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Riot Fear Cancels Concert by ‘Bad Religion’ Band

TIMES STAFF WRITER

One day after a crowd of violent concert-goers trashed a North Hollywood theater and damaged neighboring storefronts, promoters of the popular punk rock band Bad Religion canceled a Sunday performance in West Hollywood.

Organizers of the canceled concert at the Whisky said they feared a repeat of the Saturday night melee that erupted at the Classic Theater on Lankershim Boulevard when the band’s concert was halted because the auditorium was overcrowded.

More than 300 angry fans pulled out chairs bolted to the floor and smashed windows outside after they were ordered to leave by fire officials.

Two police officers and several people in the crowd suffered minor injuries. Four people were arrested on suspicion of vandalism. The Classic Theater owners, who could not be reached Sunday, were cited for overcrowding and improper use of the facility, which fire officials said is not licensed for live entertainment.

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Police estimated damage to the theater and surrounding businesses, where windows were smashed, at $20,000.

Rick Van Santen, a spokesman for Goldenvoice Productions, which organized Saturday’s show, said Sunday’s concert was postponed just hours before it was to begin because of fears the rioters would return. He said tickets for both weekend shows will be honored at a performance Feb. 1 at the Hollywood Palladium.

“We felt it was too risky,” he said. “This way, it’s safer for everyone.”

The riot Saturday broke out shortly after 8:30 p.m. Firefighters passing the theater at 5269 Lankershim Blvd. noticed crowds outside. Because the auditorium, which dates back at least to the 1930s, was recently reopened after nearly a year of darkness, the firefighters reported the activity to their supervisor.

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When a fire inspector arrived at the theater, he saw fans standing on chairs and crowding the aisles, Assistant Bureau Cmdr. Tony Ennis said. The theater is permitted to seat 1,261, Ennis said. Fire officials said they counted about 1,860 concert-goers. Van Santen said the theater has a capacity of about 1,400 and that 1,321 tickets were sold.

He disputed the count by fire officials, but said concert organizers had to abide by the order to shut down the show.

After an opening act and before Bad Religion took the stage, a concert manager announced that the performance was over. The angry crowd began to file out of the auditorium chanting “start the revolution” and cursing police and fire officials, according to one concert-goer.

As the unruly crowd filed out, one person fell against a glass door, sending out a loud cracking noise, said Terry Bing, who operated the concession stand at the theater.

Then “all hell broke loose,” said a concert-goer who only gave his name as Chris.

People smashed windows, display cases and glass doors. More than 200 chairs were pulled out or damaged. Trash cans were lobbed across the lobby. A small fire was started in an upstairs restroom. A crowd that had gathered across the street began to move toward the theater and firefighters used water hoses to keep them at bay, authorities said.

It took nearly two hours to restore order to the street, police said.

The melee was at odds with the message that Bad Religion says it is attempting to spread. “What we try to do in our songs is make people responsible for their own actions,” lead singer Greg Gaffin said during the disturbance.

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