, Fool's Gold takes over the backyard of City Winery in Soho on Labor Day for its Fool's Gold Day Off bash. The New York event, which has acted as an excuse to showcase the label's roster for the past three years, has always been an in-demand event (consider last year's iteration), but certainly not a riotous one.
Call it a frenzy-inducing lineup this year, however (one that featured French Montana, Danny Brown, Flatbush Zombies, Just Blaze, and #BEEN #TRILL and was bolstered by the "+ SPECIAL GUESTS" tag on the event flyer), because the event didn't just suffer from bloated lines and multiple PA issues (resulting in several ten-minute delays); a mere two hours into the daytime event (and coincidentally just as recently signed New York rapper Action Bronson and his crew showed up), a horde of impatient fans rushed and trampled the VIP entrance gates in time for sets from Flosstradamus and Flatbush Zombies. According to on-site event staff, no one was seriously injured in the melee.
Safe in the green room inside City Winery, VIP ranging from label co-founder A-Trak and his Chromeo brother Dave 1 to Danny Brown and his manager Emeka Obi (of Agency 78) to Diplo and the A$AP Mob to comedian/rapper Donald Glover ( Childish Gambino) and Theophilus London escaped the bedlam afoot in the backyard with a Bushmills- and City Winery-sponsored bar and ample amounts of indoor smoking (at one point, a security guard informed the crowd that unless it wanted to be very damp, very quickly, smokers should not tempt the building's sprinkler system and take their lights outside).
From left: The Chamber Group's Director of Media Relations Sarah Mary Cunningham, writer Kendah El-Ali, and Chamber Group PR Coordinator Peter Kadin convene in the indoor VIP section at City Winery. (Photo: Devon Maloney)
A-Trak himself stuck around with Billboard just long enough to comment that neither of the previous two Fool's Gold Day Off parties had ever seen a gate-smashing like the one that had just happened outside, but was pulled away moments later to discuss with a handful of event staff the fact that the police were on their way and as a result, artist set times were being reshuffled.
Meanwhile, the Chamber Group's director of media relations Sarah Mary Cunningham said she'd seen events like that get out of hand before. "Gauging crowds for event based concerts can be tricky, especially when the event is free and open to all ages as that leaves plenty of room for a wide demographic and for larger groups of attendees," she told Billboard (as well as the Chamber Group's Peter Kadin and writer Kendah El-Ali). "I've both attended and worked concerts where the line up is strong and attendees are staying put and that can slow circulation tremendously. If the fan base is rabid and the crowd is hyped, your door and crowd flow can easily become hectic."
The crowd for Flatbush Zombies in City Winery's backyard. (Photo: Devon Maloney)
Conversations also included those surrounding upcoming Fashion Week shows; Kadin, who represents Miguel, told Billboard that the R&B singer will be co-hosting Opening Ceremony's Fashion's Night Out party later this week alongside Solange Knowles. The Group is also readying French Montana's forthcoming Excuse My French album, which is set to drop sometime during Q4 (an official release date has not yet been announced).
Though this particular crowd didn't sink the winery, it did bring the police. In part as a result of the rowdiness of the crowd -- which also included attempts by fans outside to scale the walls of the Winery backyard to get into the outdoor VIP section -- and despite Fool's Gold's best set-time reshuffling attempts, fans who had waited in wraparound lines for hours to see headliner Montana left disappointed when, around 6:30, A-Trak was forced to interrupt Danny Brown's penultimate set to inform the crowd, frat party-style, that the cops had officially put the kibosh on the evening, and it was time to go home.
The indoor backstage area at City Winery, teeming with press and VIP, was emptied by security about an hour before police shut the entire event down. (Photo: Devon Maloney)
Following the shut-down, A-Trak released the following statement on behalf of his label: "When we do a Fool's Gold event we try to put together these lineups that are even better than most paid shows. Fool's Gold always wants to give you something memorable. This was a free event to bring together our community of fans and friends to celebrate the end of the summer, and the turnout was huge. Too huge, even. Cops eventually shut it down an hour before the end, but we were actually dealing with them for almost two hours leading up to that. I'm just glad we were able to keep the event afloat for that long, and that everyone stayed peaceful and positive all throughout. A bunch of kids rushed one of the fences about halfway through the afternoon. People snuck into the backstage area in large numbers. Cops initially cleared out our backstage, and eventually forced us to shut everything down. We all would have loved to see French perform, but aside from that I still think it was beautiful to see all these people come together in downtown New York and enjoy some great music and entertainment. We'll be back soon!"
Label co-founder Nick Catchdubs also made a statement: "We've been coming out of pocket to throw FREE parties for our fans in NYC for 5 years now. They've all been crazy and memorable and unpredictable in their own way and this is no exception. We're not the first party to have gate crashers nor the first to have police pull the plug -- the important thing to take away is that they did it with everyone's safety in mind, which is what everyone working for the venue and for Fool's Gold is most concerned about anyway. Save for one missing hour, it was a day of great music and turnt up performances, a whole bunch of friends ending the summer together. We'll definitely have more to come..."