Fred Durst Is A ‘Fucking Asshole’, Not Big Day Out

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Fred Durst Is A ‘Fucking Asshole’, Not Big Day Out

Limp Bizkit’s return to Australia was always going to be controversial, after all the last time they toured the country was at the Big Day Out in Sydney for the infamous crowd crushing incident in 2001.

A coronial inquest was held after the incident which cost the life of 16-year-old Jessica Michalik, with the coroner deciding that the Big Day Out could have done more to prevent the incident, but that Limp Bizkit had also not helped the situation as it was unfolding.

Now over a decade later Big Day Out rival Soundwave have brought the act back to the country, and Fred Durst and his bandmates have used every chance they’ve got to drag the Big Day Out and promoter Ken West and ex-promoter Vivian Lees through the mud.

During Limp Bizkit’s performance at Soundwave in Brisbane over the weekend Durst dedicated their set to Jessica, but what was supposed to be a memorial quickly turned into a savage attack.

“That son of a bitch promoter from Big Day Out, that fucking asshole threatened us and forced us to go on stage because he said there’d be riot if we didn’t,” Durst yelled out to the crowd.

“So with police in our dressing room – those fucking assholes with their hands on us pushing us out on to stage. We came out, we played some shit and we lost a human being named Jessica.”

“So as much as we are here to be with you tonight… this is a tribute; a tribute to Jessica. Everything we do in Australia is a tribute to you baby. Let’s hear it for Jess. Her spirit is here today.”

But the only asshole here is Durst. His distortion of the truth only further betrays the memory of Jessica and harms efforts both the Big Day Out and other festivals have made since the 2001 incident.

The fact of the matter is that the fight between Durst, his band Limp Bizkit, and the Big Day Out did not start in Sydney but rather in Auckland, New Zealand which was the first date of the Big Day Out tour in 2001.

During Limp Bizkit’s set in Auckland there was a crowd collapse that resulted in 12 people becoming injured. Organisers attempted to shut the concert down quickly but were frustrated by Durst and his band who did not follow protocol for stopping the concert properly because it wasn’t explained to them.

The Auckland incident was the starting point to the degeneration of the relationship between Limp Bizkit, and Big Day Out’s promoters and staff, and it was Durst’s frustration with the Big Day Out that drove him to inflame the situation in Sydney rather than seek to defuse it – despite the fact that the protocol had been explained prior to their arrival in Australia.

Durst has attempted to take the moral high ground since. He’s cited multiple times that Limp Bizkit demanded that the security situation be improved and suggested the introduction of a T-Barrier system. ”I told them before we came to Sydney that 65,000 people with one barricade would be out of control,” Durst said in an interview at the time.

Big Day Out did respond by ensuring there were more security guards placed at the Sydney concert, but the band’s request for a T-barricade only days out from the festival was denied. Durst has used this since the wage a war of blame on the festival insinuating that if the Big Day Out had on listened to him and installed a T-barrier in Sydney then the whole incident with Jessica may have been avoided.

But this is not what the inquiry concluded. Of course the inquiry probably could have been helped had Durst been cooperative with the proceedings to begin with. When Australian police officers attempted to question him in Los Angeles Durst refused to answer their questions.

He was eventually persuaded to give testimony at the inquiry where he told the coroner “we definitely said that if they do not fix security we would not play.” Durst also said he told Big Day Out promoter Vivian Lee, “I just hope the security’s better at the next show because that [Auckland] was a little out of hand.”

Both a senior risk consultant for the rock and festival industry from the United Kingdom, and a representative from D&P Concert & Event Barricades concurred during the inquest that the introduction of a ‘T’ barricade, as requested by Limp Bizkit, would not be effective for a two stage concert.

Both also added that they believed that crushing points resulting from a T-barrier would have been a significant concern for crowd safety. Instead we now have the D-barrier, which has been successfully operating at Big Day Out and other festivals like Soundwave since.

He was also heavily criticised by Senior Deputy Coroner, Ms. Jacqueline M. Milledge, who when handing down her finding labelled Durst’s actions and comments over the PA during the Sydney incident as “reprehensible, alarming, and inflammatory. You can see that by the way the crowd reacted”.

Milledge also found that Durst actions once the performance cessation protocol had been triggered were “inflammatory and insulting to the security personnel who were engaged in their best efforts to extricate crucially injured patrons from the crowd collapse.”

And that “Mr. Durst took advantage of a terrible situation to air his contempt for the promoters and security.” Yes, there were moments when Durst changed his tune urging the crowd to “look after one another and pick each other up” – but his words were too little too late.

Peter Rozen of Big Day Out security firm Australian Event Protection agreed with Milledge’s findings adding in a statement “The security officer that entered the moshpit did so under volatile conditions, and while being publicly mocked and most unfairly criticised by the band in a manner that … frustrated their efforts to save lives.”

Durst’s actions and comments over the PA during the incident no doubt contributed to the chaos, and while the coroner concluded that it was “an unrealistic notion to think that Mr. Durst should be ‘monitoring’ the mood and behaviour of the crowd”, he can hardly wipe his hands clean of the incident.

The crowd densities inflamed by comments made by Durst overwhelmed Big Day Out’s ‘reactive’ plan. The minutes Jessica was on the floor with people falling on her and around her were critical. Because of the crush of the crowd and the enormity of the task in moving people back, security could not get to her quickly enough to remove her from the crowd for urgent medical assistance.

As a result of the incident and the findings of the inquiry the Big Day Out has since embarked on a decade of improving conditions at the festival to ensure patron safety. The pro-active ’12 point plan’ implemented at the Big Day Out 2002 was certainly a step in the right direction, and the introduction of the D-Barrier system is a good indication that crowd safety is very much on their agenda.

Still, Big Day Out must acknowledge that they share some of the blame for what happened back in 2001 – as they have. It’s time for Durst to step up to the plate and do the same.


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