I Used To Take People’s Money at Punk Shows. This is What I’ve Learned.

Not here, but pretty close.

I’ve made a career of standing in doorways. Either I or a friend would organize a show for bands to play and I was the limbo between “at the show” and “outside the show.” There are only a few jobs for an evening of socializing amongst one’s peers, and one of them is standing in the entrance to the venue and collect money from each person attending the event. I’ve learned that people never want to pay for things if they can avoid it. That’s why i’m there to crack the whip. I’m the gatekeeper and people will try everything to get past me without paying. Here are a few:

No. 1: The “Dasher.” This person waits until there’s a long line of decent humans willing to pay to see musicians play. The Dasher sees the long line and squeezes past the crowd at the door. Usually there’s a bunch of people giving me money at once, so i’ve got my hands full. I’m stamping hands, giving change, making sure someone gave me the right amount of money. The Dasher gets away with sneaking in because there’s usually people who’ve paid already walking in and out of the venue. They’ve got a stamp on their hand, or if its a smaller show, I can usually remember them (most of the time I know everyone at the show anyway).

If I could stereotype the kind of person who does this, it’s usually a young punk. Median age being twenty. They’ve just discovered punk and know that THE SYSTEM CREATES A CORRUPT FUTURE and better yet just NO FUTURE! and every opportunity to practice that new found punkness is a way to demonstrate how much they hate everything. What they haven’t read yet in their copy of Please Kill Me/American Hardcore/Steal This Book is that you should never dismantle the community you love and thrive in (this goes the same for shoplifting from local businesses. Unless it’s a KKK outfitter, steal from the big box stores, not the hippy hemp store owned by the guy who also does your elderly neighbors taxes for extra cash).

No 2: The Unprepared Cheapskate. This person acts surprised when you tell them the amount they need to pay to get into the show. They’ve always just got one single dollar. “I’ve only got a dollar!” they’ll say. “I didn’t know how much i’d be to get in!” Lemme tell you–they always know. Punk shows have cost $5 since the beginning of punk. It only ever changes if the newly reformed Subhumans or a band with one member of Youth Of Today play and charge double.

The longer you hassle them for money, the more they reveal why they can’t pay. They’ll say something stupid like “I won’t have cigarettes for tomorrow!” as if i’ll say “that’s terrible–nevermind, you can come in.” Typically you’ll see the Unprepared Cheapskate outside drinking a 40 oz’er with the other cheapo’s with a dog wearing a bandanna. The band Fugazi still charges $5 for their shows and you know twenty kids are banging around the entrance complaining how they didn’t know how much the show was. They’re alcoholics at sixteen years old, hard drug abusers at nineteen, and sadly, dead at twenty four.

But within the “I’ve only got a dollar” cheapskate are two sub-genres. The good cheapskate, after I let them in (because they’re pestering me) use the money they didn’t pay to get in with (85% of the time they actually have the money but just don’t like to pay for things) to buy merchandise from the touring bands. This I can deal with because the money is still technically going towards the band). The bad cheapskate complains to their friends in between bands outside about how terrible the venue is and berates everyone walking by the point where it gets the police’s attention because they’re a seventeen year old with shredded black shorts and no shirt and a missing front tooth, drunk and reckless on a busy street.

No. 3: The kid who honestly doesn’t have money to get into the show, and will be very honest about their lack of funds. These are the best people (besides the one’s who actually pay). You’ll see them lingering around, psyching themselves up, then slowly walk up to you: “Hey, I don’t have any money, but I really want to see this band play, and I figured it’s better to have physical bodies here to watch the band play, than not have anyone here at all.” They usually pay nine out of ten times, and often ask if they can help clean up afterwards. They come to a lot of shows and give a lot of support and you know they genuinely love the music and the space and the environment. Their intentions are good, and you know they feel really bad about not paying. This sort of thing can’t happen all the time, and it can definitely be abused, but it’s passable. Sometimes if I’m this person, I’ll try to bring treats for the touring band to eat as an alternative way of paying them (just make sure they know its to help the band with their growling stomachs and not for every single person at the show to scarf down).

No. 4: The preppy hipster. Every once in a while I’ll help out a friend taking money at a show I usually wouldn’t do. Punk shows are usually where I work and it always throws me off when I take money at hipster shows because everyone pays. Shows are usually always 5 bucks, and if it costs $10 or more, I always assume i’m gonna have to squeeze every last penny out of each attendee. But then I remember that hipsters always have money from their high paying jobs/trust funds/daddy’s credit card and they often have their money out, ready to give to me before I even tell them how much I need from them. It’s like going on vacation. They always show their hands at the door when they leave for a moment so you know if they’ve already paid, and they often ask politely if certain things (photography, certain drinks) are allowed in the venue. After the show I go home and I sleep peacefully.

Luckily it isn’t more complex than that. Show-goers are interesting creatures, and i’m happy to witness the sorts of things I do from my seat at the door. And so you know, just because I take money at the door doesn’t mean I haven’t been in every single one of these situations. Yeah, i’ve been down and out and tried to sneak in. They’re not my proudest moments. The excuses I give may be different, but I suppose that’s why I choose to help out and take money at the door–so I can watch the show while earning my place there to begin with.


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