By Hollister Dixon // Photos by Zack Perry
So, hip-hop nerds are going to be reading about this one a decent amount in the next few days. This is, essentially, what happened: during the wind-down of Blue Chips 2 track “Amadu Diablo,” a song built off a sample of the iconic riff from Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason”, a fan threw a joint onstage. Bronson is, of course, not the kind of person to look a gift horse in the blunt, he took the opportunity to take an on-stage smoke break. This is where things get messy: what Bronson didn’t realize was that smoking onstage – especially since weed, since it’s still illegal in Oregon – is somewhere in the vicinity of really goddamn illegal. This prompted one member of security to make an attempt at either removing the joint from Bronson, or remove Bronson from the stage. It’s hard to really tell, because the security guard (who was roughly half the size of Bronson, who is by all accounts a mammoth) tried to grab him around the neck and seemingly attempt to put him in a choke hold. This prompted Bronson to give the man a very hard shove. And then another, knocking him on his ass. At this point, the venue blared an incredibly loud alarm, and the show ended. Very fast. It was an ugly, ugly scene.
Or, at least, I imagine it was. It was downstairs, where I was when it happened. Right as the opening strum of “Amadu Diablo” began, I was walking down the stairs to use the bathroom. By the time I came out, the whole thing was over. That’s right: this incident, and the show’s swift end, took about as long as a quick pee break. I only know what happened because of a couple of videos, and from the eyewitness account of Michael Mannheimer, who is apparently a wandering spirit that sees every show in Portland. He gave me the breakdown outside the Roseland, near one of the older members of the Roseland guard, who was issuing his gratitude via walkie-talkie to another member of staff for leaving him alone outside, in a public display of sarcasm the likes of which I haven’t seen in years. This was also after I had been screamed out of the building by security (not me personally, just everyone inside), and had listened to more than a few people chanting “FUCK THE ROSELAND!” outside. I watched a well-put-together man very clearly struggle with the urge to punch someone on staff because he would not be getting his $25 back. They’re animals, Padme.
Just one quick note before we go on: this tour is getting a little rough. Last night, at Seattle’s performance, a kid ran onstage directly after “Amadu Diablo”, prompting Bronson to toss him back into the crowd as though he were a small sack of potatoes. It’s interesting that the song was present at both events (though the Seattle show kept going after), considering the refrain of the song’s source material: “Gimme one reason to stay here / and I’ll turn right back around…”
Let’s back up a few paces, though: this show wasn’t without its hiccups. As I learned from an unnamed security guard who is always very pleased to see me, Bronson/Supplies showed up at 8:15pm for a show that started at 8. The onstage DJ – I didn’t catch his name – filled up the time playing a somewhat-okay-but-mostly-boring hour-long set of mixtape flare, lackadaisically clicking at buttons on his laptop. He was no dummy, though: “I know y’all are bored as fuck!” he said to the crowd at one point. He wasn’t entirely wrong. Following him, Party Supplies, the wonderful producer behind Blue Chips and Blue Chips 2, worked his jukebox magic for another full hour – he may be the only DJ I’ve seen play Billy Joel’s “For the Longest Time” followed by Frankie Lymon’s “Why Do Fools Fall In Love?” followed by “Earth Angel”, without seeming hokey or kitschy – and despite the quality of his work, it was hard to not feel insanely bored by the whole experience, partially because the crowd knew who they wanted to see, and partially because it was clear that there was some definite time-filling going on.
Two hours in, Action Bronson took to the stage. No matter what anybody says, Bronson is a beast on the mic, and though he may not have the same flair other rappers have, he makes up for it with true stopping power. He blasted through 45 wonderful minutes of material, including a great performance of “Strictly 4 My Jeeps”, and his verse from “NaNa”, from last year’s unstoppable Acid Rap mixtape by Chance the Rapper. If the malaise and boredom of that two-hour wait had hit the rest of the crowd as it had hit me, you couldn’t tell: the crowd ate up every minute of the performance, as Bronson stalked the stage, lacing his hands with people in the crowd, directing gay slurs at a security guard, and – yes – smoking some weed. They even ate up Supplies’ truly painful Lil’ Wayning during one section of a song, as he left his table to pick up a guitar and make sounds happen with a guitar (I phrase it like this to make it clear that he is not good at guitar).
That’s all we got, though: we got 45 minutes with Bronson, an insanely short amount of time considering the ticket price – $25 isn’t that much money, but it’s definitely too much for two-hours of bored-but-well-meaning DJs, 45 minutes of the star of the show, and a minute-long blast of violence, aggression, and confusion.
And that violence is a problem. And I say that not to be obvious, but because it goes deeper than “violence isn’t the answer”. The show was initially meant to take place at Peter’s Room, the downstairs portion of the Roseland, but was moved upstairs to the Roseland proper, likely because tickets sold very well (the show wasn’t jam packed, but it was very full just the same). I’m not sure if the show downstairs was all-ages or not, but the all ages ticket brought an all-ages crowd, with a floor chock full of young faces – some of which, I imagine, were at the Roseland for the very first time. The abrupt and ugly end of the show provides a few problems:
- Those inexperienced kids walked away from that show possibly thinking that this is a normal occurrence in Portland (it’s not),
- The parents of those kids, having found out what happened, will possibly go into mild crisis mode, and will become incredibly hesitant about letting their kids go to another show alone again, and
- Anyone who doesn’t understand Portland’s hip-hop community, Portland’s concertgoing community, and Portland crowds in general, now have a picture in their heads about those three things, and that picture is incredibly ugly. And it doesn’t help the reputation we shouldn’t allow ourselves to have.
This isn’t us.
We’re not monsters, and neither are the people who work at the Roseland. Two parties made mistakes here tonight, and a big crowd of people had to pay the price for it. I may not have enjoyed myself as much as I would have liked, but everyone else clearly did. It’s not hard to imagine a massive amount of the crowd having their week’s ruined by this incident.
I truly feel bad for the kids who never stood a chance there. At the end of the day, those kids got inadvertently ripped off, and it may sour them to the scene as a whole. If you saw that happen, what would you think?