A night promised to be full of music and fun from Harry Styles and Lizzo left thousands of fans at the Pepsi Zero Sugar Superbowl Party disappointed and soaking wet.
My sister, best friend and I arrived at the Meridian Island Gardens venue at 7 p.m. The concert was general admission, so getting a decent view depended on your willingness to stand in line. A trail of empty food bags, blankets and chairs indicated that fans had been lined up for hours before us.
The vivid LED exterior of the Meridian differed vastly from the building’s bare warehouse-like interior. Although Pepsi tried to make it exciting, the giant room had little decoration in expectance of thousands of attendees.
The concert was scheduled to begin at 8:30 p.m. The opening act, Mark Ronson, didn’t take the stage until 9:15 p.m. By the end of Ronson’s sub-par DJ set, we had already been standing for about four hours.
The show was finally looking up when Lizzo took the stage around 10:30 p.m. She put on an energetic but short performance, ending her set about 45 minutes later. We were once again anticipating Harry Styles.
Amongst the crowd there was talk that Styles was waiting until midnight to appear to mark his Feb. 1 birthday. The idea was the only thing keeping us calm as time crept toward 11:45 p.m.
When midnight came, the crowd began chanting for Styles. The happy birthday song was sung sporadically throughout the crowd.
Suddenly, the background music went silent. The crowd went wild. A message appeared on the screens. But the words were no introduction. It read:
“ATTENTION. Extreme weather is approaching. Please calmly make your way to the exits and evacuate the general area now.”
We thought it was a joke.
A voice came over the speakers telling the audience that the Miami fire Marshall had executed a mandatory evacuation of all special event buildings in the area.
After standing shell-shocked for minutes, I called an Uber. We made our way toward the exits as others stood their ground and booed.
It was pouring rain. We tried to stay dry in the lobby while waiting for our Uber driver, but Meridian staff yelled at us to leave the building immediately.
We could see lightning across the sky as we stepped out into the downpour. In minutes my jean jacket was soaked. My sister tried hiding under a sign to stop the cold rain from making her tremble. After wading through flooding streets well after midnight, we finally found our Uber.
Not everyone was so lucky. Many took buses downtown just to stay dry and find a better place to get a ride. Some paid hundreds for a rideshare service home. Others even offered money to catch a ride with random people.
“We just got picked up by a random man off the street by offering him $100,” said attendee Julie Erhardt.
Styles tweeted an apology to fans and Pepsi eventually offered full refunds to attendees. Although appreciated, all fans really wanted was a chance to see their favorite artists live.
“I thought it was a part of the set,” said Julie Spicer. “I was so disappointed because within the four hours we were there, the three artists could have performed.”
words_giselle spicer photo_olivia ginsberg video_olivia ginsberg & rachel alonso