The attacks in Paris this month were an enactment of my biggest fear. As someone who attends both small music events and baseball games in large stadiums, the idea of those being attacked has always been in the back of my mind. Perhaps the most terrifying place for me is where I will be in a month: Madison Square Garden. With multiple flights of stairs to be traversed to escape the venue, there’s massive gridlock leaving the venue at the best of times. Trying to get out of there in an emergency would be very problematic. While the Eagles of Death Metal concert was the most similar to a Phish show, it was the failed attack on the soccer friendly that brought the horror. The goal was not so much to successfully shoot or bomb anyone as much as to cause a stampede in the aftermath. By the time people could make outside, there would be a lot of smashed bodies.

The good news is that even as high profile of a target as Madison Square Garden on New Year’s Eve is, the odds are incredibly low of any one event having an attempt on it. The problem is that security can’t make that assumption. The cliché about terrorism is that the police have to stop every attempt but the terrorists only have to win once. So even though there’s an infinitesimally small chance of dying at a concert, no one is going to risk that. Security is going to tighten, especially at major events. While they’re going to be looking for weapons, it also will prevent the ability to sneak in more benign – or at least only harmful to the person ingesting – items into concerts.

While a non-user, I never have understood the war on drugs, especially when it came to pot. The biggest harm from the drug was from the police throwing people in jail for using it. While the height of the drug war was incredibly stupid, as it calmed down, it seemed more like an irritant than anything. Other than the occasional faux drug inspection checkpoint designed to entrap people, it became more of a game. Fans would hide their pot at the door. Security would make you toss it if they found it. Arrests were few, a far cry from the days when they’d have bail bondsmen in the parking lots at Grateful Dead shows to deal with the expected number of incidents. While this is movement in the right direction, it’s time to change it some more.

With the potential of actual dangerous events concerning people, we need to get on the same page. The focus on security shouldn’t be on stopping people from getting their intoxicant of choice into a concert. If we want to have stricter controls in order to get into events, it has to be earned. “If you see something, say something,” doesn’t work when there’s antagonism between the people and the policing; that’s when the motto switches to “Snitches get stitches.” The Paris attacks took away some feeling of safety, but it also removed the margin that let the cops and venue security focus on stupid rules instead of important issues.

Regardless of if they come to their senses or not, if we can stop future attacks or not, one thing will not change for me. It doesn’t matter if it’s not 100% safe to attend large events. I will still attend as many as I can afford. There always will be a chance that something awful will happen at a concert or a game, yes, but even worse is a life where people continue to avoid any real life interactions. Yes, no one will ever get stampeded watching a webcast or a game on a big screen television, but life has to be lived. Few have had a peak experience watching a webcast. Keep an eye out, but more importantly have fun. A life without live music might be safer but who wants perfectly safe and perfectly boring?


David Steinberg got his Masters Degree in mathematics from New Mexico State University in 1994. He first discovered the power of live music at the Capital Centre in 1988 and never has been the same. His Phish stats website is at and he’s on the board of directors for The Mockingbird Foundation. He now tweets and has a daily update on the Phish Stats Facebook page

His book This Has All Been Wonderful is available on Amazon, the Kindle Store, and his Create Space store.