As Emily Johns sauntered into Flavet Field walking beside her bike and carrying her backpack from the class she had just left, she passed few police officers.
The 21-year-old settled into a cold spot on the grass toward the end of the crowd and joined hundreds who came together to dance along to the music of two rock bands Thursday night. Student Government Productions organized the free concert and paid $25,000 to the opening act, Real Estate, and $72,500 to X Ambassadors, according to Alligator archives.
Although she doesn’t know the bands very well, Johns said, she attended the event because she enjoys free music. She was relieved to find no security regulations. No bag checks. No IDs required. No tickets.
“Thank God they don’t have this place all fenced up,” the UF marine sciences senior said. “I feel like they spend too much money on that all the time.”
Johns said she wasn’t worried about the lack of a security check because she’s been to previous events at the field and said they’re always organized similarly. Two years ago, she said she watched Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros and enjoyed the laid-back concert style.
At Thursday’s show, attendees were mostly standing when Real Estate came out, but some brought blankets and cuddled on the ground picnic-style. When X Ambassadors appeared blasting the speakers with “Jungle,” however, most spectators stood up, clapping and singing along.
As the crowd danced, police officers stood at the edge and watched on.
“I assume they have enough police officers to handle it if anything goes on,” Johns said, referring to a possible emergency.
But for Stephanie Flores, a UF communication sciences and disorders senior, it was troubling to see UF deviate from its regular safety rules used at large events, she said.
“If I can’t bring my umbrella into a football game when it’s 90 degrees outside, why are they letting anyone bring anything, including large backpacks, into a field with this amount of people,” the 20-year-old said.
In an email Thursday night, SGP Chairman Alex DesRosiers said the final cost of security at the event had not been finalized yet, but organizers expected it to be under $4,000.
“We had meetings with university police department to make sure we had an adequate amount of security from both their force and the O’Connell center,” DesRosiers said. “Thankfully we had a safe and fun event for students to enjoy!”
He said event organizers added light towers behind the crowd to illuminate the entire field and make it easier to monitor the event, keeping exits visible in case of an emergency.
A tent with first aid assistants and an Alachua County Fire Rescue truck were set at the field for the event.
Toward the end of the concert, after the public sang an a capella version of X Ambassadors’ “Unsteady,” the band’s lead singer, Sam Harris, encouraged the attendees to care for one another, without reservations. Origin, race, sexual preference — nothing matters, he said.
Harris then said he disapproved of white nationalist Richard Spencer’s recent appearance at UF and congratulated students who protested.
Although the best part of the concert for Tori Savoi, an 18-year-old Gainesville resident, was when X Ambassadors performed two new songs, she said she enjoyed the singer’s end speech.
“It was pretty great,” she said. “I’m all about keeping the peace.”