At every concert, there's a group of people we all love to hate. They try to intimidate us right from the start, they take away our stuff, and spend all night staring at us singing our hearts out to our favourite songs by our favourite musicians. What's their problem, honestly? Well, they're security guards and without them, a concert will never happen in the first place.
They're buff, they're tough and they may not look it but they're there so everyone can have a good time. At this year's Folk Music Festival in Malang, VICE met a 57-year-old security guard named Noldi. Noldi takes freelance security jobs in East Java, though he lives in Surabaya, West Java. He's most often seen at concerts, but he takes gigs as celebrity escorts sometimes.
Being part of the security team at a concert is no easy task, he said. People like Noldi needs to secure a big venue and watch over thousands of concert-goers who can be rowdy. For someone as physically intimidating as him, Noldi is surprisingly open and warm. And security guards, they're just like us—he still gets starstruck too. But what else do they see and feel at a concert? We sat down with Noldi to find out.
VICE: So why are all security guards at concerts so much bigger than normal people?
Noldi: We’re in charge of the security, so obviously we have to be tall and big. In this industry, the ideal ratio is 1:2, meaning I have to be twice as big as you. We also have to have some skills. We’re basically trained civilians, we’ve gone through a security training by the military. But we’re not like the military or the police. We don't have weapons.
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What kind of crowd do you hate the most?
The crowd in a dangdut concert. A dangdut concert draws everyone from children to older people. There will be teenagers who dance recklessly, pushing people to their right and left and starting fights. But fights in concerts are common. The easiest concerts are those sponsored by tobacco companies. No matter how loud the music, the crowd will be chill because it's 18+. It’s usually the younger kids who are trouble, while the 18+ crowd can handle themselves.
Do you prefer to be a concert security guy or a bodyguard for celebrities?
There are a lot of people in a concert. Guarding a celebrity is easier, especially if she's pretty. Then I can be on TV and eat with someone famous. The other day I escorted Bunga Citra Lestari in Tuban, but so far the most remarkable experience is escorting Mulan Jameela. I don’t know how she’s like now, but back then she was very friendly.
Have you had to protect someone you truly admire?
Yes, Iwan Fals. I really wanted a photo with him but I was too shy. I wasn’t the only guard, we worked in a team, but I was the only one who could get really close to him. So when we arrived at the venue, I really wanted to ask for a photo but there was no time.
Security guards usually stand facing the crowd. Have you ever looked at whatever's happening on stage?
I really want to sometimes, but that’s not how it works. We’re there to work, not to watch the concert. We can't miss anything or anyone. We don’t want that. But honestly if there are some quick down moments then I can kind of steal a glance at the performance. I like slow music, such at this here, but I’m on duty so I can't enjoy it.
What do you say to people who complain about their stuff being taken away at security?
During security check we offer people to go back to their cars and leave their things there. But if they insist to get in, we have to confiscate some things. But some things, like cigarette packs, they don’t have a name tag. So at the end of the concert, we can’t ensure that everyone claims the right one. One person can take home someone else’s cigarettes. It’s not our fault. This is a security post, not a locker room. People should just let it go. It’s not like we want to take away your stuff. But if no one claims them, we may as well smoke the cigarettes. What else are we supposed to do with them?
How do you anticipate people who break into concerts?
First we need to scout the venue, because usually the blueprint is different from the real layout. On paper things may look perfect but on the field there can be gutters or big trees people can climb to get inside a concert. So usually we put up some kind of rope, and then focus on the main entry. There are usually not a lot of us, so we’ll watch those weak spots from afar.
Were you ever bored of watching concerts?
It’s my job, so of course I get bored from time to time. We can get bored of sleeping, so we can get bored of music.
What about the salary, is it good?
We get paid different amount when we guard a concert, an exhibition, and a celebrity. So it depends. But generally speaking, the money is above average. We’re happy.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
In 10 Questions , we ask people to answer the kinds of stuff you always wanted to know, but never got the chance to ask. Read more from this column below:
This article originally appeared on VICE ID.