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Run-d.m.c.'s Fans Rally In Support

August 25, 1986|ROBERT HILBURN | Times Pop Music Critic

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Few in the mostly black teen-age crowd of 10,000 at Run-D.M.C.'s concert here Saturday night could have been any more excited than Renee Phillips.

The 22-year-old college student from Brooklyn had waited 24 hours at the Newark, N.J., airport before landing a standby seat on one of People Express' bargain $39 flights here.

Though her 17-year-old brother has seen the rap group several times in New York City, she was too nervous to go to Run-D.M.C.'s shows in her hometown. The problem isn't the band.

"Their music is very positive," Phillips said during the afternoon flight. "I love Run-D.M.C. They're not out of touch like Prince or Michael Jackson. They are down to earth--like one of us.

"It's just that all the kids like them--and that includes troublemakers. You just don't know what's going to happen outside after the shows."

So was she nervous about seeing the band in Columbia?

"Oh, no," she replied cheerfully. "It's a smaller place . . . not that many rowdy people or crack dealers. It's stricter."

Phillips' remarks summarized the feeling of most of the three dozen fans I spoke with at the Carolina Coliseum, the 11,000-seat home of the University of South Carolina basketball team.

The fans in the state capital were familiar with reports of gang violence Aug. 17 that left more than 40 people injured and resulted in the stopping of the show before Run-D.M.C. took the stage at the Long Beach Arena. Yet, none expressed any concern for safety.

Along with arena director John Bolin and several parents who waited outside after the show to pick up their teen-agers, the fans saw the problem as more a reflection on the community than an indictment of the musicians.

"If you listen to Run-D.M.C.'s lyrics, you can see that the music is positive," said Randy Butler, 17, who had driven 80 miles from Walterboro for the concert.

"The problem (in Long Beach) is just the problem of big cities . . . the gangs and stuff. I've been to New York. It's too hectic, you always have to watch behind your back. I never want to live in a place like that."

The Run-D.M.C. issue isn't moot, because the rap band may be returning to Southern California soon.

A representative of the Los Angeles Street Scene--the city's annual downtown cultural celebration--sent a telegram to the band on Friday asking about their availability for this year's event, Sept. 20-21.

The telegram also said the Street Scene committee would like to explore the possibility of making this year's program a fund-raiser for anti-drug and anti-gang projects.

Run-D.M.C. canceled an Aug. 18 concert at the Hollywood Palladium and vowed not to return to Los Angeles until authorities could guarantee the safety of their fans. But the group is apparently interested in returning to the Street Scene if it is part of an anti-drug awareness campaign.

(Run-D.M.C. did perform at the Street Scene last year and played the Los Angeles Sports Arena in June without incident. It also appeared at last summer's Live Aid concert in Philadelphia.)

Said Run-D.M.C. member Joe Simmons before the concert here, "I'm flattered that (the Street Scene) wants me to come there . . . The thing I was beefing about (in canceling the Palladium show) was I wanted the authorities there to get it together to protect my fans, but if I can help the authorities, great. . . . "

Run-D.M.C.'s concert in Providence, R.I., scheduled for this Thursday, was canceled after the Long Beach uprising, but shows proceeded last week without incident in three southern cities, including West Palm Beach, Fla.

John Bolin, the arena director here, said he was comfortable with presenting Run-D.M.C. because the band's concert here went smoothly last year and because "the young black audience traditionally is our best-behaved concert crowd."

As members of the generally polite, well-dressed crowd headed to the concession stands during intermission, Bolin, 41, said, "I'd like to say this (atmosphere) is because of something we're doing, but I suspect the truth is we've just got a real good community . . . lots of real good kids."

Run-D.M.C.'s Simmons, 21, paced back and forth in his hotel room before the concert, underscoring his words with the same sudden arm gestures that he uses to dramatize his messages on stage.

"Some of my kids (in big cities) haven't been around anything positive because of some of the areas they live in and their parents don't have anything positive to offer them," he said.

"I come from the middle class and I'm fortunate enough to have good parents who did set a good example. I knew by the time I was 10 what was good and what was bad, and I always try to be on the good side."

The only evidence around the Coliseum Saturday of anything unusual was a sign near the arena entrance: "Metal detector at door."

"The city didn't make us do that," said Lyor Cohen, the band's manager, before the show. "We did it to make sure nothing happens inside, even though it wasn't necessary. We just want to demonstrate our concern.

"The fact is we're still under a microscope. I think the reaction is much bigger because our audiences are mostly black. A lot of people are still very uneasy about 15,000 black teen-agers getting together in their city.

"Looking ahead, I just hope the whole thing dies down soon, because I can see the media scrutiny affecting my band on stage. After Long Beach, we were hounded by the press . . . No sleep for four days . . . On stage I could see the guys looking into people's eyes, praying that some jerk didn't do something . . . cause some freak incident that would add to the craziness."

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