Court of the Ginger King: Shitty Venues

As music fans, all of you have probably been to many concerts in your lives and many of you have been to shitty venues. What makes these venues shitty? Is it the people? The building? The rules the venue has? The promoters? What is it? I recently had the pleasure of visiting one of the finer establishments in Chicago, the Double Door. Although this venue and my rant is venue specific, it is indicative of a problem found in music today… the shitty venue.

First, some history, if you will. The Double Door used to be cool. It was on the cutting edge of the alternative music scene of the 90’s, its owners also own the Metro, which is in fact the furthest thing from a shitty venue, and in all honesty, it is an amazing venue. But in recent times, the Double Door has accepted some horrible policies, hired some horrible employees and, in general, has been unaccommodating to music fans.

Let’s recap an exchange I had attempting to attend a recent show. (Keep in mind, I was told I was on the press list with a plus one and allowed a camera.)

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

It’s a rainy, shitty night out, and I walk a foot into the venue, where a shorter muscle head bouncer asks for my ID.  Another foot forward, a tall fat guy bouncer asks for my ID, where soon after, I finally make it to the most important person at the concert, apparently (above five groups, mind you): the list name checker woman.

“Umm, sorry, your name isn’t on here, could you step aside?”

I make a call, I pull up a confirmation email on my phone, and I get two contact names from the bands off the email. This should be enough information for any hard-edged name checker lady.

I walk a foot into the venue again. The same shorter, muscle head bouncer asks for my ID, and after yet another foot, the same, tall, fat guy bouncer asks for my ID, after which, I finally make it to the most important person at the concert again… the list name checker woman. Deja vu, anyone?

“Well here are those names you gave me, they are on the final guest list sheet for the headliner.”

Sweet, I am going to get in after all, thank you technology by making up for a clerical error.

“Someone would have to come up here and talk to production and myself for you to be allowed in, tickets are still available for 20 dollars. If you aren’t going to buy any, could you step aside please?”

Wow, I am super glad she knew to push the tickets for 20 bucks! Budweiser and Mad Croc would be very proud.

Which reminds me, when the fuck did venues just partner up with beer and drink companies? I can get an assortment of beers and drinks at The Metro or other places, but it better be an Anheuser-Busch product at the DD, oh and if you are particularly thirsty try a Mad Croc and Well Vodka, because when you can only drink a poor Red Bull imitation, why go with anything else but whatever “well”-vodka they have lying around. But to be fair, the bartenders at the Double Door for the most part make their drinks strong and are quick with the water for the dancers in the crowd. But then again, bartenders understand how to please their customers, so they can always get jobs, and venues usually go out of business when they suck.

Speaking of dancing, the show this all took place at was a dance electronica headliner with numerous DJ’s opening for them. This was a 21 and over show, and while drinks were flowing, the main focus is usually the dancing and socializing at any show like this. Whether this tidbit is true or not, I was told by two different event goers that one of the DJ’s was asked to leave after his set because he was underage. If this did happen, rumors are rumors after all, real smooth, guys!

Whew, and you know what is excellent after being stuck in a venue with little to zero circulation, sweaty dancers, and absolutely delicious Budweiser products?

Wouldn’t you know, a fifteen minute wait inside to get a laminated smoking pass to be allowed to walk outside and smoke. Now, I realize the smoking ban changes a lot of things, but when doors to a show open at 8 P.M. and the headliner finishes at 1:15A.M., you need a better way to let people breathe or smoke then a total of 10 laminated smoking hall passes. What kind of fucked up world do we live in where people out of college need to be given a fucking hall pass to leave a venue for a minute?

So back to the story, as myself and 3 friends walk outside with our hall passes, we decide to walk away from the 20-30 people congregating right in front and walk down the street a little. I mean, what is 30 feet when you have a sweet ass hall pass, am I right? As we light up our fine Camel tobacco products, up comes tall fat bouncer guy asking us where we are going and what we are doing?

Last I checked, we waited in line for 15 minutes to go outside and now we are smoking, but of course my professionalism takes over and I answer with, “We wanted to get away from all the people by the door, it’s hot as shit inside.”

He responds with, “I need you guys closer so I can keep my eyes on you”

Mommy, the big scary bouncer is keeping his eyes on me. Apparently, when I try to enter a concert on a press list with names of contacts and a camera, I must be trying to cause a ruckus; I should remember that for future reference.

So we comply because we don’t want to get detention, because, hey, I need my weekends free. But of course, the name checker lady had to make an appearance. So, she comes outside and proceeds to tell everyone smoking to hurry up because people are waiting to come outside and, to quote, “Everyone better put their butts in the ashtray can because I don’t want to sweep up after you guys.”

Daddy, Ms. Name Checker Lady (as I’ll label her from now on) is acting like a bitch.

At this point, I have to settle down my photographer who is ready to snap off on this woman and was already saying shit about her inside. As for me, I’m still calm and in disbelief at the whole evening.

So as the evening progresses with dancing and ventilation problems, I notice another thing. When did venues decide to model their sound systems after pimped out truck sound systems? Never at a show have I heard more bass and nothing else. I understand it’s a dance show, but bass heavy dance is kind of a thing of the late 90’s, which coincidentally is actually the heyday of the Double Door.

I am going to be straight with everyone. I am a big guy and I was going through a cold at this show, so I wasn’t drinking, I was drinking water after water to try and stay hydrated and flush out my toxins. So when the headliner finished, I downed my last chug of water because I didn’t want to leave the venue with any liquids in a cup. I did however want the cup of ice for my sore throat.  I would be willing to explain this to any teacher waiting outside for me or any Chicago cop. I have a clean record, I am born and raised in the actual city and I know Chicago cops, I’m not worried for myself. So, okay, back to the story…

I walk two feet out of the venue. My arm is grabbed forcibly and ice is spilled onto my sick, sweat-ridden body. Who is it? NAME CHECKER LADY. This fucking woman grabs my arm with absolutely nothing said beforehand, spills ice all over me, then yells in my face, “NO OPEN CONTAINERS ON THE STREET!” I respond with, “IT’S ICE FROM MY WATER! I’M SICK!” I then am pushed in the back from some person standing around, to which I have to rip this woman’s arm off of me, but not before she makes sure to ruin the cup and spill more ice on me. I make a move for the guy, he scurries away. Where I then proceed to walk towards the EL to go home. From a distance,  she yells, “I hope you don’t plan on coming back here, you aren’t allowed at another show here, asshole!”

Okay, that’s my story. So, where does it leave us? Oh, the core topic.

Venues need to stop hiring people who don’t understand passion and entertainment. Music is a passion for some and entertainment for others. Going to a concert can be a great time; you can take a special someone there and make it the start to a great night or a great relationship. Other times, you can bring a long time friend and have a night out that you can reflect on later, perhaps when you are taking care of each other’s kids. Other times, you might just need to dance or yell or even mosh.

Why ruin it by providing a bad experience at the venue? Not everyone is belligerent and angry when they drink and not everyone drinks at shows. Also, with tobacco killing people left and right, I accept state’s decisions to not allow smoking inside, but smoking is part of a night out and for many it is an addiction. Why treat it as a nuisance? Smokers talk and when a venue is anti-smoker, people will know it. Now, I understand marketing will forever be involved in music, but pause for a minute and remember that the beers each place sell send out a message. For example, a venue selling only Bud = kind of lame, whereas a venue selling Bud and everything else = kind of cool.

A concert or a night of music isn’t people at a bar; people are paying premium prices to come into your establishment, or venues. I am not asking you to act like angels or servants, that would be asking way too much, all I’m asking for is an appreciation of music and the fans of music. We love music, we love shelling out money for music and entertainment and we talk. Let music fans enjoy our music and enjoy our nights out! If not, you will be hearing about it from myself and any other music fans that are finished with shitty venues ruining shows for us.

That reminds me, for the music fans, if you are reading this and remember your own shitty venue story, let’s fucking hear it out! Don’t be fucking quiet! Let’s start a conversation on how to fix some problems.

To the Double Door owners: You guys are Chicago people, you own the The Metro too, that place is amazing, the people are amazing, there are few problems and it is one of the finest venues in the country. I implore you to take a look at the Double Door, because it has struggled to keep up to the high level of quality it attained in years prior.

Court adjourned.

Special Thanks to Joseph Wiegand for the new logo.

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