Pitchfork security is job he was born to do
By Jason George, Chicago Tribune reporter
July 21, 2008
In his 18 years in concert security, Karl K has pulled plenty of contraband out of people's pants, including a pocketknife, a live frog and a dead squirrel.
His quarry at this year's Pitchfork Music Festival?
"People aren't supposed to bring it in, so they cram it in their bags and down their shorts," he said Friday afternoon, just moments after he asked a rep with the energy drink to stop handing out free cans near the festival's main entrance. "I don't particularly like being hit over the head with cans."
Not that such an experience would be his worst: Karl has been pelted over the years with batteries, coins and more.
That ability to spot concealed Red Bull cans and roll with the punches—sometimes literally—are just two reasons those who know Karl K will tell you concert security was the job he was born to do.
"He's my No. 1 draft pick," said Mike Daciolas, his supervisor at S3 Inc., the firm that handles security for most major Chicago-area entertainment events. "He can clear a problem just by looking at it."
And look he does. Before taking his place at the main stage for Public Enemy's performance, Karl, who abbreviates his last name, walked the grounds, his eyes in constant motion. Along the way he stopped kids from sneaking in and looked, without success, for a woman's lost wallet. He made sure a fan in a wheelchair was comfortable and asked a group of women to stop smoking some herb that smelled not of tobacco.
"I worry about everything," he acknowledges.
Growing up in suburban Burbank, Karl, 45, knew he wanted some part in the music industry after the 6th grade, when he fell in love with rock 'n' roll, motorcycles and the mullet he still sports.
"It's actually an ulta-mullet," he corrects, stroking his long ponytail.
It's that haircut, combat boots, a belt-holstered flashlight and handcuffs that make Karl look a bit like Dog the Bounty Hunter.
"I only have one tattoo, though," he says of art that stretches from his right ankle to his waist.
His "one tattoo" contains symbols for loyalty, strength and honesty —attributes Karl earnestly advocates for in life and at work. At 9 p.m. Public Enemy takes the stage, and Karl's easygoing attitude vanishes. Pacing the alley that separates the crowd from the stage, he gives directional hand signals to his staff and scans the crowd, looking for fainting fans and injured bodysurfers.
"The mosh pit is dying; it makes me sad actually," he says.
Being at almost every major concert in the Chicago area for the past 18 years, Karl gets greeted by all sorts of people. Few could tell you, though, that his preferred recreational activity is not music but relaxing at an Indiana nudist resort.
"I just love it, dude," he explains.
In fact, Karl rode his Harley Heritage Classic straight there following Friday's show. (He says he wore clothes the entire 90-mile journey.)
The concert had gone off without a hitch—no injuries and no real problems.
That's something he'll celebrate every time.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
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