Sam Smith left me and 60,000 festival goers for dead in a field in Kentucky

What was that about ‘Stay With Me’

Last summer I had a near death experience. This might seem like a bit of an exaggeration, but at the time it did not feel like it.

I was at Forecastle Festival, a three day  music and art festival held at Waterfront Park in Louisville, Kentucky with two of my friends, Mallory and Kaelin. Mallory and I had driven seven hours to Louisville from South Caroline for the festival, and I was so excited to get to meet Kaelin for the first time.

On the first morning of Forecastle, we met up and went into the park together. Typical of July in the South, the temperature was in the upper 90s and only got hotter throughout the day. We were sweaty, exhausted, and couldn’t wait for the sun to set.


The calm before the literal storm

Sam Smith was the headliner that night. We settled down on a blanket and watched as he played songs from “In The Lonely Hour,” an album known for its emotional ballads, while fireworks exploded overhead. My favorite performance of the night was a mash-up of “Not In That Way.” I was obsessed, and I knew then that there was no way there could be a more perfect end to the long day we’d had.

Halfway through the set, the temperature suddenly dropped 20 degrees and it started drizzling lightly. We didn’t think anything of – if anything we were relieved. Somebody made a joke about how Sam’s voice had “given the weather chills.” We quickly stopped laughing when the music cut out and Sam Smith ran off stage. The crowd sat in confusion until a voice came over the speakers: “There is a severe electrical storm on the way – evacuate the park as soon as possible.”

Everyone was screaming as the wind and rain picked up; we grabbed our things and raced for the exit. The scene was chaos, and there were people on all sides of me – I couldn’t help but picture a buffalo stampede.

Once we reached the exit, we realized we had nowhere to go. By this point the sky was a deep orange, and the wind and rain was so strong it was hard to stand. Mallory pointed out that this could be a sign of a tornado, which sent us into further panic. We knew we couldn’t make it a mile back to the car, so we decided to seek shelter in the parking garage across the street. The three of us squeezed into a tiny corner of the garage under the stairwell to hopefully wait out the storm.


Our hiding place

Everything happened so fast. One minute we were laughing and enjoying music, and the next we were running for out lives.

“I really thought we were going to die,” said Mallory when I asked her what she remembered from that night. I felt the same way, and I remember us texting our families just in case. Perhaps we had let our imaginations run a bit wild, but in the moment we were 400 miles from home and we were more scared than we had ever been. It’s funny now, and we look back and laugh about it, but I think that we’re all still a bit bitter that Sam Smith got to run to the safety of his tour bus and left us all for dead in a field in Kentucky.

“Stay With Me” my ass.

University of South Carolina