A Bucket Full of Knives and Other Tales from Working in the Concert Industry
“He pointed at me, and I know he wanted me to come up on stage,” said an attractive, drunk, 30ish-year-old woman at Nelly’s concert. As the event manager for the arena, it was part of my job to kick people out, especially if they tried to rush the stage. Even though I was escorting her out with help from my security staff, she decided that she liked me. “You get it. I know you understand,” she said about nothing in particular as I continued to gently lead her to the gate, nodding in agreement and propping her up a little as we went.
The Nelly superfan fit the profile of the type of concertgoer who caused me the most trouble during my year on the job — 30-year-old women out for a night on the town. Teenagers and people in their 20s rarely caused issues (or perhaps couldn’t afford tickets), and middle-aged folks generally spent a lot of time wishing that the people in front of them would sit down. Ladies in their 30’s, though, were there for a good time.
“She threw up ON MY HEAD!” a patron said at the I Love the 90’s show. Seats in an arena are perfectly positioned so that if you puke, it lands directly on the head on the person in front of you. Instead of apologizing, the puker proceeded to curl up and take a nap in her plastic seat; therefore, the pukee’s anger was directed squarely at me. “ON. MY. HEAD.” she repeated as I was relocating her to a fresh seat, knowing she had about a 30% chance of it happening again.
Several women at the Kip Moore concert punched each other in the face for unkown reasons.
The walk to my car after work was treacherous — located directly under the interstate, the employee lot was a flowing river of bird poop. My co-workers were disturbingly alright with the quantity of bird poop (and bird remnants). I learned how to tiptoe and sprint simultaneously to avoid stepping in it or having it land on my head. The finance director would casually wave as she walked out, not noticing my delicate dance as she rolled her briefcase through an inch-deep pool. The staff would barely even flinch when a bird would dive-bomb them indoors. About five survived in the building by drinking old mop water and would circle ominously overhead at all times. I’m pretty some of them lasted longer than I did at the arena.
The birds were like part of a curse on the building that caused people and objects to function poorly. The elevator only broke twice during my time there and both times were on the same day — when Mannheim Steamroller was playing. While children were streaming in for a sold-out circus show, a car hit a deer in front of the building — not a typical occurrence, considering the arena is in the middle of downtown. The deer wasn’t quite dead, so a police officer walking by decided to “take care of the situation” as children watched in horror from the sidewalk and skyways. Several women at the Kip Moore concert punched each other in the face for unknown reasons. During one of the smallest events — an indoor football match — a group of drunken guys ganged up on my best rolling cart and broke it. That probably bothered me a disproportionate amount, compared to the various affronts to humanity that regularly took place around me at work.
Our typical staffing plan was to throw about 20 retired folks into a crowd of 4,000 drunk people.
“Can we please make a note that Monster Truck drivers need pens to sign autographs?” my co-worker asked me, perturbed. After the show, the drivers sauntered upstairs to the concourse with empty hands as approximately 3,000 fans waited for them to sign various loudly-colored t-shirts and toy cars. As soon as I realized this, I rushed to grab the closest pens, which happened to belong to this particular co-worker. “I buy my own pens, you know,” she said.
At our weekly operational meetings, I was positioned the approximate distance of a firing squad away from the rest of the staff as I took “post-mortem” notes about what went well and what went poorly. The room we used for the meetings was meant to be a “pre-concert lounge,” but almost none of the concerts sold well enough to bother opening it.
“Did you get that? Did you get that?” my boss would ask, making sure I wrote down every comment made about the usher and security staff that I supervised. Our typical staffing plan was to throw about 20 retired folks into a crowd of 4,000 drunk people, so there was always plenty of material. “The ushers weren’t stopping people from dancing in the aisles,” my co-workers would say.
“Can you cut down on the number of ushering staff? The show isn’t selling so hot,” my boss would ask a couple of days before a concert.
As I neared, about 50 women pointed in silent unison at one man.
Right before the Dierks Bentley concert, one of my ushers handed me a plastic container full of knives and said, “I’m not sure what to do with these.” As patrons were walking through the newly installed metal detectors to go to the show, this usher mistakenly collected everyone’s knives, thinking he was supposed to hold on to them instead of asking people to return them to their cars. In the ten minutes before he realized his mistake, he had collected at least 50 knives and had no idea which knife belonged to whom. “Should we pass them out to people as they leave?” he asked.
During the show, I heard the vague call, “We need security on the floor,” over the radio. This was not an unusual thing to hear when there was a concert with a general admission floor, but it was always hard to figure out who the instigator was due to the haze being pumped into the air and the loud music, which caused people to have to shout the problem into my ear. On this occasion, it was easy to figure out who the culprit was. As I neared the floor, about 50 women pointed in silent unison at one man, who was aimlessly spinning in circles with his arms outstretched just enough to lightly brush up against all of the women around him, driving them nuts. After I removed him, he decided to continue his space-invading dance with the police officers outside the venue, who promptly tackled him to the ground.
“Are you aware that one of your staff held on to people’s items after they went through the metal detectors?” a co-worker asked during our post-mortem meeting.
“Yes, because I have a bucket of knives in my desk drawer,” I responded.