Kicking somebody out of a concert is always tricky. The patron has paid money for a ticket, paid for parking, stood in line to get in, waited hours for the show to start, secured their spot, bought food and drinks and merchandise. So they feel pretty entitled to be there. And they’ll tell us all about that entitlement. And yet, certain rules posted all over the venue, website, and ticket will get you a fast trip outside to the sidewalk.
But kicking somebody out of the concert when they are right up front against the barricades, that’s the trickiest. Everyone in the venue is watching it happen, and there aren’t that many easy ways to get them out. We either pull them up over the barricade, walk with them through the entire crowd to the back of the hall, or dismantle a part of the pipe and drape so we can get them out the side. All of this with the crowd pushed up against the back of them. Even the band performing notices it and sometimes comments on it.
As I’ve mentioned in other chapters, there are certain things that get you kicked out immediately. These are things fighting/violence, sexual or racial harassment, or trying to get on the stage. Also being too drunk to stand, blatant drug use, or an underage patron trying to sneak into the beer garden. For a more grey area situation I’ll give warnings first. Mosh pits and crowd surfing are ok, but simply being an asshole and ruining the show for everyone around you can get you kicked out. It is largely at our discretion. We call getting removed from the concert an ejection.
Often there is an unexpected soundtrack to our actions during the show, provided by the band. When the song perfectly matches what we’re doing it’s a kind of magic. Obviously when I’m catching crowd surfers the songs being played onstage are the natural soundtrack to the mayhem. But when I’ve got somebody’s arm wrapped up while I’m escorting them out of the venue and a heavy-ass metal band is playing their most brutal stomp-riff, it defines perfection. Somebody’s assholery is being responded to with badassery.
Tonight was just such a moment. There was a couple up at the front of the stage that had been there since doors opened hours ago. They spent that time drinking overpriced beers and camping out up at the front barricade. I made small talk when they first arrived and listened to their stories of seeing this band previously and how much they love them. They seemed all right then. But by the time the headliner came on, their drunken behavior was seriously aggravating everyone around them. Yelling way too loud for no reason right next to people’s heads. Sliding into their neighbors and pushing them. Vigorously fist-banging and almost inadvertently punching people. Spilling their water bottles. I would swear I saw the woman close her eyes and do a turbo-pass out for a few seconds. I always read the faces of the people nearby a trouble maker. Sometimes they are all friends of this person so they accept it. But when they aren’t you can see the shock, disgust, and frustration in their eyes. Usually somebody will plead for me to help just with their eyes, if they don’t feel comfortable waving me over in fear of retaliation from said troublemaker.
We spoke to them a few times asking them to settle down, telling them that they were ruining the show for others. They said they would behave, but went right back to being jackasses. I like to see if a verbal reprimand and threat of removal will calm a person down. Often it does, and the problem solves itself. But, no such luck tonight.
Another patron who was in a wheelchair was, unfortunately, positioned right next to these drunk knuckleheads. Although we do provide ADA compliant areas for people with wheelchairs, scooters, crutches, or other medical concerns, that area doesn’t appeal to everyone. Some people in a wheelchair still want to head into the breach and brave the sea of people to experience the show from the crowd. Now, a normal person notices this and accommodates them. They help clear a path for the wheelchair patron, let them up front to the barricade, and even protect them from any nonsense in the crowd like crowd surfers or oblivious rude-asses.
The guy in the wheelchair tonight was really digging the show, he had straight long hair and a kind face. He had a pretty strong hippie peace-loving vibe. I got the feeling he had seen the band a lot of times already. I always ask people in wheelchairs if they need anything extra like earplugs or plastic bottles of water, to save them any unnecessary trips wheeling through the crowd. Then I keep my eye on them during the show just to make sure they aren’t getting crushed or suffering any other peril.
Well tonight, the hippie wheelchair dude had the misfortune of ending up right next to the drunk belligerent couple. I noticed the drunk guy was bumping into the wheelchair guy a lot, knocking into him with his body and elbow. I went over and spotlighted him with my flashlight and told him he needed to be careful of the disabled man in a wheelchair right next to him. I felt like I was talking to a stupid kid on recess telling him the most obvious of behavioral expectations on the playground. He nodded like he got it. Of course, he kept doing it. I then gave him this ultimatum, “If you don’t stop knocking into the man in the wheelchair right here, we are going to kick you out. You’ll miss the rest of the show. Figure it out.”
I heard the oh-so familiar huge hit song from the band start onstage. This song came out in the late 80s and is definitely an ear worm song. You’ve heard it. It’s the highlight of their live show. Drunken fool starts yelling as loud as he can, “This is my favorite song! I’ve been waiting for this all night! WOOOOOOOO!” He starts drunk dancing, which really just means he is knocking into everyone around him, spilling their drinks and pissing people off. I saw a drink get spilled on the wheelchair guy’s lap.
I knew that this one wasn’t going to go peacefully, so I made a radio call for backup, including a manager. I went to help someone with a medical issue on the other side of the stage, and when I looked back there were 5 other security staff there waiting for my instruction. I also saw the drunk couple sway into the wheelchair hippie again hard, actually tipping his chair a few inches off the ground. The man’s face showed disbelief and anger. Who doesn’t show care and respect for someone in a wheelchair?
I told the other staff that that couple was drunk and ruining the show for everyone around them, especially the man in the wheelchair. It had already gone on too long, so they needed to leave right now. I went over and reached between the jerk and the wheelchair guy, in an attempt to protect him from any further harm. My arms made a fence of sorts and I asked the couple to move over to where the other staff were so that they could leave. They had already removed a portion of the pipe and drape so they could get out right there instead of having to go back through the entire crowd. The woman complied and walked out into the DMZ where the staff were, Of course, the man started yelling that he wasn’t leaving.
I said, “You need to go over that way, you’re done here.” As predictable as a Dean Koontz thriller, he said, “Fuck that, I paid good money for this concert. You can’t make me leave. I’m staying!” I was contemplating climbing over the barricade to put myself in between this fuckhead and the wheelchair. A couple more staff had moved through the crowd up to the barricade positioned behind him in case he tried to run or fight us. I yelled, “I can make you leave and you are leaving. Go over there with your girlfriend!” At this point our show of force was more than what was necessary with 8 staff standing around.
But that’s all anyone was doing, standing around. I think everybody wanted the other person to grab the guy first. Sometimes people get nervous and don’t want to be the first to initiate putting hands on a potentially combative person. Or they assumed that since I made the radio call, I should lead the physical escort. But I was on the inside of the barricade trying to protect the hippie in the wheelchair, so it wouldn’t make sense for me to grab him first since I couldn’t keep my hands on him and walk him through the break in the pipe and drape. There were enough other guys there to grab his elbows and start walking him out. But nobody did.
So, since my arms were already out preventing him from pushing over the wheelchair, I looked at my coworkers and just started pushing the guy along the barricade in the direction of the gap and all the other staff. I felt like a bulldozer knocking over a wooden shack. I was ready for him to swing on me, but he tripped and stumbled. The security guys behind him reacted to my push and grabbed his arms too. We all shoved the guy over to the waiting staff, who grabbed him as well. He was screaming and yelling the whole time but didn’t swing on us. Since he wasn’t calmly walking, and to protect ourselves from physical attack, we had to just have each of the four of us grab each of his limbs.
During a physical intervention, you usually don’t have time to direct which staff grabs a the left arm, which staff grabs the legs, and which staff goes ahead and opens the door. It just happens in a flash of an instant. We had to carry this guy down the stairs, which is perhaps the most dangerous route possible. But it was the most accessible to the outside sidewalk, and since he was already struggling it had to be done that way. If any one of us tripped, or if he broke from our hold and started fighting us we would be having to tackle him on the stairs themselves. That’s a nightmare for everybody.
So just as we are lifting this guy off the ground, the chorus of the song kicks in with the entire crowd singing along.
Why you wanna give me a run-around?
Is it a sure-fire way to speed things up
When all it does is slow me down?
Yep, the band was Blues Traveler, and the super happy pop song was Runaround. Picture the four of us each holding a limb and carrying this idiot down the stairs while this hippie dance anthem played. The staff carrying his ankles were headed down the stairs first, so the guy ended up in a position like he was laying on his back. I had his left arm since I started the push at the stage barricade, but I was carefully watching the steps so I didn’t trip. We carry this guy down two flights of stairs with him struggling the whole time. Amazingly he didn’t get in a kick, punch, or spit on us. Another security staff got ahead and opened the fire door for us so we could just keep moving out to the sidewalk.
Somehow, without talking about it or coordinating it, we just knew to toss him. You know how if you’re at the lake with your friends you might each grab your friend’s wrist and ankle, count, “ONE…TWO…THREE” while you swing them, and then release them to splash into the water on ‘three?’ Well that’s what happened except we tossed that guy out the door onto the concrete. I remember seeing his body at our eye level floating in the air after we released him. For just a second he looked like an astronaut floating in space. He landed on his ass and his back, and his girlfriend ran out after him and coddled him laying on the sidewalk. We closed the door and went back up the two flights of stairs to the concert. I walked back to my regular spot and exchanged smiles with the guy in the wheelchair. He mouthed the words, “Thank you.”
I didn’t even miss out on John Popper’s harmonica solo in Runaround. I will forever think of this ridiculous incident when I hear this song.
Six months later, I saw a familiar face in the front of the crowd. It was hippie wheelchair guy again! I’m pretty good with faces, and honestly you remember faces from an intense situation like that. He was grinning at me already, so I went over and said hello, asking him if he was the guy from the Blues Traveler concert several months back. Of course he was. I didn’t get to talk to him again that night, so I apologized for that jerk’s behavior and how long it took us to get him away from him and out of the audience. I thanked him for his patience and commended him for his grace under pressure. Then he told me something that absolutely made my night. He said that while I was holding my arms between him and the jerk, he reached down by his wheel and grabbed the guy’s ankle. He said with mischievous glee and a twinkle in his eyes, “I tripped him.” He held onto the guy’s ankle at the exact moment I started pushing him. That is why the guy stumbled as I was bulldozing him over to the side of the barricade. And that’s one reason he wasn’t able to attack any of us. I laughed heartily at this revelation. Then in my best Jack Black voice, I sang the Tenacious D lyric, “THAT’S FUCKIN’ TEAMWORK!”