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Bouncers Behaving Badly?

Disclaimer: Not all club security staff are jackasses, just as not all metal fans are cool, with only the purest of motives. In the past week, we've seen how dark the nature of some who go to metal shows can be [ie: the stabbing of 4 people at a Corrosion of Conformity show in the Tampa, Florida area, which resulted in one man's death]. In situations like that, maybe more aggressive security measures would have saved the night of a lot of concert goers, as well as a human being's life. The following article is just one take on the topic of club security and in no way suggests that all those who take on the arduous task of keeping audience members in line abuse their positions.

Bouncers and club security do serve a purpose. In most every metal club environment, it's hot, it's crowded, alcohol is often involved, and human nature being what it is, conflicts can and will happen.
In these cases, it's club security's job to step in and clear out the offending parties, so that the rest of those in attendance can get what they paid for... a chance to enjoy their favorite bands and have a good time, unmarred by jagoffs with something to prove. In the heat of the moment, it's sometimes difficult to distinguish between when security is doing it's job or going overboard, but in some instances, it's all too clear that these goons-for-hire are taking themselves way too seriously.

I attended two seperate shows in two seperate venues this past weekend and was witness to two very distinct cases of bouncers behaving badly. Both shows were Corrosion of Conformity, Crowbar, Alabama Thunderpussy, and Weedeater. The first being held at Ziggy's Tavern in Winston-Salem, NC (Friday, June 17) and the second was at the House of Blues in Myrtle Beach, SC (Saturday, June 18).

Ziggy's is a somewhat smaller venue than the venerable House of Blues, but without a doubt, a legendary staple of the rock scene in the state of North Carolina. The sound is good, the vibe is electric, and the crowds are always 'up.' The crowds are so 'up,' in fact, that the club owners have in recent months been put in the position of having to hire a new security staff.

On the night I was there, the show itself was absolutely amazing!! Everybody was having a great time, from the opening act of Weedeater to the headliners, COC. Appreciative stoner/doom metal fans banged their heads and pumped their fists in unison. Some were drinking and others, like myself, were just high on the good music that was filling the place up to the rafters. Meanwhile, in typical bouncer-fashion, the security staff brooded and watched. I remember thinking these guys are into metal. There were no major issues during the set, so it looked that all would get to enjoy the show, then go home in peace.

Not so.

At the end of the show, as a few stragglers milled about to talk with the bands, the security staff went about picking up the scattered cups, beer cans, etc... and disposing of them. I was talking to another fan when a friend casually brushed a beer can with his foot, to get it in reach of one of the security guys who was involved in the clean up. The guy LOST HIS MIND!! He began screaming, cursing, ranting and advancing on my friend, enraged over what was, to my friend, an innocent, non-offensive move. As my friend backs away, confused over exactly what his crime was, a second bruiser crowds in behind him, blocking his retreat and staring down menacingly at my friend (who, at best, stands a mere 5'5" and is probably 165 pounds).

The first bouncer takes his shirt off, announcing his intent to take things to a more physical level. Upon seeing this, I intervened and tried to put myself between the guy and my friend. I tried to calm the guy down, but he wasn't listening to me. He had his mind set on pounding some little metalhead (something I'm sure he'd been aiming for all night). It was at that time that another bouncer stepped in and asked what was going on. After hearing the story, he knew his comrades were out of line and sent them away. An unnecessary act of violence, narrowly averted.

On the second night I was front and center, once again, at the House of Blues. The security staff at the HOB have always been sticklers; no cameras, no stage diving or crowd surfing. Any attempts to get over the barrier between audience and stage will get you put out of the venue for the night. On this night, things were once again fairly uneventful, until the last half of Corrosion of Conformity's set.

During a performance of the title track of their new album, 'In the Arms of God,' a fight broke out. I didnt see how it started, but it apparently involved quite a few people. I was shoved against the barrier and had to do a bit of sidestepping myself to get free of it.

The fight was quieted down, after the intervention of the HOB security, but then, for whatever reason, would flare up again. COC stopped playing and Mike Dean was imploring security to not 'rough up the paying customers.' I turned to see every member of the HOB security staff bailing out of every corner of the venue, dragging people off in choke holds, pushing, grabbing and in general, roughing people up. Woody Weatherman, COC guitarist, was on the mic, telling everyone to 'let it go.' I witnessed one very bulky bouncer hauling a petite young girl [cursing and kicking as she was] over the barrier with both arms pulled tightly behind her back. She, along with her companions, were all hustled outside.

Other reports I got of the melee` included an older woman being punched in the face by one of the guards. Now, I didnt personally see that part and I do know that some of those being hauled away were being abusive and out of line with the staff, but how much force is needed for a 6'3", 220 pound bouncer to remove a 5'4", 110 pound young woman?? This was definitely a case where security's reaction may have been overzealous and very well may have made a bad situation worse. I wasn't involved and can't give an accurate account of every blow thrown, but as an observer, I did see things that caused concern.

So, are these accounts the norm for security staff in venues all over the country? I can see a call for distinct force in some situations. I've seen more than a few concert-goers who could have done the bands and the others in attendance a huge favor by just staying home and who need a strong arm to put them in their place, for the good of all, BUT, how much is too much?

A good rule of thumb for anybody who goes out to clubs with a security staff is this: know the temperament of the bouncers. It could mean the difference between a good time and a cracked skull.


--Susan Wright






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