Monday, May 14, 2007

Bjork in New York: Security talk

You probably read Brooklyn Vegan anyway, but in case you don't, the BV coverage of Bjork at the United Palace included a fairly mild grumble about security being a bit of a buzzkill:

The crowd ended up disappointing me a little though. Unlike at Bloc Party and the Stooges (Bjork was my third time at the new venue already), the United Palace security was making sure people stayed in their seats (and out of the aisles). I thought for sure everyone would disregard sercurity, and just fill the aisles and rush to the front during "Declare Independence" ("Don't let them do that to you!!"). I thought maybe we'd get a mini-revolution going (Create your own flag!). I was wrong. Show ended peacefully. Everyone gave a collective "that's it?", and then we all went home quietly and riot-free.

Surprisingly, there was a response in the comments from a member of the venue's staff, sounding midway between wounded and annoyed:

I am a security guard for the United Palace Theater. I was working the night of the Bjork show. First of all, let me point out that we (the security guards) are guest of the church. Yes, the United Palace is still considered a church (no matter how many vegans/hipsters go there for shows). Second, there are two teams of security, one is the "house" security, and the other is the company that I work for. The house security are the tall men in suits with earpieces. Whatever these guys do or say goes because they work for Rev. Ike and the church. Third, the United Palace one of the largest venues in New York. If people are blocking the isles the fire department will shut us down. The theater is old and if there ever was a fire or a structural collapse there would be a stampede. As security we are responsible for 3800 people's lives.

As for a "mini-revolution" or starting a riot...are you serious? It's a Bjork show. If any number of people started a riot security would just call the NYPD and leave the building. Just because a singer is saying something in his/her lyrics doesn't mean you have to take it literally. When Iggy Pop sang, "My idea of fun is killing everyone", did you think that it would be fun to kill everyone?

Next time you go to a show and decied to write about the staff you should first consider who they are and what they do. The staff keeps you, Brooklyn Vegan, safe. If you are into shows that get shut down by the fire department, by all means block the isles. Then maybe you can start a "mini-revolution" out on the sidewalk against the FDNY. Good luck with that one.

Good lord. Of course, security do perform an important job, their role is vital and it's probable that anyone who's ever been to a gig where the crowd has been larger than just the bassist's mates has been in a situation where, without the presence of some people in black tshirts, we'd have been hospitalised or worse. Mostly, we're not even aware of that thin, scary line we balance on when we wade into a mosh pit or cram ourselves into the middle of a 2,000-people crush, or the work being done to keep us on the right side.

But that's the way it should be. Sometimes, security is too heavy-handed. And that helps nobody - a security team which over-enforces and over-reacts isn't going to have the respect of a crowd. Telling someone not to stand up and dance in their seat because it would cause the horrible, burning deaths of thousands of people isn't going to win respect. Posting a hectoring response to someone jokingly suggesting that over-emphatic security had killed the chance of a revoution isn't going to win respect. And security that has lost the respect of the people it works for is, ultimately, security that has lost the confidence of the people it works for. That's as true in a semi-converted church as a broken nation.

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