As he stood atop the bleachers of the Cotton Bowl, surveying the wet, muddy field, Eli Flores knew what he had to do. Within seconds, Flores had ripped off his shirt and made a mad dash from one side of the stadium to the other, dodging kicks from the infuriated security and law enforcement officers for the first-annual Something Wonderful festival. As he leaned in for a sharp left turn, he slipped and fell in the mud. He rose, corrected himself, flipped his pursuers the bird and headed back up into the stands to greet his adoring fans.
After rejoining his friends (and fans), the cheers for Flores' raucous stunt quickly turned into something more alarming. In a short video clip on YouTube, viewers can see Flores smiling and standing with friends in the stands of the Cotton Bowl. Within seconds, though, an unknown Dallas Police Officer grabs Flores by the throat, places him in a choke hold and forces him to the ground.
"Everyone was trying to tell me something. I didn't know what they were trying to say and everyone's pointing," Flores recalls now of the event, which took place on April 18. "I didn't know what they were trying to say and by the time I realized, I feel this huge tackle on me, on my neck and I fell on the ground."
Flores' friend, Ynalvi Marquez, witnessed the altercation. "Eli ran across the field and came up in to the stands," she says. "When [the choke hold] happened, he wasn't doing anything to provoke anyone -- the cop just came out of nowhere and grabbed him." Following the police officer's apprehension of Flores, both she and Flores were thrown out of the festival and warned that if they returned they would be arrested, she says.
By the time Flores, 21, and his friends had arrived at the Something Wonderful music festival from Houston, the sky had gone dark with the threat of rain and high winds. After only half the performances had taken place, an announcement was made that festivities would be put on hold indefinitely due to the weather conditions. All club-kid hell broke loose.
For the more than 16,000 people in attendance, the day was supposed to be one of EDM magic -- complete with all the flower crowns, hoola-hoops and glow-in-the-dark jewelry one could handle. It was the debut of Something Wonderful, the springtime sister event to Houston's EDM extravaganza Something Wicked, presented Disco Donnie Presents, NightCulture and Full Access Dallas. The event boasted an 18-artist lineup, included big names like Tiësto, Zeds Dead and Carnage.
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But the day was marred by complaints of a lack of basic amenities, overcrowding and poor sound quality, and in the wake of the cancelation hundreds of concertgoers alleged police brutality cases like Flores'. One attendee, Melissa Bridgefarmer, began a petition seeking ticket refunds, and within hours, hashtags relating to Something Wonderful began popping up on social media: #somethingrefund, #somethingterrible #somethingawful, #somethinghorrible.
It took almost three weeks of silence before Disco Donnie Presents sent out emails to ticket-buyers, as well as posting updates on Facebook with information on how to obtain a refund. "They were disappointed, we were disappointed. We've done this for 20 years and in my career, this is my first cancellation," says Evan Bailey, spokesman for SFX/Disco Donnie Presents.
According to the site, attendees had the option of receiving a 50 percent refund of what was paid for tickets or could get two general admission passes to Something Wicked in Houston in October.
"In the end, our objective was to keep the fans safe. And it definitely wasn't safe. So, once that [the storm] happened, we tried to find an equitable way of making sure that everyone was happy, given the circumstances," Bailey says.
Whether or not fans will want to return after this year's events is another matter. "It was the most ridiculous festival I've ever been to," says Tina Ngo, who attended.
Details of the day reveal several organizational issues that plagued the event. Tickets ran upward of $100 apiece for general admission, and those fees didn't include perks such as free water or parking, which was located near Gexa Energy Pavilion, about a half-mile from the Cotton Bowl.
Water was available for a $15 purchase of the SW-exclusive, refillable water bottle. For those fans, organizers created a free water re-filling station that was located outside of the stadium near the secondary performance stage. However, one concertgoer, Jennifer Paghi, says anyone wanting to get back to the main stage was told by security water bottles that they were not allowed inside.
Bathrooms, too, were hard to come by. "You could not see the bathrooms when you first walked in; they were hidden behind this alcove," Paghi recalls. "Now, inside the main stage area, there were a ton of port-o-potties, but they were in the main stage area, where most people couldn't get to."
Bailey, the spokesman, sees it differently. "I'll put it to you this way: If you were at Something Wonderful, there was no possible place that you could have been in the venue where the bathrooms were more than 100 yards away, at the most. It's just physically impossible," Bailey says.
Paghi says organizers had approximately 100 yards of the field sectioned off and only a handful of people were permitted entrance directly in front of the main stage, while others waited in a line for a chance to get up close to the music. "They [security] said they put that barricade up because that front stage area had a limit of something like 1,500 people, yet they sold thousands of tickets."
Ngo says this situation created mass confusion. "In order to hear anything from the main stage, you had to get through a gate, which was blocked by security. They [security] were congesting traffic for no reason," she says. To further compound issues, Ngo and Paghi agree that the sound was almost inaudible from anywhere other than directly in front of the main stage from the front half of the field.
After making the 26-hour drive from North Dakota for Something Wonderful, Alesha Butters was appalled by what she encountered. "The entire Cotton Bowl was packed on the inside: Every ramp, every exit was packed and there was only one entrance and one exit for everyone," Butters says.
Bailey stresses the organizer's desire to ensure fan and staff safety during the event. In response to the decreased space issues, he says, "The police or the fire department had some sort of concern about too many people pushing on the compression barrier, basically the front of the stage. So, we worked with them to alleviate any sort of their concern they were having about the crowd. Fan safety is our number one concern with these events."
According to Cotton Bowl manager Roland Rainey, the reason the majority of concertgoers couldn't get to the main stage area was due to fire code restrictions. Official numbers from Disco Donnie Presents claimed 16,000 attendees came to the show, but Rainey says it was at least 19,000.
Regardless, fire code restricted the main stage area to only 10,000 people, with that number then cut in half by a barricade that cut off roughly 100 yards of the field right in front of the stage. Rainey insists that the front portion of the field had a capacity of 5,000 people, but Paghi, Ngo, Butters and other attendees were told otherwise by security, with estimates at low as 1,500 -- not even a tenth of the tickets that were sold.
As far as the sound quality goes, Bailey seems unmoved by the fans complaints. "It was the same vendor we use for all of our festivals and it was within those limits. The sound levels were at typical levels." Bailey adds, "That is a massive space though, so if you're not down in front, it's going to cut."
Then, close to 8 p.m., the music was abruptly stopped and fans were told the festivities were being put on hold due to the inclement weather. Rainey says staff had been monitoring the weather conditions throughout the day and once they received word of 60-plus mph winds, lightning and rain approaching, they, together with the fire marshal and concert organizers, decided to postpone the event. With noise restrictions meaning the festival would have to finish by 11:30, after more than two hours of waiting, organizers finally canceled the festival around 10:30.
From what Ngo, Paghi and Butters saw, the event's security, Platinum Event Services, as well as the Dallas Police Department, on hand for crowd control purposes, did not help the confusion any. All three reported witnessing security and/or law enforcement officials being, as they described, too rough, overly aggressive and discriminatory toward concertgoers.
"I've never been to a concert before that had that much security and cops and they were treating us all like criminals," Ngo says.
Platinum Event Services is no stranger to headlines. The company, who has an exclusive contract with Dallas Parks and Recreation (the folks in charge of leasing Fair Park spaces, including the Cotton Bowl) used to be known as Platinum Security and Consulting. Back in 2010, the Dallas Morning News reported the company was fined $10,000 in state fines for employing at least 140 unlicensed security guards -- some with criminal histories.
As for Flores' altercation with a Dallas Police Officer, Sr. Cpl. Chinh Le of the Dallas Police Department's Media Relations Unit, who's seen the video, says she needs to gather more information about the incident in order to coordinate a formal statement. "We've actually had someone just send us the link to the video, without any details," she says. "So, we didn't even know it was DPD."
"We are currently looking into this incident to determine the facts and circumstances," she adds. "Unfortunately, until the investigation is complete, we will not have any information to release.
Flores has yet to file a formal complaint regarding the altercation with the Dallas Police officer but he says he's weighing his options. Flores says he is happy with receiving Something Wicked replacement tickets for his less than wonderful experience in Dallas, but his run-in with the Dallas Police officer has left him wary of attending any future events here.
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