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Keven Moore: Now that we’re older and more mature, we see KISS and ask ‘are rock concerts safe?’

A week ago today many of my fellow classmates, neighbors and Facebook friends were all recently called up to active duty as members of the Kiss Army as many of them were sharing photographs, videos and Facebook live videos of the concert in Rupp Arena.

I decided to pass on the concert that night, but with all the social media postings it did take me to a day when I was in middle school in the mid- 70’s with my childhood neighborhood friend Mike Korb attending a KISS concert in that very same Arena, which was my first ever rock concert.

Wikimedia Commons Photo

Growing up in the era of rock ‘n’ roll with an ultra-conservative father, for me to attend rock concerts required a masterful degree of deception and trickery. I can’t remember the exact phraseology that I used to convince my father that KISS was a wholesome band, but I somehow was able to spin it to leave him with the impression that they were an all-girl band reminiscent of the Beach Boys.

Unfortunately, I can still remember the look in my father’s face a year later when he walked into my bedroom and discovered a KISS poster handing on the wall, as I had all but thought that he had forgotten about my 3 hours of freedom where I was able to witness that tongue waging, blood and fire-spitting show. In spite of my argument that the statute of limitations had long since expired, I still earned a week’s grounding once he discovered the makeup-wearing band on my wall.

Today I’m interested in KISS for a different reason: The band is the ultimate sales success story.

Think about it: KISS is a quartet of untalented late 60’s to 70-year-old men prancing about in high heels and makeup, and yet after 47 years of performing they still can sell out arenas and are pulling in millions of dollars in merchandising and still attract a passionate legion of fans known as their army.

What’s more impressive is that the band has survived in the face of numerous risk exposures. Just to be on stage for KISS co-founder Gene Simmons is a miracle in itself. Today he is a reality TV star and entrepreneur who has his fingerprints on virtually all segments of the music industry, all the while the KISS Empire continues to gross millions annually.

From a risk management standpoint, KISS’s onstage antics (spewing fake blood, smashing guitars) had to just send its insurance underwriters into a complete frenzy back in the early days. Then, of course, how could you forget the pyrotechnics they helped make them so popular. I can still remember watching Gene Simmons breathe fire almost 15 feet into the air on Rupp Arena’s stage.

Then what about the health effects of ingesting the fuel to perform such acts for all those decades? I can visualize an overzealous safety inspector jumping on stage demanding to see an MSDS sheet, fire blankets, and fire extinguishers during a KISS concert.

Keven Moore works in risk management services. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky, a master’s from Eastern Kentucky University and 25-plus years of experience in the safety and insurance profession. He is also an expert witness. He lives in Lexington with his family and works out of both Lexington and Northern Kentucky. Keven can be reached at kmoore@roeding.com

I had recently watched a documentary of KISS on TV and all I could see was the extreme trip hazard from wearing those 4-inch heels. In addition, how can Gene Simmons or Paul Stanley still hear after being exposed to the occupational noise hazard from playing rock ‘n’ roll at such high decibels for all those years?

Nevertheless, KISS has survived and thrived without much incident. Rock and musical concerts and festivals today still come with a high degree of risks, despite the ever-changing safety standards and regulations in the industry.

Even today we hear about such things as Luke Bryant accidentally slipping and falling from the stage in Charlotte, North Carolina, joining the ranks of many who came before him Jimmy Buffet, Beyonce, Selena Gomez, Pink, Meat Loaf, Katy Perry, Bono, Steven Tyler. In the business, they say you aren’t true performer until you have taken a spill on or off the stage and bounced back up as if it was part of the show’s choreography.

Attending a concert has also proved to be potentially dangerous. My first real exposure as to just how hazardous attending concert actually could be was in December 1979, as I sat in school listening to a couple of classmates tell their story after attending The Who concert in Cincinnati where they witnesses the mayhem when 11 people were trampled to death and another 26 others were seriously injured.

Concerts and music festivals have had their share of accidents and fatalities, and officials must plan for the worst from a risk management perspective. The insurance market is there to underwrite for those unexpected incidents. From last-minute cancellations to tragedies such as the stage collapse during a Sugarland concert due to high winds at the Indiana State fair in August 2011.

Probably the deadliest concert of our generation was the Station Nightclub Fire in West Warwick, Rhode Island, in 2003 as 100 people were killed when illegal indoor pyrotechnics ignited flammable sound-insulation foam in the wall and ceilings during a Great White concert.

While most concerts go off without a hitch, ever so often a show does go horribly wrong. These events require a great deal of planning and organization in order to ensure that everything goes smoothly. And concert-goers can also do their part to ensure their own safety.

Here are some tips:

Dress for the concert. Wear light clothes and avoid bogging yourself down with multiple layers of clothing, especially if you are outdoors. Wear comfortable shoes that allow you to move quickly in the event of an emergency.

Stay hydrated. If you are outdoors and in the summer heat, drink plenty of water prior to the concert to avoid getting dehydrated.

Don’t go alone. This is an important safety tip because there is safety in numbers. Attend the concert with at least one friend.

Find security.  Once arriving at your seat, locate the nearest security guards in case you need assistance.

Leave yourself an out. Locate at least two exits and count the number of rows or seats to get there in the event the lights were to go out.
Pay attention.  If someone seems strange or threatening be aware. Some concert-goers that are under the influence of something become embolden and violent. If this is the case, try and move away from them if possible or alert security.
Avoid the obvious. Stay out of the mosh pits if you don’t want to get hurt. No further explanation necessary.

No surfing allowed. Avoid crowd surfing – and getting dropped – which is one of the leading sources of injuries during concerts.

Appoint a DSCG.  Assign a “Designated Sober Concert Goer” – one person to remain sober and capable of sizing up your situation looking out for the rest of your group’s safety and well-being while at the concert or on your way home.

BYOEP. Bring Your Own Ear-Plugs … it’s a good idea to have a pair to provide you a little relief and protect your hearing.

I have learned very quickly that when large numbers of people are gathered, just about anything can happen, which explains at my age my distaste for such events and situations. That said, if KISS called to offer me a gig as safety captain in their KISS Army, I would do it with honor.

Be Safe My Friends

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