Newsday (December 10, 2004)

Venues plan ahead to thwart violence
Promoters, club owners say grim scene in Ohio not too likely at security-heavy shows on LI or in NYC


December 10, 2004

Among the 70 or so autographed guitars hanging on the walls of The Downtown music club in Farmingdale is a cherry-colored Washburn signed by "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott, the heavy metal guitarist gunned down along with three others by an audience member at an Ohio concert on Wednesday.

"It's an eerie reminder of how short life is," said club owner David Glicker, who said he had hoped to book Abbott's band, Damageplan, to play there in the near future. "I don't know why somebody would take his life."

While shaken by Abbott's death, Glicker and other New Yorkers who work with live music acts said Thursday that they thought the lethal incident was a fluke, an exception to the rule given the level of security at most live shows.

"Anything could happen when you're crossing the street, too," veteran entertainment publicist Liz Rosenberg of Warner Bros. Records said, when asked if her clients -- who include Madonna, Josh Groban and Cher -- have worried about their safety onstage.

Rosenberg said security staffers at large-scale concerts are trained to look for "certain types" of people in the audience who may cause trouble and are usually briefed beforehand about fans who've tried to communicate with artists.

Security at smaller venues such as B.B. King's in Times Square and The Downtown, which both have a capacity of about 500, tends to vary depending on what sort of band is playing that night.

"For the heavy metal shows, for the hip-hop shows, security is tighter," said Rena Siwek, B.B. King's public relations director. Still, she said, the worst incident she could recall was a concertgoer whipping out a can of mace in September at a Siouxsie Sioux concert.

At the Crazy Donkey in Farmingdale -- where Abbott's former Pantera bandmate Phil Anselmo performed without incident seven months ago with his current band, Superjoint Ritual -- door staff search all backpacks and conduct pat-downs, general manager James Shurgrue said. Bouncers inside scan the crowd for suspicious activity, while yet another employee monitors patrons via the club's 16 security cameras. The point, he said, is to stop trouble before it escalates.

Glicker said that The Downtown's security team ramps their plan up accordingly for shows where more aggressive fans are expected, scheduling extra staff, patting patrons down for weapons, or using a metal detector wand.

"I usually have the biggest, meanest-looking guy at the door," Glicker said. "When you have that kind of posture going on, if somebody is stupid enough to have a weapon they turn around and walk away and put it in their car."

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