30 November 2008
Not Womanized, But Threatened And Assaulted
Not to delve into the excessively superficial and utterly meaningless, but just a quick recap on what can only be described as the most abysmal event I have ever attended.
Last night some fellow LSE-ers and I ventured to a local nightclub called Heaven for "Britney Spears Night." Rumors had been swirling all week that Britney herself would be performing (or at least appearing) live at the venue. Of course, by the time we were in line, they didn't seem like rumors anymore. This "non-appearance" had been reported on SkyTV, MTV and in three of the major daily newspapers here in London. She was going to be there and everyone knew it.
Being Master's students in media and communication, we ran a chi squared test which resulted in a very low P-value, so we did not reject our null hypothesis that there was in fact a correlation between mainstream media coverage and attendance numbers (controlling for the Britney-factor) and arrived a solid hour before the doors even opened.
Chaos was already ensuing and overzealous bouncers were wandering through the lines selecting people they didn't like and telling them to leave for no apparent reason. We somehow made it inside and headed straight for the stage, where Britney was obviously "NOT" going to appear. The music was great, the energy was high and people could feel it - she was in the house. At about 12:30am large, mysterious-looking bouncers (read: Britney's own security detail) started clearing the stage of all riff-raff who had decided to hop up and dance, even though Britney was NOT appearing. As a sidenote, they still had yet to play a Britney song on "Britney Night," a further signal that should would in-fact be showing up.
Because of our early arrival we're right in the front, elbows on the stage. The room begins to fill. And fill. And fill. About 30 minutes pass and tech folks are checking speakers, etc. etc. All things you do when someone is NOT performing. Another 15 go by and the owner of the club appears. People start cheering and chanting "Britney! Britney!" What do you think this schmuck's opening line is to a packed house all expecting to see Spears? "I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that Britney Spears will not be performing tonight. The good news is that some of you might get a glimpse of her if you go to the Pop Room next door." The booing begins. This guy wants all 2000 of us to now pour into a neighboring room that is roughly one tenth the size of the room we're in?
This is the part of the evening where everything goes severely downhill incredibly fast. What was once an excited orderly crowd becomes a fainting, frightened angry mob. Medics appear and begin to pull "crushed" people out of the crowd, shuffling them out of the venue. Then the stage clears again and another medic appears with about 20 water bottles, which she promptly begins handing to the people at the front (us included). Great, 20 water bottles for 2000 people. People are fainting and fighting but at the least the front row is hydrated.
There is honestly and truly nowhere for us to go. I'd have been happy to follow the owner's request and move to the Pop Room, but I was absolutely stuck - a four-feet stage to my front and a couple thousand people behind. I had zero options. The owner appears again to reinforce this notion that she is "not showing up," so disband! Now, honestly, do you really expect 2000 people to just up and leave after waiting two hours to NOT see Britney Spears at the venue NOT set up for her to perform on the stage NOT prepped for a live gig surrounded by the mass of media photographers NOT there to snap her picture?
He disappears once more and all of a sudden the bouncers allow a small group of people on stage to dance. Apparently this is supposed to signal that the show is, in fact, not taking place. Still, what exactly are we supposed to do? Naturally, these brilliant security guards had a fabulous idea. They would just forcibly pull another 100 or so people from the crowd up onto the stage. Yes, that will help! Being in the front, the posse I came with and I were all yanked onto stage, which was now covered with people and seriously wobbling. So, what did they do with us next? Force us into an alleyway behind the venue, then threaten to "have us arrested" if we didn't clear out immediately, telling us to "go back to the front entrance and come in again."
Um, what? I didn't ask to be pulled onto stage. I showed up early and followed all the rules, only to end up in an alleyway at 3am, coat held hostage inside at the coat check. So we all plodded around to the front entrance in the cold and rain, only to arrive and be told that we would have to GET IN LINE AND PAY AGAIN to re-enter. Yet again, um, what?!?! I flashed my coat-check stubs as proof of already having entered, only to be told I needed a re-entry stamp. Sorry, they weren't handing those out when we got shoved into a back alley. My bad.
Fortunately, one friend stayed strong and got us in to get our coats. We're now waiting in the packed lobby attempting to scoot through. My friend notices a fresh water bottle on the counter, picks it up, drinks it and puts it back on the counter. "You better throw that in the trash," the security guard says to her. "Sir, there are no trash cans and there is trash everywhere," she retorted. The security guard - a paid employee - then proceeds to pick up the water bottle and throw it at her face. Mystified, she picks it up and throws it back. He then gets on his walkie-talkie, yelping for a female security guard to come and escort her out. I ask the man for his name and he doesn't say a word. I ask again. Nothing. So we've now been lied to, squashed, forced into an alleyway, threatened with arrest and assaulted by a security guard. Wow, what a night.
Meanwhile, while the main room is full of absolute carnage, this is what's happening in the next room, which just reinforces the absurdity of this evening:
By now we're all fed up. A few others goes in and free all the coats of their shackles while this friend and I proceed outside with the female security guard, who apologizes for her coworker and tells us that she doesn't even know his name. Seriously? What is this place? Furious and exhausted, we start to head home and just as we pass the alleyway where we were first dumped, the Britney entourage of a BMW and three Mercedes vans roll past. A symbolic end to a horrific evening.
Now, in all fairness, they never "officially" said Britney would be there. They did, however, set up a stage, invite tons of press and, at one point, send the owner on stage to tell everyone Britney was in attendance. Regardless of when or how people were told, they were in fact told. And yes, the alternative of going to the "Pop Room" was offered, but to 2000 people who had become one giant mass of humanity. That was not a reasonable option.
Britney aside, the real issue is the terrible event management. Why not limit entry, so as not to create the world's greatest fire hazard? All things considered, it's no wonder Britney's staff and security detail didn't want her to come into the larger room. And how about being forced onto stage then shoved into an alleyway, only to be told we would be "arrested" if we didn't "clear out" and subsequently made to PAY AGAIN to enter a venue we had just been forcibly removed from with no just cause?
So then, what now? Don't buy the new album? That goes without saying. But what to do about the treatment at the club. Who do you call? Who protects citizen's rights in this situation? And all of a sudden you begin to realize that you're teeny tiny in the big wheel of power. A mega celeb shows up at a small venue. She is backed by poor planning and a negligent club owner who puts thousands of people in danger by over-selling an event to make as much money as possible dumps you in an alley and threatens to have you arrested just before you're assaulted by a "security guard." Meanwhile, he is sharing cake with said mega celeb before leaving in a private, chauffeured car. Yeah, that makes sense.