Barryfest Endorses: Smoking Cigarettes at Rock Shows

I have long argued that any city-wide determination on whether or not the proprietor of a private business was allowed to permit smoking on his or her premises was draconian at best and unconstitutional at worst.  If people think a particular bar is “too smoky”, they are free to drink or seek employment elsewhere – just as they are free to leave if they decide that the drink prices, seating availability, noise level, or any one of the other myriad characteristics of a particular watering hole aren’t up to snuff.

If people didn’t like the smoke, they can go to an establishment where cigarette use has been voluntarily banned.  And if enough people make this choice, who am I to stand in the way of any organic change afoot.  After all, the will of the people is the will of the people.  But to me, banning smoking would be like requiring every bar to stock their jukebox with a particular set of albums – something that, no matter how agreeable it may be to a certain portion of the population, is not the job of lawmakers.

After my college years in Chicago (a city hilariously behind the curve when it came to smoking bans), I did a spell in Minneapolis, a metropolis that had just adopted the very anti-smoking initiatives I so vehemently opposed.  As someone well-versed in the simple pleasure of chasing draft beer with a Camel Light from the comfort of a bar stool in a climate controlled environment, I was worried about how this was all going to pan out.  Not surprisingly, it went just fine.  Even during my darkest booze-induced nic-fits, the new rules felt more like a minor inconvenience than the fascist oppression for which I had braced myself.

By the end of of my stint in the Great North, I even gained some affection for this new world order.  But just as I was getting to used to a smoke-free existence, I moved down to New Orleans, where – despite an increasingly long-list of bars and venues that have voluntarily banned the practice – you can pretty much smoke wherever the hell you please.  It took approximately zero minutes for me to get re-acclimated to the wanton and borderless tobacco consumption that defined my time in Chicago; and you know what? It’s glorious, maybe even better than I remembered.

I have no problem with any smoking ordinances, and encourage everyone to faithfully adhere to any posted policy.  But it is easy to forget that there was a time in the (not so distant) past when the idea of walking into any bar, a brick and mortar structure operating with the sole purpose of getting people intoxicated, that disallowed smoking was incomprehensible.  If that bar or venue happened to be offering music of any stripe – from a local punk band to a well curated jukebox – then the idea was elevated to nothing short of absolutely ludicrous.

Whether or not smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol are inextricably linked is a tired debate in which I have no interest to participate; but there is something undeniably transcendent about the triumvirate of smoking, drinking and seeing rock ‘n’ roll music.  The fact that this notion seems antiquated in this day and age of politically correct grandstanding and moral majorities only serves to make it more pertinent.

Second-hand smoke may not have a place at the table of a gastropub or in the uncomfortable booths of a Dallas-themed cocktail lounge, just as it has no place in grocery stores or on airplanes. But rock ‘n’ roll is from an entirely different provenance than goat cheese profiteroles or a French 75.  Pretending otherwise is as embarrassing to those advocating anti-smoking measures in rock clubs as it is insulting to the tax-paying citizens who enjoy seeing a rock band the way G-d intended: through a faint, low-hanging haze; equal parts exhaled carcinogens and freedom.

MP3: Steely Dan: “My Old School”

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2 thoughts on “Barryfest Endorses: Smoking Cigarettes at Rock Shows

  1. So you’re arguing that a government mandating musical tastes and/or publicly supporting a select group of bands (predetermining the contents of a jukebox) and efforts to protect the public health (sparing bar/club employees and patrons the dangers of second hand smoke) are equivalent actions?  Clearly you thought that one through.  Besides the lack of value in that comparison, I suppose we should just keep the government out of the business of trying to step in and protect people stupid enough or desperate enough to exist in dangerous areas.  Nuts to those surrounded by smokers.  Nuts to those in flood prone areas.  Levees?  Why should the government bother?  You were stupid enough to live there.  Free market, bitches!  Or maybe that’s an incredibly insipid argument.  Maybe some people struggle to find work and so they go where opportunity arises.  Or maybe people are willing to suffer a smokey room to see a show that’s important to them, despite the harm it may cause them.  Screw them too I guess, smoking is more important than the safe enjoyment of music by as many as possible.  A good message to come from a music blog.  And you think that music of any vein is somehow diminished because you can’t smoke a cigarette?  Stated like a true smoker and not a true fan of music.  Bravo.

    1. A Reader,

      From the outset of your post, we notice that you need a lesson on English usage.  The author did not argue that jukebox content mandates and smoke regulations are equivalent actions.  Please kindly notice the insertion of the word like between the two things.  This word often marks what we in the know call a simile.  The simile is a figure of speech that directly compares two different things, e.g., your comment is like music after 1996, that is, tired, unoriginal, and foolish.  Now, obviously I am not calling your comment music after 1996; that would be to give it too much credit, and, in any event, the use of the similie does not mean two things are equivalent, only that they are being compared where the figure of speech is used.  You seem to know as much, quickly retreating to the more accurate description, a comparison, in your next sentence.

      Your assertion that the author’s comparison lacks value warrants a figure of the speech, here a metaphor, of our own:  You, sir, are the pot that called the kettle black.  You see, comparing rules requiring smoking cessation to the protection of American cities through the use of earthen works is a far poorer comparison.  Jukebox content mandates and smoking regulations are similar in that they require an entity to do or abstain from doing something, a perfectly reasonable concept in our law, the presence or absence of which is due wholy unto the whims of the legislature.  While one imposes an affirmative duty upon society, the other imposes a negative duty, that is, one tells us to do something, the other not to do something.  Still, the two are duties imposed on society.  Levee construction, on the other hand, involves no duty imposed on society at large, and certainly not any citizen.  Rather, Congress tells the Army Corps of Engineers to do something, and the Army Corps of Engineers does it.  And, in our humble opinion, levee construction represents such a moral imperative that it cannot be said to exist at the whim of a legislature.  So you see, the author’s comparison is much more appropriate, especially in the context of this opinion piece, than your poor, and tired, attempt to relate smoking regulations to Hurricane Katrina.

      Now, the rest of your comment presents far greater cause for concern.  You seem to feel that stamping out smoking is such a societal need that it warrants trampling on the rights of smokers.  This leads to the inevitable conclusion that you are, in fact, a fascist.  You see, our country was founded on choice, the principle that if someone does not like the laws of a place, they will vote with their feet, i.e., move.  Your appreciation of the principle notwithstanding, the thing is a bedrock principle of Constitutional Law.  You, sir, are no better in your attempts to force smoking cessation than the Family Council.  If given the chance, you would force your values upon others.  These areas, both jukebox content and smoking, are simply not areas our government should be legislating.  They should be focusing on much more important issues, levee construction for instance.

      Lastly, I would like to tell you that you are not a fan of music.  Show me a musician that does not appreciate a strong drink and a cool cigarette, and I will show you the poser I contend has rid music, and art, of its intrinsic value.  The will to destroy your body, the pain that would drive one to drink and smoke heavily, are the sources of true creativity and expression.  Those who do not partake are mere imitators, attempting to entertain not because they have something important to say and not based on some cathartic experience that needs to be shared, but because they are glory seekers, wanting the fame without the suffering.

      If you feel my reply to your comment is out of line, please forgive me.  Of course, you were stupid enough to post here.

      -EWS

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