El Paso Faces ‘Rebel’

Fire marshals and police had their hands full when a Mexican pop group visited El Paso, Texas, January 12th.

An autograph signing at a Wal-Mart turned into a mob scene, then fans were turned away from the concert later that night.

RBD, a three-man, three-woman act popularized by a Mexican television show, is huge in Latin American countries and recently held a three-show stand at Puerto Rico’s 13,300-capacity Coliseo Jose Miguel Agrelot. Across the U.S. border, though, officials are apparently still learning of their popularity the hard way.

At the autograph signing, 10,000 fans showed up instead of the estimated 3,000. Disturbances, long lines and traffic congestion resulted in a visit by 65 police officers – including the SWAT team.

The signing was eventually shut down and fire marshals issued four citations – two each to the Wal-Mart general manager and a promotions rep, according to the El Paso Times.

Then 3,000 people were turned away from a free concert at the El Paso County Coliseum because of a fire marshal’s concern over crowd safety, according to GM Brian Kennedy.

The 7,800-capacity arena wasn’t full when the fire marshal asked Kennedy to stop the ingress.

“We were at about half of what our cap is,” Kennedy told Pollstar. “He asked us if we’d limit the number of people who would come in and we agreed to it … We don’t like to argue with the fire marshal.”

A police officer close to the event reportedly said the concert was capped on account of safety concerns because promoters, who gave away free tickets, didn’t have an attendance count. But Kennedy suspects the Wal-Mart incident factored into the decision.

“Fire marshals aren’t in our business,” he said. “He estimated [our] crowd and was concerned because of the problem earlier.”

After hearing about the disturbance at Wal-Mart, the GM beefed up security.

“I had sheriffs in T-shirts on site from the very beginning,” he said. “We didn’t let it get out of control.”

Meanwhile, the GM was surprised by the response from concert-goers, saying he hasn’t seen anything like it since Menudo.

“This crowd was seriously whipped into a frenzy,” he said. “I’ve run this building for seven years now – and I used to be a promoter – and I’ve only seen a reaction like this for a few people.”

The sextet stars in the teen soap opera “Rebedle” (Rebel), which is broadcast to Spanish-speaking countries worldwide. Kennedy said he works with a promotions company in El Paso that is talking to the group about doing multiple dates in the area.

“I think we could’ve sold 6,000 to 7,000 tickets that night at whatever we priced it at,” he said. “These guys are hot.”

– Mitchell Peters