Three Things I Learned Working Club Security

I recently volunteered to help work security at a concert being held at a large club, and the experience was interesting. I've been going to concerts since the early 1980s, ranging from punk bands playing backyard parties or small clubs to huge festivals at arenas, and have seen countless bands since then. I was also a member of a couple of bands that toured extensively, so I've seen the way venues of all sizes operate many times over. But I'd never actually worked as security for a show in any official capacity, so when the opportunity arose, I decided I'd enjoy trying to see what that job was like.

I arrived at the venue early as instructed, and after being introduced to the serious-looking, muscular guy who was heading the security team for the event, I changed into the shirt he handed me that read "Security" in huge letters on the back. Then I just hung around waiting for a while until the club opened. After I made it clear that I had no real experience working security, the team leader allowed me to guard the club's back exit, which seemed easy enough. "Just stand here and look big," he said. "You shouldn't have a problem doing that." I agreed, seeing as how I'm six foot four and weigh somewhere in the neighborhood of 250 pounds. The two basic functions I had were to not allow anyone to re-enter once he or she left, and to not allow anyone to leave with any alcohol. There were a few other guidelines I needed to follow, but those were the two big ones. A couple of hours later, the club began to fill with music fans, and my night officially began. So what did I learn from this experience?
3. People Wanted to Leave the Club and Re-Enter. A LOT.
The show I was working at had a strict no re-entry policy, which had been announced months previously. When I've attended concerts, I've just never really thought to leave and come back, and didn't realize that a lot of people apparently expect to be able to do so. Early on, two or three groups of people asked to leave so they could go eat somewhere. I had to keep telling people no, and got asked over and over why that wasn't allowed. It's not allowed for a lot of reasons, but one of them is it becomes a huge pain in the ass for people providing security or working the door at a show. I had to question why adults would choose to attend a concert without eating first anyway. I always plan ahead for things like that.

Numerous other individuals wanted to return to their car for one reason or another. Some had band merchandise they'd bought and wanted to stow so they wouldn't have to carry it around all night; others had forgotten cell phones; and some didn't offer any reason at all. A couple more wanted to "just leave for a second, to say hi to someone in line." Nope. Not tonight. Fortunately, almost everyone respected the policy after a firm no, and I didn't get into any arguments over it.

My favorite attempt was a strange one. Two middle-aged guys approached me and both started yammering on, asking if a couple they knew could walk back to their car so one of them could get her medicine, which she'd forgotten. Both of the guys spinning their story seemed to be pretty inebriated, and I asked why the couple couldn't come and ask me themselves. A few minutes later, they returned with a middle-aged man and woman. I asked them what was going on, and heard a slightly different version of the same story. After speaking to another guy on the security team who advised me that I should let one of them go retrieve the lady's medicine, I told all four of their group that I'd allow that. For some reason, none of them wanted to go that route, and they walked off. It seemed odd that an entire group wanted to go back to their car for one person's medicine, but that wasn't going to happen. I'll keep any suspicions I was having to myself, in case I'm wrong, but come on...I wasn't born yesterday.

When it comes down to it, not allowing re-entry accomplishes a couple of things. It makes an event safer for everyone attending, and it helps to prevent people from sneaking into the show.
2. Dealing With Drunks Requires a Lot of Patience.
Anyone who doesn't drink but hangs out around people who drink a lot already knows this: Drunk people can be boring or exhausting to be around. I spent quite a bit of time over the night getting talked at (which is different from having a conversation) by strangers who decided that I was their new best bud. Since I was working a specific area, I couldn't just abandon my post and walk away like I would if I were hanging out at a club for fun. Although most of the people who attended this concert seemed to be having a good time responsibly, it's unsurprising to me that in the few instances I saw of people acting like creeps, the person acting badly was inebriated. If a person works at any sort of club or venue where alcohol is served, dealing with drunks just goes with the territory, and it takes a certain type of personality to be able to do that without wanting to strangle them.
1. The People Working at Clubs Deserve a Lot of Credit.
This isn't some new revelation to me, but helping out with the concert was a good reminder that the people working an event have a serious and sometimes tough job keeping things running smoothly so the people who came out can have a good time. It may be hard for people attending an event to understand why certain rules are enforced, but they're in place to keep people safe and to make sure the night goes well for everyone involved. It turns out that keeping an event attended by hundreds of people running well is a lot of work, and takes a huge team effort to accomplish. My brief gig working security at a show was fun, but it also demanded that I use conflict-resolution skills and be able to manage a variety of unforeseen scenarios. In short, it kept me on my toes. Would I do it again? Absolutely. It was interesting and eye-opening being on the other side of things. Also, I'm pretty good at "Looking big."
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Chris Lane is a contributing writer who enjoys covering art, music, pop culture, and social issues.