Don't take your guns to town, especially the clubs

In no way is this enhanced by violence.
In no way is this enhanced by violence.
Photo by Adam DeGross

I want to get back to complaining about awful dancing, cliched songwriting, ill-advised tattoos, and singers who are convinced they're Freddie Mercury reincarnated. This past weekend's violent incident at 400 Soundbar that left nine wounded from gunshots won't let me just yet.

From the Hexagon Bar to First Avenue to Target Field, there are oh so many Twin Cities venues where feedback, bass, and lyricism ring out and bond us. Every time violence breaks out, that bond gets tremors, cold sweats, hypertension, and ponders its own mortality.

Packing a gun, a knife, or even the intent to harm someone with your fists might seem like a great idea to the Boondock Saints, Bad Girls Club, and Call of Duty-addled mind. But these revenge fantasies taking place in over-packed clubs are wildly unoriginal and mind-bogglingly selfish. There's a considerable risk that the beef you had with another person balloons into beef with several hundred who are now angry that you fucked up their Saturday night. Not to mention that such acts are illegal and punishable by law. It's like you're wearing a tiara and parading your deadly beef-elorette party around the city. Get over yourself.

Our citizens have the right to safely dance, rock, and generally toast their weekend in establishments other than their studio apartments, and Kevlar never looks slimming. Clerks, hairdressers, janitors, teachers, bus drivers, librarians, bellhops, and thousands of other hard-working souls with blue, white, and no-collar appointments all week long are the people who make the cities run. A violent disruption to the few hours a person can spend in a state of relaxation each week is the grandest of larceny.

There's no such thing as an isolated incident. Be it a club in the warehouse district, a dance night on the West Bank, or at a hip-hop show on the edge of downtown, these events have legs. Every time there's violence at any club, people think twice about going out and spending money into the entertainment economy. Politicians and law enforcement hold up music events as scapegoats. Backers think twice about sinking money into venues. Those venues have to spend more on security and metal detectors. DJs, musicians, and club employees lose income. Higher taxes and insurance rates mean ticket and drink prices have nowhere to go but up. And, worst of all, hand-wringing bloggers write blogs.

Back in May, Compton rapper YG performed at First Avenue. The last time the 24-year-old star hit town with Yo Gotti, a man was shot and killed at Epic. (And Epic's calendar has been quite bare since then.) So it was understandable that security was tight, and there was genuine concern on the faces of First Avenue staff on the night of this show. Things still got a tad ugly that night, but peril was averted -- sort of.


I was hopping back and forth between the mainroom and the 7th St. Entry. Connan Mockasin was strumming psychedelic bliss as the bass thudded next door. Every so often, personnel rushed through to respond to a flashing red light -- as it is a part of their job description -- and it was tough not to get angry at whomever decided their personal bullshit would be what people were paying to experience that night. Night in and night out, security staffs risk their necks so that we can blow off steam, and have to run towards conflict instead of away from it. How 'bout saving them that trouble?

400 Soundbar owner Johann Sfaellos is low-hanging blame fruit when violence breaks out in his club. Even if some tawdry stuff has happened there, he's not the guy who pulled the trigger. From the description of 400 on its website, there's nothing about it that says "Maniacs Welcome," either. If you think closing this establishment makes every gun-toting philistine go, "Well, that was the only place I'm willing to show my face," think again.

So what do we do? Sure, Sfaellos needs work harder to ensure his businesses are safe. Sure, politicians will use events like this to justify stiffening gun laws. But all of us -- peace-lovers, indifferent armchair troglodytes, and rage fiends alike -- have to bear some of the responsibility when safety slips away from our nightlife. Dress codes and pat-downs are the dehumanizing side of creating security in our nightclubs, so pack some extra patience, decency, and awareness in that handbag. Maybe hold off on making jokes about someone getting stabbed anywhere for any reason. Unless you're Drake or Karen O, nothing in a room filled with thousands of people is all about you.

To quote The Big Lebowski's Walter Sobchak, "This affects all of us, man." Keep your eyes and ears open, monitor your friends, treat security and law enforcement with respect, and -- for the love -- leave your weapons of all kinds at home.

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