Nialler9 has a great post up about a gig doing visuals for Super Extra Bonus Party, during their recent Go Team support slot @ Tripod. While ructions with the PR drones of Nokia are horrible, and probably the wave of the future (who would have thought that as bands finally gain more independence from a vampires of the recording industry, they’d become prey to undead hordes of marketing drones); what really worries me about Nialler’s post are his references to the poor (and violent) treatment of concert goers by event security men.
As a fairly aged muso I’ve witnessed the gradual encroachment of an inane risk averse ‘security’ culture into the Irish music scene. Although I wasn’t in attendance at the infamous 1996 Smashing Pumpkins gig at Dublin’s Point Depot, during which a 17 year old fan was crushed to death; I did witness the change in that venue and others in it’s aftermath, as the protection of concert goers from themselves became a cause célèbre. It seems in retrospect to have been the first step in the Disnyfication of Irish concert going. Almost immediately moshing was prohibited, crowd barriers erected, and an absurdly stratified wristband culture established. After that, if you wanted to be sure of seeing a favourite band, you’d frequently have to race to the front of a venue as soon as it’s doors opened. Race quickly, but not too quickly, lest a burly troglodite consider you a danger and refuse you a band. More worryingly, this period saw a massive increase in the numbers of ‘security’ present at Irish concerts. The initial cover their ass burst of hiring, became institutionalised with updated fire and safety legislation. Where once bouncers had been hired to carry out arguably necessary crowd control, available to shift the leery jerk threatening to glass your girlfriend, or haul an exhausted teen out of the moshpit, now day glo jacketed troops from one of the major corporate security companies seized you for dancing, moshing, crowd surfing or even more absurdly for sitting at the edges of the standing area, or laying down a bag (it could be a bomb). I’ve worked security, and while getting a couple of hundred drunken middle aged Paddy Casey fans to stop jumping up and down on the rickety balcony of the Olympia is a thankless task, there are some true fruitloops in the game – lads who buy the largest Maglite’s available to wield like batons, guys who boast about cracking some heads before an event. This bullshit, and it is bullshit, is symptomatic of the privatisation of ‘security’ in wider society. We in Ireland are lucky enough to catch only the merest suggestion of this ‘post 9/11’ security theatre, yet while security at events here are certainly no Blackwater, and we don’t yet face the threat of ‘tasing‘, the behaviour, attitude and numbers of ‘security officers’ are a growing problem.
It’s not all bad, the Scottish security firm hired to oversee the Electric Picnic festival are famous for their reasonableness and tolerance, and events sometimes occur which are mercifully free of security – last year Seasick Steve performed at a bouncer free Crawdaddy, a wonderful and problem free gig. However, incidents of ‘clashes’ with event security do seem to be growing more common. Last year the nutso security at other unnamed major Irish festival, allegedly doffed their jackets at the end of the event, and joined friends in a spree of drinking, tent burning and random acts of violence. With the best will in the world, men hired specifically to control and intimidate will ultimately end up creating more problems than they solve. Gone are the days when a punk gig in Parnell Mooneys or a grunge mosh at the old pre-yuppie Slatteries could go down with a few thumps, a bit of broken glass and no real harm done. The very term ‘security’ is a misnomer. Audiences are not a threat, and event security does not make us feel safer. These days the bouncers are the problem.