Sphere Rescinds Ban on Boastful Bong Dude From Phish Show, Saying Lawyer’s Letter Was a Mistake

Reps for Sphere in Las Vegas said Saturday that the ban on a man who posted video of himself braggingly taking bong hits at a Phish show is no longer in effect, and that the edict barring him from MSG Entertainment properties was an error due to “a breakdown in our process.” At the same time, the venue reaffirmed that lighting up such a mammoth piece of paraphernalia inside a show violates both venue policy and local law.

The statement from a Sphere Entertainment spokesperson, issued Saturday afternoon, reads: “There was a breakdown in our process due to a change in personnel which resulted in the letter being sent inadvertently. This customer is not banned from our properties, however, it is still against our policies, which are in accordance with local laws, to smoke, bring glassware into our venues, and disrupt other fans’ enjoyment of the event.”

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The formerly banned patron’s name has not been publicly identified, but his social media posts under the name Acid Farts drew plenty of attention — first, when he put up video of what he purported was the “first bong hit to ever be ripped in the Sphere” (and tagged the venue in the process), and then as he posted a letter sent to him by an attorney for Sphere. The letter stated that the concertgoer would be banned “indefinitely” not only from Sphere but from all MSG properties in other cities, including Madison Square Garden and the Beacon in New York.

MSG Entertainment is well-known for using facial recognition to identify customers, and the company even posts notices to that effect at Sphere entrances, so the ban was one the company likely would have been capable of enforcing.

In the original viral video, taken on the opening night of Phish’s sold-out weekend of shows at the venue in April, the user stands in a center aisle and takes a deep hit off a massive bong, then blows a thick plume of heavy smoke out over several rows of patrons seated behind him… a few of whom laugh and applaud, though it can’t be ascertained from the video whether everyone in range of the cloud appreciates the gesture.

Responses to the video largely amounted to: How did you ever smuggle something that huge a contraption through security? (He vowed to not give up his secrets on that.) And: How could he be certain that no bongs were hit by anyone attending any of the months’ worth of U2 shows prior to Phish’s? (He did not have an answer for that.)

In posting the letter he’d received from a Sphere attorney, Acid Farts took pride in having been recognized by reps for the venue, describing the legal notice as a “plaque” recognizing his achievement.

Previously, Sphere reps had acknowledged the authenticity of the letter sent to the user by MSG counsel Christopher Schimpf. “Sphere Entertainment Co. will not tolerate actions that threaten the safety and security of our guests and employees,” it read. “In light of your conduct, you are indefinitely banned from Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, the Beacon Theatre, the Chicago Theatre, Sphere and any other MSG venue… If you enter” those venues or the gathering spots outside, the letter continued, “law enforcement will be contacted to ensure your expulsion and you will be subject to the penalties.”

An unrepentant Acid Farts was contacted by Rolling Stone and told the publication he had “no regrets” about going so public with his weed bona fides that he got banned, saying that he had other places to see Phish, although he (apparently) joked about how “I’ll never see the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall.”

The two most recent engagements at Sphere have featured groups — Phish and now Dead & Company — known for attracting at least a portion of fans that enjoy an enhanced concert experience. So the short-lived ban on Acid Farts stood at risk of alienating some segments of the fan communities wary that any crackdowns run counter to the spirit of these shows. Nevertheless, many fans on message boards where there are discussions of what is and isn’t allowable have agreed that flagrantly lighting up inside the new $2 billion dome is not the wisest policy — and concerts by the groups have been largely smoke-free experiences. Sphere security’s policy in dealing with open smokers so far has mostly been to politely approach and ask them to extinguish anything burning, reminding the offenders that laws legalizing marijuana in Nevada do not extend to indoor concert venues.

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