The 2016 edition of Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival made for just as shining a monument to youth culture as those of previous years – holding the gaze of revelers long enough to distract them from what unsightly affairs took place behind the scenes.
World-class production values and high-profile appearances both on and offstage transformed the Empire Polo Club grounds into a fantasy world for nearly 100,000 daily attendees over the two weekends that Goldenvoice’s flagship festival took place. While far fewer individuals bore witness to what transpired at some of the festival’s peripheral campgrounds, the incidents made for a spectacle all their own for entirely different reasons.
Back in March, We Got This Covered exposed the questionable business practices of SFX Entertainment board member Andrew Bazos, M.D. during the launch of his event medicine company, CrowdRX. Event security is another less-glorified aspect of a festival’s logistics typically outsourced by festival organizers.
In particular, however, a man named Chris Munoz enlisted to work the second weekend of Coachella by such a staffer contacted us with stories of how he and others were lied to and mistreated over the course of their short-lived employment.
Pictured above (left to right): Pasquale Rotella, Pat Christensen, Cory Meredith.
Aside from Goldenvoice’s own in-house security team, each year Coachella’s crowd management is overseen by Staff Pro, a company that subcontracts smaller security staffing companies. “I was the owner of the company and I sold it two years ago but nothing has changed,” says Staff Pro President Cory Meredith. “The parent company was a huge, huge, huge security company, and they made me a loan.”
Merideth’s relationship with Goldenvoice dates back several decades. “I go back to when the three partners in the ‘80s started Long Beach. (Laughs) This is back in the punk days. Sender’s Ballroom in Long Beach. Now that was when they slam danced one-on-one before they moshed.”
Munoz got involved with a Staff Pro subcontractor called Securacorp shortly after coming across the following post in the Facebook group So Cal Rave Fam:
Munoz recounts that he initially reached out to Austin Burke, who made the post on behalf of another subcontractor similar to Securacorp called International Event Specialists. However, he had better luck connecting with Securacorp themselves when a friend forwarded him a help wanted ad posted via the Instagram account that previously went by the screen name ROUG3_SHADOWS:
After direct messaging the account, Munoz received a reply from somebody named Marcos Salazar who claimed to be one of Securacorp’s employees inviting him to discuss the opportunity further.
Salazar extended Munoz a job offer to work security for the second weekend of the festival, which took place from April 22nd-24th. He told Munoz that it wasn’t a problem that he didn’t have his own mode of transportation because the company would bring him to the festival grounds via Greyhound bus and cover his basic necessities while he stayed on one of Empire Polo Club’s campgrounds.
According to Munoz, Salazar assured him that tents and sleeping bags would be provided, and that he would be compensated for his work two weeks afterwards. He also remembers Salazar telling him, “You’re gonna get paid to play,” and that during his time off the clock he would be allowed to venture out into the festival grounds to experience Coachella alongside the paying attendees.
However, inconsistencies between what was promised and what was delivered would foreshadow the endeavor from the very beginning. Munoz explained:
“[Salazar] told me, ‘You gotta be in front of the Staples Center at 7:00 AM or else the bus will leave.’ I went the next day, and the bus was late – that was one thing. We waited like an hour there. And right then is when I met Ron.”
Ron Hill was a Securacorp employee whom Salazar introduced to Munoz and the other employees as one of their supervisors.
“He said that If anybody acted up or broke any rules they’ll get sent home on the bus, and that he was going to step off the bus and leave Ron in charge – so if anybody disrespected him there would be consequences,” Munoz said.
The bus took the group to a campsite just within the confines of the greater Empire Polo Club but far from the festival grounds themselves. After stepping off the bus, Munoz and the others could hardly believe the scene that stretched out before their very eyes.