ANYONE STUDYING PSYCHOLOGY SHOULD HAVE an internship as a bouncer. After two years doing concert security in Portland, I’ve seen nearly as broad a cross-section of humanity as I’ve seen traveling the world. Punks, indie-rockers, dead-heads, metal-heads and country kids to name a few, each group with their own distinct personalities and make-up, each group making the same stupid choices over and over again. If it weren’t for the rare individual that restores our faith in humanity by saying “thank you,” this industry would make cynics of us all. So be a pal, don’t do these things.
1. Bring your kid to a Grateful Dead cover band.
She’s three and doesn’t like the Grateful Dead yet and now she never will. Meanwhile, you’re either trapped in the front row two hours early fighting for the safety of your child’s respiratory system or you’re in the back with your kid on on your shoulders so they can see beyond Gandalf’s interpretive dance routine, ruining your back and blocking everyone’s view. Get a babysitter and everyone wins.
2. Ask us for a setlist.
The only time security gets on stage is to take a fan off of it, so if you’re asking us for a setlist you’re wasting your time. Instead, ask the stagehands. Be loud, smile and make eye-contact (or be a pretty girl). If they don’t hook you up it’s probably because the band doesn’t want them handed out.
3. Have your ticket and ID buried deep within the labyrinthine confines of your bag.
You had an hour while waiting in line to have everything ready. Now you’re just wasting everyone’s time.
4. Go to the front and complain about being pushed.
If you go to the front, you will be pushed by the crowd. That guy behind you isn’t doing it on purpose (usually), it’s the undeniable magnetism of spectacle drawing everyone forward. If it’s too much for you, ask us to pull you out, otherwise, don’t fight it and become one with the crowd.
5. Drink too much, too soon.
It’s all about timing. If you get there early, you’re going to want to pace yourself in your liquid consumption. Why? Because, if you want to keep that nice spot you came early for the last thing you want to ruin it is your bladder. Crowds are a one-way street unless you want to start a few fights on your back up to the front. So if you like to drink, hang out in the back.
6. So you snuck in a joint.
Congratulations. If you want to smoke it without being tapped on the shoulder by security with their hand out, don’t light up when the stage lights are off. “But they can’t see,” you think, “I’ll hide in the cover of darkness!” say your caveman instincts. Wrong! Your BIC lighter makes an unmistakeable pool of orange light that perfectly illuminates your face, making stage breaks a stoner duck-shoot for bouncers. Instead, light up when the lights are epileptic and make sure you’re not smoking out those around you. Or better yet, smoke outside with the rest of the civilized population.
7. Treat the concert like a ladies night out.
Chatting loudly with your girlfriends during a Joe Purdy concert is like screaming profanities in a church. Neither the time nor the place.
8. Think that the artist is talking to you.
Except they’re not. They’re addressing the crowd, the herd, the unwashed masses, and nine times out of ten they aren’t looking for an answer. They just want to thank everyone for coming. So never talk back to the stage unless they explicitly ask for it. All they want and need is your energy and your money. So buy some merch.
9. Take a photo with your flash on.
That photo you took of a bunch of heads and some strobe lights was brighter than a thousand suns. Your iPhone flash should be used to jar someone out of a coma, not to take a photo in a poorly lit room that won’t turn out the way you remembered it. Memory is much more powerful than a photo buried somewhere in your hard drive. And please, don’t ever bring your iPad.
10. Throw something at the stage.
Not only is that flask you just threw at the stage incredibly dangerous, it’s disrespectful. The stage is a sacred space that should never be crossed without permission.
11. Come on man, make an exception.
Everyone thinks they’re the exception, and if we treated everyone like the exception, there would be no point in having rules at all. Anarchy would reign supreme. But if you’re polite and understanding, we’ll do what we can to help you out. Just don’t call us “bros”.
12. Be a jack-in-the-box.
How is it that bouncers find the rule-breakers? They look for the anomaly. Ninety-nine percent of the crowd is facing forward, eyes on the stage while you are darting your eyes, turning your head and doing a jack-in-the-box routine to drink a sip from your shiny metal flask that acts like a reflector. We see you.
13. Put your stickers on the floor.
One night we spent 45 minutes after everyone was gone scraping up “Hello my name is” stickers off the floor. Irrevocable moments that make you seriously question your life. This isn’t kindergarten, and as entertaining as it is to play babysitter to a bunch of drunk children, using a hardwood floor for your sticker-book is just savagery.
14. Can you give this to the artist?
No, but if you wait by their tour bus chances are they’ll be heading that way eventually.
15. Leave before the encore.
Nearly every act has an encore built into their set-list so they are going to come back onstage whether you stomp loudly or not. If you want to see the song you’ve been waiting for, it’s probably going to be in the encore. But if the hits aren’t your thing, get the hell out and avoid the stampede.
16. Assume we’re here to ruin your night.
We’re glad you came and want you to have a good time. The best nights are busy nights for us, so when you’re getting thrown out, it’s probably because you decided to ruin your night, not us (though, we’re not always perfect either). Take responsibility for your choices.