What started as a hint about a secret Kanye West concert turned into a free-for-all in downtown Manhattan on Sunday night. Teens made out on postal trucks that happened to be parked in front of Webster Hall, the 11th Street venue for the show that wasn’t. Roofs of cars were hollowed out by fans, who crammed onto minivans desperate for a better view.
The crowd stampeded, broke windshields, and even passed out. Then Kanye didn’t show up.
All told, some 4,000 people crammed into the street, teased all night by competing messages on a megaphone about a concert at a 1,500-capacity venue.
Kanye was set to perform cuts from his recent album The Life of Pablo for the first time stateside at Governors Ball, a music festival on Governors Island, but the show had been canceled on account of possible lightning. He instead drove to Summer Jam, a festival at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, and played a short set, while the rain abated on the other side of the Hudson River.
From backstage, Kanye’s creative director Virgil Abloh wrote—then deleted—hints on social media before midnight. The message, in short: Be at Webster Hall at 2 a.m.
Then, right before midnight, a Snapchat post by 2 Chainz seemed to confirm it: Kanye West’s secret show was happening.
Within minutes, thousands of people crowded around the East Village venue. Both sides of 11th Street had been blocked off. The line wrapped around 4th Avenue and onto the other end of 12th Street.
At around 12:40 a.m., the crowd made a break for the gates. The back of the line devolved into a full-on sprint before being corralled into a tight corner, as security warned anyone who wasn’t on the sidewalk that they couldn’t attend the show.
Then a large, 18-wheel postal truck making an unrelated delivery next to the theater attempted to back into a garage. The line, then packed tight onto the sidewalk, collapsed entirely, hurling a few thousand people into the middle of the street.
Some would-be concertgoers ascended atop the rig. Others kept pushing forward to try to get into the venue.
“I’ve seen hella people fall (and) people just running over. People are trying to get out. People are going over cars,” said a man who identified himself as Ali. He had a Governors Ball ticket and heard through rumblings on Instagram he’d be able to see Kanye anyway. By 1:05 a.m. he was perched atop a metal dumpster cover trying to evade the rush.
“You can’t go anywhere. You can’t even breathe. People are just pushing each other. I love you Kanye, but it’s not worth it.”
Minutes later, a group of people began screaming for help for a bloodied woman who had just passed out.
“Somebody please help!” a friend yelled. The woman was lying down, splayed on the hood of a parked sedan. “Does anybody have some water?” Her friends were later able to clear a path and get her to safety.
An SUV that somehow maneuvered past a barricade on 3rd Avenue then tried to drive through the street, already full-up with people. Somehow, he proved successful.
At 1:15 a.m., a man outside the venue with a megaphone attempted to let the crowd know that the concert was canceled, but only a few members of the crowd heard him. Then, five minutes later, Kanye tweeted: “Show at 2 am SOLD OUT.” No tickets for the show were ever on sale.
The crowd, reading the news simultaneously on their phones, fast erupted in a “WHAT THE FUCK” chant. This was countered with a loud, piercing police siren meant to get dawdlers to disperse, to no real effect.
By this point, some members of the crowd were climbing scaffolding for fun while others were hanging off of window bars to catch their breath.
“This is crazy,” said a member of a couple dangling together from a window. “But we’re waiting it out. I still think it’s going to happen.”
The awning for the Amsterdam Billiards & Bar across the way was now covered with people, including a man dressed in a Native American headdress and bodypaint. Some were also dancing and kissing on top of postal trucks.
At 1:40 a.m., another man with a megaphone called for quiet. “There is no show here tonight,” he said, pleading for the horde to go home. The crowd, receiving conflicting information from rumors on Twitter, largely didn’t believe (and ignored) him.
Then at 2:05 a.m., five minutes after the show was set to start, another man with a megaphone said that “nobody was gonna get in” unless the crowd behaved in a more orderly way. The crowd roared, assuming the show was back on.
Minutes later, Kanye West was seen on a street parallel to Webster Hall, popping out of the roof of his car as it sped by, hundreds of people sprinting after it. Much of the crowd found out about this on their phones.
Six minutes later, another man at the entrance told everyone that they’ve “gotta go home.” He begged through the megaphone: “Please go home. Please go home.”
By 2:30 a.m., police began pushing crowd members away from the entrance. “There’s nobody here,” an NYPD officer insisted. One man was reportedly arrested for disorderly conduct.
By 3 a.m., the street was clear.
Then more rumors began popping up on Twitter, both by Kanye’s company DONDA and his sometime producer Mike Dean of shows at the Trump SoHo and SOB’s, where Kanye affiliates Travis Scott, Pusha T, Desiigner, and 2 Chainz eventually performed briefly around 3:15 a.m.
Naturally, by 3:30 a.m., a crowd of about 100 people had formed outside the entrance to Trump SoHo on Spring St., some 1.4 miles from Webster Hall.
Kanye didn’t show up there, either.