Why I’ll Never Feel Safe at the Hollywood Bowl Again

The Hollywood Bowl (capacity 17,500) is almost completely unprotected against terrorism or lone shooters.  Why isn’t anything being done about that?

Before I went to the Hollywood Bowl for a fun night with my girlfriend, she asked me if we should be concerned with the possibility of a violent attack.  This was ahead of a 4th of July show, with fireworks and tons of Americans celebrating their patriotism.  Seemed like the perfect, high-profile place (in a high-profile city) for a terrorist attack or lone shooter.

Sure enough, a similar event for Bastille Day in the South of France was soon a horrific target for an extremist Islamic attack.  That’s like their 4th of July.  Meanwhile, music halls and festivals both in France and Europe are finding themselves easy targets for terrorism.

We decided to go.  Nothing happened.  Everyone had a great time, and the fireworks kicked ass (and so did the music).  It was a great time on a beautiful California night.

If something had occurred, I would have blamed myself for going.  For months, I’ve been worried about lax and inconsistent security at music venues nationwide, with both small, midsize and large stages at serious risk for terrorist strikes.  Crowded venues should be run like airports, not staffed with temporary, lightly trained workers that are briefly checking thousands of bags by hand.

This isn’t just about Live Nation, but they are one of the largest venue operators in the US.  And Live Nation’s security seems spotty at best.  I can’t say I was impressed when a gun battle exploded at Irving Plaza, a midsize venue in Manhattan, between rapper Troy Ave and a bunch of people trying to kill him.  That’s a venue operated by, you guessed it, Live Nation.

How did all those guns get inside?

After I went to the Hollywood Bowl, I got an idea how.  The Hollywood Bowl allows people — 17,500 of them — to bring in large bags full of food, wine, blankets and whatever else they want, even though that now poses a serious security risk.  I brought a large ‘picnic basket’ backpack into the venue, and discovered just how cursory security checks can be.

And I was completely late; there wasn’t even a crowd pressuring me forward.

Any questions?


Hollywood Bowl image by Ian D. Keating, adapted under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC by 2.0).

13 Responses

  1. Mark wilson

    I disagree i’ve been a bowl goer for over 20 years I feel very safe there they have an excellent police presence and private security staff And I would imagine a very robust behind the scenes activities to prevent any criminal intent

    • David Murphy

      I’m 63 years old, have been to concerts at the Bowl HUNDRED’s (NOT an exaggeration) of times, and I have never experienced a terrorist event at the Bowl or anywhere else at anytime. It’s the law of averages. If you wanna live your life worrying about that stuff, go ahead, but you’re not gonna take me down that road. And if it does indeed happen to me and I’m blown to bits, then it’s thanks for the ride, and I’ll see you on the flipside. Enjoy yourself for God’s sake!

      • Paul Resnikoff

        David, I completely disagree with this perspective. Saying that you’ve been to hundreds of times without incident does not mean a very serious security issue and risk does not exist. The Pulse nightclub was incident-free for hundreds of nights also, maybe thousands, before something happened. The world has changed, and is changing, very rapidly, with crowded areas like the Hollywood Bowl serious targets.

      • Scott Rose

        I completely agree with you David. Just because something MAY happen doesn’t mean that we need overextended security measures to prepare for the falling sky. With 7 billion people on the planet, and news channels that highlight extreme events, of course we will read and hear about ‘changing times’ and how the world is different. No point getting caught up in how we need to try and prevent everything, causing extra worry and stress.

  2. Jerry A

    I’m more worried abut the drunks driving out of there

  3. Carl Bunch

    “again” ??

    When DID you feel safe, and why exactly ?

  4. danwriter

    Worth noting also that that the Troy Ave incident at Irving Plaza took place backstage, where it didn’t present an immediate danger to concertgoers, in a separate security environment.
    Ever since The Station fire I always check for emergency exit locations in music (and other) venues, but otherwise you can’t let fear determine where and when you go.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      I’m not sure how that changes anything. Because if you just switch up one or two variables, you have a major catastrophe. And I think some of the gun fire spilled out into the broader venue (though I’d have to check).

  5. Sherri Z.

    hi Paul,
    This would be a great letter to send to the Hollywood Bowl, or further, if you called to request a meeting with the security manager that would be great, too. But to publish this is just alerting would be terrorists of a venue they might not have considered. Yes – we have freedom of speech but I think we’re living in a time in which (sadly) we have to ask ourselves: is what I have to say really useful or could it cause damage? I think this is one that – even with the best intentions – could cause damage.

    • Oh dear

      BOOM. 100% agreed. Paul took the idea of CNN and their “how easy is it to import bombs into the United States” articles and made it very specific and very hostile for our own music loving community. Bad form.

  6. Farley Grainger

    There is a common sense middle ground to all this. It’s not live in fear and stay home or go to venues without regard to whether they have reasonable security. Sports arenas generally now have security more like airports, but music venues sometimes do and sometimes don’t. (That from the WSJ) The middle ground here is that music venues should take reasonable precautions — like metal detectors and requiring small transparent bags, and people should recognize that the risks of visiting reasonably protected sites are reasonable. Where venues take almost no precautions, it is reasonable for people to consider staying home.

    For Sherri: The idea that music venues should take reasonable precautions
    seems like a topic for an article to me, not just a letter to the Hollywood Bowl

    See http://www.wlwt.com/news/metal-detectors-among-added-security-measures-at-us-bank-arena/38067676

  7. Nightlife Association

    In 2016, the INTERNATIONAL NIGHTLIFE ASSOCIATION decided to take the first step in order to improve the safety in nightlife venues and protect the establishment’s audience, no matter where the respective country is located. The compliance of these international minimum security standards would be verified by a prestigious international certifying entity of security and public liability. Once compliance of the standards have been verified, the venue will get a badge certifying it from the International Nightlife Association, which would be placed in the establishment’s entry. This badge will have “Nightlife Safe” or “Nightlife Approved” written on it. Insurers have agreed to lower insurance premium costs if standards have been met.

    Nightlife Secure Seal – 10 point Venue Safety Industry Guidelines
    Legal: Has a current business license and approved occupancy permit.
    Insurance: Has a civil liability insurance with an insured capital based on its capacity.
    Certifications: Security and control staff must be certified in security, food and drink safety training. Have written security procedures, protection and evacuation plans. Fire Equipment inspected regularly.
    Security: Venue uses radio communication, metal detectors to forbid weapons & prevent terrorism attacks. Premium venue has an ID scanner and CCTV surveillance system in operation.
    Safety: Must have unobstructed Exits/Evacuation routes indicated with lighted signage. Emergency exit doors must have anti-panic bars and exit outward; to an evacuation area with 120 minutes minimum stability or fire safe zone.
    Health: Have a First-Aid Kit available. Provide water stations to help prevent heat stroke. Have clean and sanitary cooking and serving areas.
    Production: Construction, decorative and structural elements must be low-flammability. Pyrotechnics and fire must be approved by a fire safety pro. If 10,000+ people are at one stage, you need video screens and speaker towers, but avoid ear damaging sound.
    Amenities: Seating areas, shaded areas, well-stocked and clean toilets, eTickets and set-times schedule.

    Reduce guard assaults, reduce injury, and reduce violence; reduce police responses to the venue; reduce venue crime; reduce civil lawsuits; reduce civil lawsuit payouts; and reduce underage drinking.

    Attend the International Nightlife Congress October 26, 2016 at the Las Vegas World Market Center for trends, insights, opportunities and training to make any venue safe and secure. http://www.Nightlife-Awards.com

  8. Mike

    100% expected Paul to use the video to show us all the weapons he was able to sneak in. Please go ahead and follow this up with a piece on every other public or private area meant for groups of people to gather.