Friday, November 15

Can’t take the mosh? Stay out of the pit


Monday, October 14, 1996

COLUMN:

Concert venues should not be blamed for random violence

Sneak a nose pick during rush hour on the 405 freeway; poke all
the elevator buttons and piss off those of us on our way to the
32nd floor; but stop pointing those darn index fingers at the
innocent ­ despite the assholes they may be.

Our most recent winner of The Blame Game is that lucky gal who
successfully sued her cigarette manufacturer for giving her cancer.
Who knew the things were carcinogenic? Certainly not she, as she
puffed a big non-filtered after every meal ­ while held at
gunpoint, of course, by the tobacco tyrants.

America’s mad rush to win at The Blame Game is understandable
­ its cash and prizes may total millions of dollars and a
feeling of smug satisfaction. But the corporate sponsors of this
show aren’t limited to Turtle Wax and the guys that make those
tacky porcelain dalmations.

Those of us cursed with more integrity and common sense often
end up footing the bills of the litigation-happy legions, as
companies pass those costs onto us. This may not matter to those of
you who don’t smoke, bungee jump, get plastic surgery (yeah, sure
they’re real) or leave your homes ­ ever ­ but for
concert-goers, this poses a potential problem.

Hopefully, cancer lady will stick to Streisand and Mariah Carey.
If not, you can bet she’s diving right into the mosh pit with all
of the other rebellious teens and twentysomethings. And when
someone breaks her nose, her leg or that busy index finger of hers,
she’ll run straight to her lawyers and cry "negligence." But who is
being negligent? The venue and its security guards who are often no
match for a packed room of buzzed rock fans, or the fan who insists
on putting himself or (more often) herself in danger, in hopes that
someone will bail her out?

Yeah, it’s too bad that the ex-frat party crowd, the angry
pseudo-punk and the generic jerk get their kicks by ramming into
people or simply socking them in the face, oblivious to the music
the rest of us came to hear. It’s too bad that those of us under 6
feet, 210 pounds must now enjoy a show from the balcony or the
lobby.

But we wee folks must pick our battles.

And one not to pick is the scruff with the 300-pound
flannel-clad guy in front of you named Bruno. He’s going to win. I
learned this the hard way, when ­ at 5 feet, 2 inches and 120
pounds ­ moshers stopped picking me up off the ground at
concerts. I’d go home with shoemarks on my cheek and beer stains on
my back. Since then, the balcony has looked pretty good.

But the crueler, more futile battle is the one waged on the
venue, who is often blamed (read: sued) for whatever random
violence may occur at a show, regardless of how tight security
is.

Security guards can be jerks ­ at times, they are the
cause, not the solution, for violence during a show. But, despite
their best efforts to curb a rowdy, aggressive crowd, people still
get hurt ­ sometimes, even killed, as a female fan did during
a Smashing Pumpkins show in Ireland.

Some of this is easy to avoid. If you value your clothes, facial
structure and internal organs, keep yourself and your attitude away
from the front of the stage. Even the clueless newcomers, unaware
of the potential for violence in mosh pits, should heed the warning
of the 20-foot horizontal and vertical shifts in the crowd, as
idiots shove each other and fly from the stage into the crowd (and
sometimes, the floor).

But there is absolutely no excuse for veteran concert goers to
point fingers when injured at a show, unless the finger is at the
one who threw that shoe, beer bottle or clench-fisted punch. When
there are 2,000 kids and only 20 security guards, there is no way
they can control every move. Even if guards tripled their numbers,
there is still an opportunity for someone to get knocked out. Those
in the pit should know that they are taking their chances.

But what about those who do take precautions and keep away from
dangerous areas? The intelligent masses who line the walls and
balconies, sacrificing some of the show’s excitement for their
safety, don’t always come away unscathed. While this is certainly a
shame, it is even less the fault of the venue. The security guards
should not be blamed; they must be placed where there is the most
potential for danger ­ near the stage. If they were scattered
all over, people would complain about that instead. And even if
they are close at hand, the random act of aggression is often not
foreseeable or avoidable ­ only punishable, by throwing the
offensive thug out onto the street.

Despite the understandable fact that violated people want
someone to blame, pinning the law suit on the closest vulnerable
establishment is not the answer. It is not helpful, or even
sensible ­ it’s just selfish. Law suits against the venue
­ like those against a city or a company ­ often suck up
funds that were used to solve the problem in question. To pay
damages and rising insurance costs resulting from a lawsuit, venues
will have to cut back on security, safety lighting and other
negotiable costs (as opposed to rent).

The other thing they can do is raise ticket prices. Actually,
this may solve the problem. Adding three or four dollars to the
already-inflated Ticketmaster ticket price may keep away many of
the out-of-work, out-of-line creeps who only show up to bust some
heads. But the fee hikes may keep you out, as well. Even if it
doesn’t, it eats into your post-show chow stash or your parking
funds. Who needs this on a college budget? Pose this question to
the next bitter, bruised mosher who demands retribution for her
injuries. As she flicks her cigarette at you in indignant disgust,
be sure to remind her, "Those things can kill you." Just don’t tell
her they could also make her a millionaire.

Kristin Fiore is a fifth-year student majoring in Art
History.

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