Before last night’s Action Bronson show at the Roseland, I had never been to a concert in Portland that was shut down early. But on what started off as another sleepy Monday night, at a show that was moved up from Peter’s Room to the actual Roseland to accommodate a theater that was about half-full, all hell broke loose the second time the crowd serenaded Bronson—the chef-turned-rapper from Queens with an equal penchant for both weed and gourmet food references—by tossing approximately 2,000 (OK, more like 15) joints and lighters onstage.
This is not an unusual occurrence at Bronson shows—in fact, it actually happened about 20 minutes earlier in the set, when he took a quick puff and then threw the spliff back into the crowd. The second time Bronson picked up the joint and actually lit up, a security guard ran from behind the stage to first push Bronson from behind. When he tried to light up again, the guard his arm around his neck in a chokehold. You can probably guess what happened next: Bronson pushed the security guard to the ground, members of his crew rushed the stage along with the Roseland security dudes, and before I really had any idea what was going on, the house lights came up and the crowd started booing, then cheering “Bronson! Bronson! Bronson!” Here’s video evidence of the incident:
From what I know, it’s illegal to smoke onstage in Oregon. There were a lot of minors in the crowd, and I would guess Bronson had to agree beforehand—or maybe even sign something?—saying he wouldn’t smoke on stage. He definitely deserves half the blame in this situation, and technically the venue has every right to cover their own asses and pull the plug. One of the security guys I was able to talk to after the show and a bartender both repeated that Bronson was warned to stop the first time by security at the side of the stage.
That said, the way the Roseland handled the whole affair—immediately turning on the house lights, with what I assume is the sound guy creating a horrible buzz of feedback that sounded like a blaring siren—seemed a little, well, off. In the video, you can clearly see Bronson take a quick puff and then throw it back into the audience. He might have been baiting the staff, but still, it’s not like he took a giant bong rip in the middle of a sold-out venue. This stuff happens all the time at Bronson shows across the country, often with no repercussions. I saw him in Brooklyn two years ago lets just say that there was a lot of smoke coming from the stage, and not from fog machines. At the Roseland, though? Shut down before he could even get close to an encore.
As per usual with any hip-hop show in Portland, security was extra heavy all night, with pat downs at the door and guys lurking through the set, looking for anyone who might be causing “trouble.” It’s all a shame, too, because before the dust-up it was a really fun night, with DJ Party Supplies (the producer behind all the crazy cross-genre mashups on Bronson’s two Blue Chips records) spinning Talking Heads and Richie Valens and Missy before the show to a crowd of confused teenagers. Bronson was tearing it up for about 40 minutes before everything came to a screeching halt. After the show, FRSH SLCT’s Kenny Fresh tweeted “aaaand that was the end of the Action Bronson show. basically a metaphor for hip-hop in Portland in general, lol.” I think he’s right on. There was a certain level of disrespect between the Roseland and the crowd, and my fear is that people will think this is the norm at hip-hop shows here—especially on a national level, where the (unfair) perception is still that Portland has a hip-hop problem. That’s just not true—I’ve been to plenty of shows that haven’t been shut down, so this is really the exception.
Yet I still think that Portland police and certain venues think that live rap equals violence, and this outlier will continue to push that narrative even further. Unfortunately, Portland will never be seen as a viable place for touring hip-hop if shows like this are getting shut down, even for a just cause. That’s a total shame.
PORTLAND ANOTHER LEGENDARY NIGHT!!!! WOOOOOOO!!!— FREE BIG BODY (@ActionBronson) February 4, 2014