Boulder police responded Monday evening to what dispatchers called a "riot situation" on University Hill, where several hundred fans lined up for free tickets to see Los Angeles-based rapper Tyler, The Creator perform at the Fox Theatre.
Police made two arrests outside the Fox and estimated the crowd trying to get into the performance at about 2,000 people, according to Boulder police spokeswoman Kim Kobel. She said as many as 80 officers from the Boulder Police Department, University of Colorado Police Department and the Boulder County Sheriff's Office were involved in controlling the crowd throughout the evening.
Tyler, The Creator was performing a free concert, with tickets available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Police reported a manager of the Jimmy John's sandwich shop had been assaulted and that bottles were being thrown, according to police radio traffic. The Jimmy John's manager, who declined to be identified, said he was trying to clear a way into his store as people massed outside. He said an intoxicated fan punched him in the face, then ran off.
As the crowd became rowdy, police blocked 13th Street where it meets College and Pennsylvania avenues, as well as other intersections in the area. The crowd standing in line along 13th Street at times pushed loudly toward the theater's doors but for the most part remained under control throughout the evening.
Kobel said police responded to control the crowd, but no officers were assaulted and no bottles were thrown at police. The intensity of Monday's hubbub came nowhere near the level of violence and destruction of the riots the Hill endured 10 to 15 years ago.
Dispatchers said they did not send out the "riot team," although officers were seen in riot gear with shields and non-lethal weapons. They kept a heavy presence on 13th Street and attempted to divide the crowd on the sidewalk into smaller groups.
"I think people are frustrated because it's cold and the doors aren't open yet," Kobel said at about 7 p.m.
Tyler, The Creator added a second show, tweeting at 7:45 p.m.: "Two shows tonight so everyone can come guys."
A.J. Romero, a freshman at Metro State University of Denver, said he hoped the second show would allow him to get into the 625-seat venue. He said he had already seen Tyler, The Creator at the Fox four times.
"There's a lot of crowd surfing and a lot of shoving," he said. "Inside, it feels like you are possessed."
Brian Carp, operations manager for the Fox, said it was the first free concert the theater has put on in five years. The show was sponsored by Tumblr.
"This is the reason we normally don't do free shows," Carp said.
Ticket holders began entering about 8 p.m., at which point the crowds on the street began to dissipate -- but not before a man in a hooded sweatshirt was seen escorted by two police officers into a Boulder police SUV and driven away.
An earlier arrest was made when police told a man to leave and he refused. He was taken into custody and ticketed on suspicion of brawling and resisting arrest.
T.J. Kebede, 14, said 30 of his friends skipped class Monday to get in line for the show, and he wasn't surprised the crowd got rowdy.
"I haven't seen anything like this since I've been here," said Brandon Crespo, a 28-year-old University of Colorado junior who came across the crowd on the Hill as he was trying to get some pizza at Boss Lady Pizza. "This is crazy."
Angela McKinley, 19, said she left school at Red Rocks Community College after a friend called her about the free concert by Tyler, The Creator, a member of the Odd Future collective.
"It sounded way better than going to a philosophy class," she said.
Amid a string of profanity and expletive-laced Tweets that included liberal use of a slur against gay people, the 22-year-old rapper gave an enthusiastic mention to Boulder.
"My hometown Boulder is crazy I love you guys," Tyler wrote at 8:30 p.m.
Contact Camera Staff Writer John Aguilar at 303-473-1389 or email@example.com.Camera Staff Writer Alex Burness contributed to this report.