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Beefed-up fencing fails to stop Lollapalooza crashers

A concert attendee gets arrested by Chicago Police after jumping Buckingham FountaLollapalooza. Sunday August 7 2011. 
| TamarBell~Sun Times Media

A concert attendee gets arrested by the Chicago Police after jumping the the Buckingham Fountain at Lollapalooza. Sunday, August 7, 2011. | Tamara Bell~Sun Times Media

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Updated: August 9, 2011 5:33PM

Lollapalooza further beefed up its defenses against fence-jumpers this year, but that didn’t stop hordes of gate-crashers — the traditional kind, as well as the new breed of Internet-organized flash mobs — from trying to get into the three-day concert festival for free.

This year’s festival barriers expanded westward all the way to the Metra electric tracks; on the east, multiple fences awaited anyone with designs on unpaid entry, including across the traffic on the lake side of Lake Shore Drive.

In the past few years, the festival has had a steady increase in fence jumpers, organizers said. Last year was the first year the festival experienced flash mobs that rushed gates and crashed fences. This year the number significantly increased, with groups as large as 200 to 300 forming in areas along the perimeter.

Two men were critically injured after they were struck by a car while they were running across Lake Shore Drive near Buckingham Fountain on Saturday night. Police said they did not know if the men were trying to get into the festival.

On Saturday, 13 adults and one juvenile were arrested for non-criminal offenses, police said. Forty-nine city tickets were also issued Saturday. On Friday, there were 15 adults and two juveniles arrested, while 69 tickets were issued. Officials numbers for Sunday were not available.

A crew member driving one of the golf carts that serves as a festival shuttle told the Sun-Times, unprompted, that the real problem had been the flash mobs that organized Saturday on “Tweeter” (her term) to crash the festival. She said large groups would gather and wait for an opportunity, sometimes hiding in bushes, before assaulting the perimeter in a coordinated burst. Those caught were kicked out and some even ticketed, she said.

We witnessed at least one such fence-jumping incident along the Lake Shore Drive gauntlet. Friday afternoon, a group of about 25 young fans hurdled a fence, landing on the edge of traffic. Perimeter security mobilized quickly, and the fans retreated back over the fence.

Saturday night, several dozen fans opted not to wait for the massive crowds to clear out of Hutchinson Field after a packed Eminem performance, so they knocked down an inner fence near the backstage to exit the park.

Several of these incidents are now chronicled in YouTube videos, including one that purports to show the aftermath of a flash mob that crashed the gates Friday.

Lollapalooza founder Perry Farrell addressed the problem lightly in an interview with WGN-TV’s Dean Richards earlier this week, saying he’s well aware of the activity.

“I’ve got some funny ideas on how to stop them, but they’re kind of cruel so we’ve never implemented them,” Farrell said. “Like having paint on the other side of a double fence, so when they jump in they’re marked for life.”

Vic Mensa tried jumping a Lollapalooza fence last year. The results were nearly tragic but had a nice twist this year.

Eager to get into Lollapalooza 2010 — not for a band, he admits, but to see a girl, the 18-year-old rapper climbed a fence near the Metra tracks. His arm brushed a nearby electrical transformer, and several thousand volts entered his elbow and exited his wrist. He fell 30 feet and was hospitalized for three days, and arrested.

This year, however, Mensa made it in — as a performer. His eclectic band, Kids These Days, performed an acclaimed set Friday afternoon on the BMI side stage.

“I almost f---in’ died trying to sneak in here last year,” Mensa told the crowd. “This is way better.”

Contributing: Mitchell Herrmann and Rosemary Sobol

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