I’m from out of town, it’s true. I used to live in New York City, and I’m used to some of the self-important attitudes that are naturally occurring in the city. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, and particularly in a city of 8 million people. You have places to go, so do I. I understand entirely that often, you’re actually more important than I am. You’re an important person and people should respect you, right?
Well, there’s a difference between commanding respect and demanding respect. I wish that the door staff at Bowery Ballroom would recognize this distinction because they’re inciting people to behave badly towards them. You gotta recognize: it’s not the golden ’70s and ’80s where velvet ropes and hand-picking who comes into your club is the rule of thumb. CMJ brings millions of dollars into the economy of New York City — drinks, dinners, hotels, taxi cabs — on an annual basis. Among the arrangements they have, one crucial one is with the venues, to allow a certain number of badge holders in for each event. There is usually a “cut-off”, but as anyone who has ever been to CMJ will tell you that figure is consistently arbitrary. By arbitrary, I mean someone decides to make a cut-off at a certain point even before the club is at capacity — in some cases before it’s anywhere even close. It has long been suspected that this cut-off happens to encourage additional ticket sales from badge holders who desperately want to see the show. The club knows they can get away with it, and an extra $20-50 a pop in their pocket is money that doesn’t have to be paid out to anyone but themselves.
I can’t tell you what a hassle I’ve had, both last year and this year, getting into shows with my CMJ badge. Some, I could understand before I even got there (The Knife at Webster Hall was way oversold, I knew I couldn’t get in). But at Bowery Ballroom, I went to two seperate showcases well before midnight and was turned away with my badge. I saw lines formed down the street in front of the club. To my good fortune, I was escorted into both of those shows by folks who had some pull with the organizers, and what I found inside was upsetting to me.
The place was barely half-filled both times.
After paying for a CMJ badge, which “doesn’t guarantee admission”, there should at least be some system in place where you know whether or not you’ve even got a chance to get in. Instead, people come to the venue, wait, and are treated like shit by the unfriendly and defensive security team at the door. I understand needing to keep a clear path and to keep people safe, but do you really have to talk threateningly to that tiny, unassuming girl who accidentally blocked the door for two seconds, unaware she’s causing a problem? Do you really have to approach people in an agressive manner and talk to them like they’re ruining your night just because they’re smoking? Is it necessary to talk down to people just because it’s so obvious that you hate your job? Are you aware that people mistake your aggressiveness as racism? I don’t take it that way because, look, I understand everyone comes from some rough & tumble shit in their lives at some point. But I heard more than one person say to me, thinking I would agree with them, “Can you believe those fucking n*****s at the Bowery?”
I can’t decide what’s worse: hearing someone call these hard-working people a bunch of n*****s or having those same hard-working people treating the club patrons like dirt. And believe me: I went to a lot of clubs in Manhattan and Brooklyn on my last two CMJ trips. It *really is* just Bowery Ballroom and nowhere else.
I’m not suggesting that anyone do anything untoward. In fact, it would only make things worse if you did. But it frightens me to think that one day, one of those door people is going to act towards some lunatic the way they acted towards me and the people I was visiting with and that person isn’t going to take it anymore. That lunatic is going to be so incensed by the way they were treated, they’re going to go home and get a gun and start shooting at the door people at Bowery Ballroom. Someone is going to get hurt or die, and to think it could have all been resolved by simply having some basic fucking manners.
I know your job is hard. Life is hard. Life sucks. Was I killing myself to be at Bowery that night for some show? Would it have killed you to show some fucking human decency to the people I was there with? Even when my name was on the list, could you have mellowed out for a second? Who is telling you to behave like animals towards the patrons of your club?
We just want to see some good music, have a few drinks, and hang out with our friends.
On the flip side of this whole thing, if people were a bit more conscientious about their surroundings and figured out the difference between right and wrong, it’s possible a lot of the unpleasant exchanges could be avoided.
But really it comes down to that arbitrary number of CMJ badge holders who are allowed into the club and the bloated guest lists generated by people who don’t even bother to show up for the shows. If you RSVP, then show up. If you’re not sure, then *don’t RSVP*. Your RSVP means someone who actually wants to see the band, who likes the band, doesn’t get to go in because you had to have your option in place.
If we can all work this shit out, life will be much better for visitors to NYC like me, for club patrons, and for the people who work there.
I’m just saying, yo. Think about this shit. None of it is solid gold, right?