It was an only-in-New-York moment: the announcement of a surprise Kanye West performance that drew throngs of people to the streets of Manhattan in the middle of the night. But instead of a concert to remember, the night ended with a hoard of disappointed fans and allegations that police used pepper spray to disperse them.
People hoping to see the Grammy-winning artist packed the sidewalk and streets outside a Manhattan concert hall for hours early Monday after his scheduled show at the Governors Ball, an area outdoor music festival, was canceled Sunday due to a forecast of severe weather.
“We’re doing PABLO at 2 am in Manhattan. sorting out where now,” Virgil Abloh, West’s creative director, wrote online at 10 p.m. Sunday. West had been set to perform songs from his seventh studio album, “The Life of Pablo,” at the festival.
Though a location for the surprise concert was never disclosed, fans began to gather shortly after Abloh’s announcement outside Webster Hall, a large music venue in the East Village. The concert hall had hosted electronic music duo Galantis earlier Sunday night as part of the Governors Ball series, and rumors of the secret concert quickly circulated on social media.
West frequently uses social media to connect with fans and often announces on Twitter when he’s dropping new music, most recently Friday with his new single from the compilation album “Cruel Winter.”
As the hour of the so-called pop-up show approached, sweaty young fans crammed shoulder to shoulder outside Webster Hall. Dozens of New York police vehicles and officers encircled them.
The crowd of locals and tourists bellowed chants of the rapper’s name and took Snapchat videos of the chaotic scene. Roars rippled through as celebrities, including hip-hop star ASAP Rocky, pushed through the mass.
But before the performance was even made official, West and the venue tried to deter the waiting fans.
“Show at 2am SOLD OUT,” West tweeted just after 1 a.m.
“There is no late show at Webster Hall tonight. Please get home safely,” the concert hall tweeted at 1:45 a.m., just before the event had been supposed to start.
When a voice on a bullhorn told the crowd a concert was “not happening,” fans could be heard shouting expletives.
But they held out hope.
It wasn’t until authorities apparently used dispersal tactics around 2:30 a.m. that a notable number began to leave.
Several fans covered their mouths and keeled over, saying something like tear gas or pepper spray had been deployed. New York police told CNN they did not use tear gas or pepper spray outside the concert hall.
A spokesman said additional officers had been called to the area in a “level three mobilization call” for “crowd control.”
In an updated post on Instagram, Abloh, West’s partner, said the event had been canceled “due to safety priority.”
Abloh also shared a photo of a shirt with the words “New York” crossed out in marker, and “Yeezy hostage,” added below, referring to West, in an Instagram post that has since been deleted.
West has not yet publicly commented on the chaos, but photos circulated online in the 2 a.m. hour show him standing up through the sunroof of a car outside the venue.