Sun God Hits Capacity

Erik Jepsen/Guardian

This year’s Sun God Festival — with acts like B.o.B, Relient K, Michelle Branch and headliner Drake — attracted a packed house on May 14. For the second time in Sun God history, all 16,500 student wristbands and 3,500 guest tickets sold out.

In 2008, the first time this happened, tickets didn’t sell out until the day before. This year, all tickets sold out by 2:30 p.m. on Friday, at which time students were turned away.

According to Associate Vice President of Concerts and Events Alex Bramwell — who organized this year’s Sun God Festival — the sell-out was due to the popularity of the event’s leading acts.

“We get complaints and yelled at when students can’t bring their guests, but at the same time, we get yelled at and complaints when the students can’t bring themselves — so finding a good balance between those two is tough,” Bramwell said. “We had the same numbers as last year. It just turned out this year to be more popular of an event; more students wanted to come.”

At the 2008 Sun God Festival — when students wristbands were distributed for the entire week leading up to the event — tickets ran out on Thursday, leading students to purchase all the leftover guest tickets for themselves that Friday.

In 2009, students waited in line for up to four hours on the morning of the festival to receive their wristbands. Despite the crowds, however, over 1,000 of last year’s wristbands went unclaimed.

This year, wristbands were distributed beginning the Thursday before the concert, allowing students to pick up their wristbands with little wait.

“The wristband distribution went really well,” Bramwell said. “[Students] were shocked at the whole system and how smoothly it was going — at the fact that they had to wait, at most, 15 minutes. That alone was a huge morale booster for everyone.”

Sixth College senior Willie Liang said he tried to get a wristband at around 4:00 p.m. on Friday, and did not try earlier because he was under the impression that there were enough for all students.

“I was kind of mad, actually,” Liang said. “It was kind of my last year, and I wasn’t able to get in but my friends were. I didn’t think it was going to — I had the perception that it was student fees, so we were guaranteed [a wristband]. I guess that was not the case.”

Though many students complained about not receiving wristbands, Bramwell said he was happy with the event’s organization and turnout.

“We completely solved a lot of the larger issues that happened last year,” Bramwell said. “Overall, I was really happy about it, and we had one of the largest daytime crowds in Sun God history, without a doubt.”

With the 2010 festivities came some new logistical problems, however. At around 9:30 p.m., according to festival co-organizer Cindy Huang, crowding in the Dance Tent became such a security risk that it needed to be shut down for almost an hour. Huang said that the tent reached its 3,000-person capacity during tent headliner DJ Z-Trip’s set. Bramwell estimated that another 1,000 students were outside trying to force their way in.

“It was more of a security issue because people were pushing, and there was too much pressure going on, and there was security getting hurt — so we shut it down for a bit so we could let the pressure die down,” Huang said.

Bramwell collaborated with the head of Staff Pro, the production manager, the captain of the UCPD, the facility manager for RIMAC and the head of University Events Office on the decision to close the dance tent. Though they were reluctant to cut Z-Trip’s set, several passed-out concertgoers and injuries to security guards made the shutdown necessary.

“People can’t wait outside of a tent when they can still see and hear everything going on inside of the tent, because they want to get in, and they’re causing bodily harm to other people,” Bramwell said. “We didn’t want to just cut off the music and have an angry mob on our hands, but at the same time, we needed to slow it down — needed to stop it.”

Marshall College senior Loryn Kanemaru said she was inside the dance tent when it closed.

“I think they pushed down the fences — it just happened so fast, I wasn’t really sure what was going on,” Kanemaru said. “I didn’t think it was super crowded [inside]. It wasn’t like at the concert, where people were smushed together.”

In order to encourage dancers to vacate the tent, Kanemaru said organizers shut off the projector after DJ Z-Trip’s last song and turned off the music. The Dance Tent remained shut down for approximately 45 minutes, then reopened with a set from DJ JSharp. It stayed open until the end of Drake’s performance at midnight with no additional problems.

Bramwell said that, though he will not be organizing the event next year and thus cannot speak for whoever takes over his duties, he anticipates the possible elimination of the Dance Tent.

“There’s obviously going to have to be some changes as to how the tent itself is controlled, and I’m sure it will be pushed back in some shape — either removed entirely, or kept the same type of environment without the physical tent itself,” Bramwell said. “At the end of the day, the tent itself has a capacity, and the popularity of that kind of music and scene on the campus is greater than any tent. I mean, you can’t make a tent larger than that.”

The only main changes to last year’s setup on RIMAC Field was the replacement an inflatable jousting course with human foosball and the installation of a giant inflatable A.S. Sun God logo, which Bramwell said cost around $5,000-6,000.

“The idea is that it’s a lot of fun to have a photo-op space at the festival, especially in recent years, with people complaining, ‘Oh, they’ve taken away the heart of Sun God — it’s not on the actual lawn anymore,’” Bramwell said. “The combination of those two things made it obvious that we should, in some way, shape, or form, try to bring the Sun God back, in some way, to the actual festival on the field. And the benefit of this is that it can be used for years to come.”

Readers can contact Hayley Bisceglia-Martin at [email protected].

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