How short-staffing and lack of training provides an unsafe environment for concert goers at Darien Lake: Part two


Scott Dugas

Thomas Rhett performing “Marry Me” to his audience of thousands

Scott Dugas, Sports Writer & Photographer

DARIEN CENTER – If you live in Buffalo, NY or within 50 miles of it, chances are you’ve probably been to a concert at Six Flags Darien Lake.

Whether you went with friends, family or maybe solo, chances are you’ve noticed some serious issues with the day to day operations of the venue.

From underage drinking, large fights, sexual assault allegations and a large number of injuries that go unnoticed, it’s clear that there is something wrong at the top.

Let me go on record to say not all of Live Nation/Darien Lake concerts are bad.

This is an opinion based solely on my experience. If you’re able to afford VIP Seats, or any seats under the tent for that matter, the problems explored in this article won’t apply as much to you.

As someone who’s been to the venue both as a photographer as well as a regular attendee, I can say that there are ways to avoid the negative energy and have a great night. We’ll explore the good things later on.

Some issues were previously covered in part one of this article, which can be found here.

Underage Drinking:

Although most college students wouldn’t care too much about underage drinking, from a business standpoint it’s a huge no-no and if caught, could result in fines larger than a typical mortgage, a shut down from the state or even a revoking of a venue’s liquor license.

Before the Thomas Rhett concert started. I was talking to a couple of ladies working one of the booths to kill time. I asked them how they got this job and their response simply was that they were just volunteering.

They were with a booster club for their school’s athletic department and in exchange for working the concert, Darien Lake would “donate” to their booster club.

While I was watching them take orders, I realized there was no way for them to scan ID’s.

Everyone coming up just handed them a plastic ID, real or not they didn’t care, swiped the card with their readers and took the next order.

During the concerts, I saw a few friends from high school while I was walking between photo positions.

During an intermission between Hardy and Morgan Wallen I stopped for a minute. I asked a couple of my friends who I knew weren’t even 20-years-old how they got their drinks and without stuttering they just admitted they got them from a booth.

The booth was so busy with people trying to get their beer that they practically stopped checking ID’s.

It wasn’t just one group of friends either, almost everyone I saw there that I knew had a beer in each hand and some of them may even been under 18.

Physical & Sexual Violence:

A topic not many feel comfortable bringing up for understandable reasons.

I was able to reach out and talk to a couple of people who will remain nameless for courtesy reasons who were either bystanders or victims of physical and sexual violence at the concerts.

Let me first start off by saying that all physical violence is not intentional. With thousands of people jumping around with their hands up, you’re bound to have a few bloody noses, get knocked over or get a couple bruises in the crowd.

The most relevant event that I was told was about the massive fight that broke out at the Pitbull concert.

Although I wasn’t there for it, bystanders recall a police presence to break up the fight with the number of people involved in the fight being estimated anywhere from 50 to 150 people depending on the amount of time you watched.

Although these kinds of things are not preventable, it’s only a matter of time until someone gets fatally hurt, or someone brings a weapon looking for trouble.

On top of that, most if not all Darien Lake concerts being for all ages, can expose children of any age to physical violence, which will cause an issue down the road.

Sexual violence on the other hand is almost always intentional and with malicious intent.

Sexual violence is a very loose term in this context. It can range anywhere from groping women all the way to acts of rape.

For the sake of the readers, I’m leaving out any serious acts of sexual violence that were from word of mouth.

Groping and other forms of non-consensual acts for both men and women are strictly prohibited on the venue grounds.

After an event in July of 2019, which occurred at the theme park and not the concert venue, Darien Lake came out saying that all forms of sexual violence was prohibited and any forms of it would be handled properly.

When searching for people who were sexually assaulted during concerts, I kept getting the same kind of responses.

It was a lot of women who were grabbed sexually while in groups. Some of them didn’t know the person who touched them whereas others didn’t even see the person because of the high intensity atmosphere.

Who’s at fault here? Well to be honest I’m not sure if you can narrow it down to one person.

Is security the issue? To some extent yes, but I think the blame lies deeper.

With the Covid-19 pandemic blowing through every country in the world, the aftermath of it left thousands of businesses short staffed, including concert venues.

With the short staffing issue, businesses are forced to pick practically anyone they can find, give them a uniform and tell them to start working.

The fast turn around of volunteers, begs the question, were these volunteers trained at all or were they just told what to do and told to use their best judgment?

Going back to the women I met at one of the beer tents, each event was run by different volunteers from the club.

That high turnaround rate leaves a bigger issue for the people in charge.

Were these volunteers trained or were they just given a very basic run around of what to do in order for them to get through the night?

That’s something I wasn’t able to get a solid answer to.

Everything I noticed points towards the idea that they weren’t properly trained.

Can you blame the event organizers for that? I mean, would you want to train someone for days for them to work three-five hours and then never see them again?

No, of course not, that’s a waste of time and resources. But that lack of training is causing a serious problem for other concert goers and the people who are just trying to enjoy some music with their friends and family.

How you can stay safer:

The honest answer is, you can never be 100 percent safe in today’s world. But these 10 tips can help you avoid some of the issues discussed in this article.

1. Uber or Lyft to and from the venue.

Most Uber and Lyft drivers are allowed to drop off and pick up their guests in the employee parking. This saves time, and also gets rid of the parking nightmare.

2. Purchase actual tickets, not GA field tickets.

If you can afford it, spend the extra money and get you and your fellow concert goers seats under the tent. They might run you a few extra bucks but having a real seat means you can get up and come back to where you were and you don’t have to worry about a crowd crushing or pushing you down.

3. Make sure one of your friends or family is sober.

You can’t rely on the alcohol police to cut you off. For your own sake, have someone you trust to cut you off when its time.

4. Don’t get involved in anything that might turn physical.

If someone tries to come at you in a negative way, just turn the other way and find someone in charge. Don’t ruin your night trying to be the bigger person.

5. Plan for entrance and exit time.

Chances are if it starts at 7:00 p.m., the line to park will be 3 miles deep at 7:00 p.m. Get there an hour or two before and if need be just sit in your car.

6. Don’t wear anything you wouldn’t want stolen or lost.

Not everyone is trustworthy, pickpocketing does happen.

7. Bring Cash, Not Card.

Referring to number six, if you lose your credit or debit card, you may not know it until it’s too late. You’re better off bringing cash.

If you lose it, it won’t hurt as bad and it will limit your spending.

8. Don’t just watch your back, watch your friends too.

If you see someone engaging in possible sexual violence, either find someone in charge or step in carefully. Most women won’t speak up unfortunately, go pretend to be her boyfriend, she’ll thank you later.

9. If somebody is hurt in any way, call 911.

911 will help far sooner than the on-site paramedics. It’s better to stop the concert and make sure someone gets help rather than someone getting seriously hurt or maybe even killed because someone was too scared to speak up.

10. Most importantly, have fun.

Not everything at Darien Lake Amphitheater is bad, in fact 99% of the people who go will have no issues. Enjoy the good music, hang with your friends, meet some new people but always remember to stay safe.