The Portland Underground is full of word-of-mouth, enriching and friendly events. However, like any event—and just like this wonderful country itself—you may end up with some asshole hell-bent on fucking everything up. And that, my friends, is when we step up.
The nature of a basement punk show or a warehouse art gallery is carefree and far from the watchful eye of Big Brother. I’ve never seen police or even security at an underground event—which is pretty cool. But the trade-off is that we are the enforcers. You, yes you, are the regulator of underground events.
This is not easy. No one wants to go around policing and telling people what they can’t do. But this is the contract you sign when you enter an underground event. You, the attendee, are responsible for making the underground event a welcoming place. It is your responsibility. When someone does something unacceptable, we must tell them they cannot do it. No exceptions.
We draw the line at bigotry, violence and serious drug use. When these things happen, you need to address it directly. Confrontation is hard, but you have to say something. It helps to commandeer a buddy or two for assistance. No one wants these things to happen, so when you let someone know that something is fucked, you may be surprised by how many people want to jump in and help.
Now here’s the kicker: It’s way harder to stand up against acquaintances and friends. We may feel inclined to give them excuses, pretend it’s not as bad, or overlook what happened. However, it’s like what Dumbledore said: “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” It’s crucial to stand up to our buddies, because it illustrates that the event is for everyone and that decency extends to all. Also, a true friend is someone who lets us know we are in the wrong.
In a time when unacceptable behavior is not only overlooked, but sometimes rewarded, it is even more important that we support what’s right. And sometimes what’s right is to call out the asshole.
Ollie Collins is the founder of the theater company Monkey With a Hat On and co-founder of the cannabis farm Fire Flower. Stay tuned for more of his thoughts on The Portland Underground in the next issue of Vortex.