Do Dress Codes Matter at Indie Music Gigs?
Why is it always men that are singled out at clubs for flimsy reasons? Why must a music fan be denied entry if all they came for was to catch a band live?
On Wednesday evening, Mumbai bassist and scenester Chirayu Vedekar was denied entry to the popular Bandra club Magazine where he went to watch a gig. Vedekar, who plays for singer-songwriter Vasuda Sharma, rock outfit Agnee and other acts, was stopped by a bouncer at the gate because he was wearing slip-on sandals. “I was dressed in a shirt and trousers but just because I was not wearing the right footwear, I was not let in,” says Vedekar.
While the musician patiently reasoned with the bouncer, he saw women sporting flip-flops and sandals being let in without any fuss whatsoever. After a long altercation with the obstinate bouncer, Vedekar, who was accompanied by his wife and a friend, left the club and headed to the nearby Antisocial Khar, where he says he “wasn’t judged by his outfit.”
The musician narrated his ordeal in a Facebook post that–once again–brought to light the downright sexist policies followed by clubs across Mumbai. When Rolling Stone India asked Magazine Manager Pradeep Singh about the episode involving Vedekar, he admitted that the club had different rules for men and women. Says Singh, “For the ladies, there is no problem but for the boys, we always have a dress code. We follow the same rules for any event or private party.”
Ask him why a dress code is mandatory on a gig night at the club and the manager rationalizes it saying, “People who are under-dressed might be well mannered but there is a chance that other guests could be uncomfortable in their presence and not return to the club in the future.” He adds, “The show was organized for music lovers but what we want from their side is that they support our terms and conditions.”
Veteran security personnel and bouncer for 29 years, Sushil Kunder, who previously worked at Blue Frog Mumbai and currently posted at Antisocial Khar, mentions that although every club has their own rules, it’s absurd that there was a dress code issue at an indie music gig. “You have come for a show, you have come for the music, it shouldn’t matter what clothes you’re wearing,” he says.
When it comes to event organizers and programmers, some see adhering to a dress code as part of maintaining the venue’s image, but to most, a dress code doesn’t make sense since it hinders the goal of a gig: to get people to come see the artist.
“My opinion about having a dress code for any music gig is that there shouldn’t be one,” says Romario Rodrigues, marketing consultant at Mumbai’s Summer House CafÃ©. “Unless it’s a corporate gig, which is a different thing altogether.” He explains that certain clients do specify a dress code (usually ”˜smart casual’) if they use the venue for an event, but Summer House CafÃ© in general does not have a policy.
On Vedekar’s argument about women being allowed entry in sandals, Rodrigues says, “Ultimately, [having more girls come in] helps in getting in more people and it does have an impact on bar sales. If there are more women, guys tend to spend more money.” However for a gig, he strongly feels there should be no limitations on who can attend. “If you’re having a gig, the point is for the artist to get the music out. If I can pay, if I can afford the entry, why not [let me in]?” he adds.
Long-time gig promoter and founder of indie label/artist management firm ennui.BOMB Rishu Singh who is regularly seen at shows sporting shorts and slippers, finds it utterly ridiculous that dress codes should matter at gigs. “These fucking places should shut down,” says Singh, who also got word of the newly re-opened Razzberry Rhinoceros denying people entry because they were wearing slippers. He says, “I think these kinds of venues shouldn’t even get into the live music business because I think they don’t know the plot and are just doing shit because everyone else is doing it.”
Mumbai gig promoter Sameer Malhotra of Daddy Entertainment, who organized the Parvaaz gig at Magazine that night, was unaware about the issue until we brought it to his attention, and said he will look into the matter immediately. “I wouldn’t want that at any venue,” he says, adding that had he been around he would have changed things. “If you ask me, people that are going out for a night of entertainment, the way they dress should never be a criterion for allowing them entry. I don’t even believe in stags or couple entries or any of that shit. I am completely against any kind of profiling,” he feels.
Malhotra says as far as club rules are concerned, he always makes it a point to speak to the management about it prior to organizing an event at a venue. “If they have certain rules, I tell them to relax that kind of stuff for the night.”
Vedekar, on his part, cites how welcoming the now-defunct Blue Frog, Mumbai was. “I used to walk into the frog in chappals and shorts and I have never been stopped at the gate or denied entry for a gig that I have wanted to watch.”
Apart from the issue of dress code, Vedekar points out “homophobic” venues like the Bar Stock Exchange outlets that still don’t allow stags to enter. He says, “If a couple of grown up brothers wish to have a drink at a bar, they won’t be let in because of this?”