Dude, Be Cool: Here’s How NOT to Clash with Security

Honus Honus (Man Man) shares his very best concert etiquette.

This article appears in the zine AdHoc Issue 15, a special collaboration with the Talkhouse.

So, you’ve had a few drinks. Maybe a few more after that. Like a sleeping, many-tentacled elder one stirring beneath the depths of the unknown, the allure of the backstage whispers your name. You are fully aware that this is a no-fly zone for non-band, but the security guard isn’t paying attention. Now is your chance, mere mortal.

Fantasy: You stealthily approach and slip past him like a shadow on the wall.

Reality: You are a stumbling, ungraceful, sloppy mess. Security grabs your shoulder. The night has taken a turn and you are tossed. On. Yo. Ass.

Music Shows are fun. Security, not so much. But that’s their job: to monitor the fun. Until they don’t.

Today’s delightful topic: Security Blankets. Here’s a list, in no particular order, of etiquette “no no’s” that I or someone like me has encountered during my forever tenure in the indie rock “biz.” If I’ve left anything out, (fellow music players) let me know:

Note: This article is for both event-goer and safety-maintainer.

Don’t…be an a-hole show-goer.

Working security at a music show is a thankless job. One of those “no one likes having you around except for when they need you” kind of jobs that is primarily there to make sure no one hurts themselves or hurts others or inspires others to hurt themselves or others to hurt other selves’ others. Security guards constantly have to deal with the worst version of drunken Party You there is, and unless the security person is a real creeper out to inflict bully tactics on the surrounding world — and there are many variations of this particular archetype — they’re usually just another (big) human grinding away at life, earning a paycheck like everyone else. They don’t deserve your liquid courage wrath or alcoholic bravado.

Simple, obvious talk: whatever energy you exert is what you get in return. Be a butthead, be treated like one, etc. Pick a fight, be prepared to get served your teeth. And possibly arrested. Or fed to Cthulhu.

Don’t…be a security goon.

Now, I’ve seen extremely cool security detail at many a show (Union Transfer in Philly, much love) and I’ve seen the opposite. The way security chooses to act is usually defined/dictated by the venue that employs them — whatever vibe they decide to project. Some security are off-duty cops (not bad guys, but wise to avoid if you love bringing attitude), some are guys/gals trying to work out their inner demons by destroying teeny indie-boppers’ nights, and most could give a rat’s ass about you if you just behave respectfully toward everyone else. Respect. Key word here. Important everyday life word here. Respect each other and all will be most chill.

It always warms the cockles of my bitter heart whenever I see a large, scary-looking, emotionless security guard gently lift a much smaller indie rocker up and over a barrier separating stage from audience and then set them on their way to scurry off back into the audience where they’ll most likely rinse, repeat and meet again. The delicate ballet of crowd surfer and security muscle, when done right, is a real beauty to behold.

But what if this activity of riding the wave of sweaty bodies is frowned upon, not allowed at the venue? And there are clear signs indicating this? Doesn’t this give security every right to over-aggressively remove a crowd surfer? Grab them by the scruff of their neck, throw them onto the ground, make an example of them for everyone else to see? I don’t think so, but if that’s the directive from above their pay grade, what can you do? That’s the kind of security I hate. Give the kid a warning; if he does it again, toss him. If you’re the surfer and you got your warning, be cool, give it a rest. Push your luck and know you will get tossed. You’re there for the music anyway, right?

Overly aggressive security guys looking for trouble by inciting trouble are the worst, but, fortunately for us all, few and far between. The only time I’ve ever stopped a show I was playing (and the whole band walked off stage) was when we saw an overly aggressive security guard, side-stage, violently toss a girl onto the street out a side door. There’s no reason for that, no matter the circumstances. It’s a fucking rock show, not a warzone.

Don’t…put up a fight.

Especially if you’re wasted. This situation will never work out in your favor. Sure, a softer approach by security can prevent a fight, but you can’t always bank on this. If your friend is out of hand, be the peacekeeper — defuse the situation. Also, if you get thrown out of a venue, don’t waste your breath trying to talk your way back in. It rarely, if ever, will happen and you’re just making the situation worse. You have to remember that security is stone sober (or supposed to be) and you most likely are not. While they’ve spent the entire evening observing your fellow concert-goers and anticipating any problems, you’ve been all crab at the booty.

In closing, concert-goer and security person. Play nice with each other. Have a good time; co-exist in harmony. You just never know, that swole security guard may be your dance partner later in the night. Or the beefy savior who pulls you safely from the maelstrom of the pit so you can live to thrash another day. Crab if you need it.

Order a physical copy or AdHoc Issue 15  here — or download a PDF version. Print copies are available for free at shows across NYC, or at one of the below locations.

Academy Records, Greenpoint
Artbook @ MoMA PS1, Long Island City
Cafe Grumpy, Greenpoint
Commend, Lower East Side
Coop 87, Greenpoint
LIC Corner Cafe, Long Island City
Little Skips, Bushwick
Printed Matter, Chelsea
Spoonbill & Sugartown, Williamsburg

Ryan Kattner (aka Honus Honus), is a musician-songwriter, film/theater score composer, screenwriter, mustachioed multi-hyphenate living in Los Angeles. Texas-born, he grew up in the Philippines, South Carolina, Germany, Illinois, Alabama and Missouri before finally settling in Philadelphia and pouring his scattered upbringing into his bands Man Man and Mister Heavenly. He’s releasing his first solo album in 2016. Michael J. Fox as Teen Wolf is his spirit animal. You can follow him on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. (photo credit: Mike Gerry)