Talkin' No Bag Policy Blues

Everybody's talking about Bagism

Talkin' No Bag Policy Blues

Last week, I drove to the bottom of Indiana to see the last Bob Dylan show of 2023. I had missed Akron because I had COVID and the reports from Toronto and then New York City made it unbearable to think I wouldn’t see Bob this year. There were plenty of very good tickets left, my nephew goes to university in Indiana, I could make this work, so I did. I wrote about it over at Ray Padgett’s excellent Dylan Substack!

It wasn’t until I was packing a day or two before the weekend that I remembered: Ugh. What is this venue’s bag policy? Do they have a bag policy? You would think a small theater in a small town would just be, like, “no giant backpacks.” No dice. Clear bags only. Okay, now let me find my clear bag and check that the size is in compliance.

When I first began attending concerts as a teenager, I was excited from the day I bought the ticket. I did countdowns, I planned what I would wear, I would wake up in the morning thinking, “Only two more weeks until I get to go to the concert.” It was such an event, I was always in disbelief that I was going to see Bruce Springsteen (or whoever) play music and I would be in the same room. How was this possible?

I was like that for a very long time until I got to the point that I didn’t get excited until I walked into the room. So many things could happen between the time I bought the ticket and the time I got to the venue and it was a better use of my energy and equilibrium to downshift a little bit. Nowadays the adrenaline kicks in as soon as I can see the venue, usually as I’m walking towards it. I’m thinking, is there a marquee and can I get a photo of it without having to walk to the other side of the building? I’m checking to see which of my friends have already arrived, I’m giving myself a pep talk to not panic-buy merch. It’s that moment where I get to do the thing that I love the most.

So Sunday night I pull into the parking lot for the Old National Events Center, park my car, and start walking the short distance to the venue, and honestly, I’m jazzed and it’s such a light, fun feeling.

I haven’t even gotten close to the entrance yet when I am accosted by a security guard, who is having a conversation with a couple.

“MA’AM! MA’AM!” she yells in my direction.

I have no idea what offense I have committed. There is no barrier or visible checkpoint. It is not a particularly well-lit area, just adjacent street lights. I stop walking and look in her direction.


The couple who she had stopped included a woman with a large leather satchel. But I am wearing my stupid ass clear bag slung across my body so that it was clearly visible. If she could see it, she shouldn’t have yelled at me. If she couldn’t see it, then how did she know I wasn’t in compliance?

aforementioned clear bag.

My excitement just deflated like a sad balloon. I am a paying customer. I followed the rules, I am toeing the line, and yet I am still being treated like some kind of offender. I don’t blame this security guard - she was clearly sent out with a mandate to catch everyone who didn’t read the email from the venue that said ‘READ THIS EMAIL BEFORE BOB DYLAN” (which was mostly about how it was a phone-free show) and they sent her to the spot between the parking lot and the front entrance so that they weren’t asking people to make a long trek back to the parking lot. If that’s what you’re doing, then set up signage and a table and some lighting and more than one security guard. If I had seen that it was a bag checkpoint I would have rolled my eyes and held up my bag and kept walking. Instead I am being yelled at like a delinquent schoolchild when I haven’t done anything wrong. Finally, this bag policy is in place for every performance, not just Bob Dylan, so it isn’t that they had to scramble at the last minute because they don’t usually do this.

i still have no idea what KBUG means

I am so fucking tired of this nonsense. There is no limitation in the amount of stuff I can bring -- it’s not like they’re limiting us to 3 ounces of fluid, like the TSA -- if I took everything in my purse and put it in my pockets I would be allowed in the venue with zero problem. Most women’s clothing doesn’t have those kinds of pockets, and in the winter when we have coats, depending on the type of venue, people often leave their coats in the car so they don’t overheat or get beer spilled on it.

I am not bringing a lot into a venue. Wallet, keys, earplugs, lip balm, phone battery & charge cord, a spare mask. But I’d like to bring a comb, lipstick, breath mints, emergency pain reliever, a handkerchief, a package of soap leaves. I also always bring a notebook and two pens. I no longer have to carry menstrual products so I do not have to go through that calculation, but I feel for people who do, because no one wants to walk around with a selection of tampons and maxipads on display for the entire world to see.

I can’t even just bring in my keys on their normal keychain because it has an emergency siren attached to it which makes the whole thing large, which is normally not a problem when I have a purse I can put it into. So now I have to have to take my car key off the keyring and have “concert keys” which is literally the dumbest fucking thing ever.

I am also at the point where I just have one pair of glasses, but it is not out of the realm of possibility that people might need two pairs of glasses, like reading glasses and sunglasses. (For a long time I had to evaluate concert purses by whether or not it would hold a pair of glasses.)

Nothing I have listed here is unreasonable! I am not asking to bring in a portable generator!

The other thing is that every venue has different policies and you cannot count on the venue’s policy to be the same from the last time you were there. For a while, Met Life Stadium (and others) had a different bag policy for sports than it did for concerts.1 When I saw U2 in 2017, you could bring a purse. When I saw the Stones in 2018, they wouldn’t even let me bring in my sandwich in the bag it came in because it was not 100% clear (it had the sandwich shop’s logo printed on it). 

Before you tell me “Just buy a bag that’s size-compliant, what are you complaining about” that’s because the sizes are different between venues in the same city, and their rules about what’s allowed can change at any time. As my friends will tell you, I am someone who has concert purses because I don’t want to be burdened with too much stuff/too much to search. I used to literally order a dozen bags from eBags and then try fitting my concert gear in each bag to see which was the best fit. I can no longer do that, because no sooner will I make a purchase -- like the clear bag I bought for the Stones -- than the venue will switch to “no bags.”

Let us now discuss “no bags.” No bags just means it needs to be the smallest bag possible, and some man somewhere learned of the existence of the clutch purse, an item that has not been fashionable (outside of fancy galas) since the 1950’s. In their mind, we can just put our ID and credit card into this small envelope-shaped bag and tuck it under our arms and everything should be okay.

What the fuck are we supposed to do with our hands, Chad? We need to open doors and, like, do things with them. Is being able to clap without dropping your clutch into a puddle of spilled beer too much to ask? And this doesn’t even take into account disabled people who might not be able to carry a clutch bag because they’re using assistive devices to walk or get around, or because they require both hands/arms to do so safely. I am not disabled but I am old enough to want both of my hands when I walk down stairs, especially stairs in an arena where they are almost always narrow and steep.

Luckily there has yet to be a rule forbidding you from putting a shoulder strap onto your clutch to give yourself some freedom of mobility but these are hoops we should not have to be jumping through. We are already paying for a concert ticket and the associated fees and then parking and at a minimum, $7 for a bottle of water (where we won’t be allowed to keep the cap, but that’s another story for another day).

I bought my first clear bag to see the Stones in 2018 at Met Life. When they came through Detroit in 2021 and played at Ford Field -- a venue I had attended in 2017 seeing U2 -- I needed a clear bag this time, instead of just a small bag as I had at U2. I couldn’t find mine so I had to order another one from Amazon. Over the years, I have also bought several other bags that seemed likely they would be in compliance, only to get them and realize they wouldn’t work. Not all of them could be returned, so now I am just out that money. I was going to calculate how much money I have spent trying to be in compliance but I decided it would make me angrier than I already am about all of this.

from the Live Nation FAQ

Now we also have to be detectives!

Here are some bag policies from around the country. I am doing this by doing a web search on the name of the venue and “bag policy” because it should not require more effort than that. I just randomly picked a selection of venues I have been to over the years.


  • Madison Square Garden: Bags do not have to be clear, but they must fit comfortably under your seat. Oversized bags larger than 22” x 14” x 9” are prohibited.
  • Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, Cleveland: No backpacks, large bags (bags must be 14” x 14” x 6” or smaller and fit under seat without obstruction of aisles).
  • The Sphere, Las Vegas: Sphere is a “no bag” facility, meaning that large bags and backpacks are not permitted inside the venue…Exceptions to this policy include small clutches, purses, and fanny packs that are no larger than approximately 6 in. x 6 in. x 2 in.
  • United Center, Chicago: Guests are able to enter the arena with a small purse or personal bag up to 10x6x2.
  • Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia: Hand clutches, wristlets and small purses that do not exceed 4.5”x6.5” as well as bags that are larger than 4.5” x 6.5” and smaller than 14”x14”x6” to be X-Ray screened and permitted into the venue.
  • TD Garden, Boston: Bags that measure larger than 14”x14”x6” are considered prohibited items and are not allowed into the arena. Bags that measure between 14”x 14”x6” and 6”x4”x1. 5” (including clear bags and ProShop powered by '47 bags) are subject to x-ray screening and visual inspection.
  • Kia Forum, Los Angeles: We welcome Guests to bring: Clear Bags that are equal to or smaller than 12 x 6 x 12. Clear plastic freezer bags that are 1 gallon size or smaller.
  • Climate Pledge Arena, Seattle: If necessary, guests are permitted to bring ONE CLEAR BAG no larger than 14″w x 14″h x 6″d in size OR small clutches/purses/wallets that do not exceed 4.5″x 6.5″ in size.
  • Arena, Los Angeles: Bags, backpacks, purses, totes, clear bags, fanny packs, and camera bags are not allowed. Small clutches and wallets smaller than 5” x 9” x 1” are permitted and are subject to security inspection.


  • Irving Plaza, NYC: Embrace the convenience of our clear bag policy with clear plastic, vinyl, or PVC bags no larger than 12″ x 6″ x 12″. Small clutch bags up to 4.5″ x 6.5″ will also be welcome.
  • Hollywood Palladium, Los Angeles: The following bag policy is in place: Bags up to 12” x 6” x 12” are allowed in the venue. All bags will be searched prior to entry. Bags that are not clear will be subject to additional search.
  • TLA, Philadelphia: The TLA's clear bag policy allows only clear plastic, vinyl or PVC bags (maximum size 12″x6″x12″) or small clutch bags (maximum size 4.5″x6
  • First Avenue, Minneapolis: You may bring a small bag with you to most of our shows. This policy may change depending on the performer or at the discretion of management. Large bags, including messenger bags and backpacks, must be left at coat check.


  • Fox Theater, Detroit: To uphold health and safety protocols, minimize contact and ensure a more seamless entry process, our venues have adopted a no bag policy. BAGS, PURSES & CLUTCHES LARGER THAN 4" x 6" x 1.5" ARE PROHIBITED. SINGLE COMPARTMENT BAGS, WALLETS & CLUTCHES SMALLER THAN 4" x 6" x 1.5" WITH OR WITHOUT A HANDLE OR STRAP ARE PERMITTED.
  • Fox Theater, St. Louis: No bag prohibitions that I could find.
  • Fox Theater, Atlanta: Oversized bags (Bag larger than 8.5” x 11”, including all backpacks, briefcases, luggage, or duffle bags)
  • Auditorium Theater, Chicago: large bags, backpacks (no size limitations)
  • Wiltern Theater, Los Angeles: Bags up to 12" x 6" x 12" are allowed in the venue

Let’s look at the clutch sizes since those are the most common allowable container.

  • Fox Theater: 4" x 6" x 1.5"
  • TLA: 4.5″x6
  • 5” x 9” x 1”
  • The Sphere: 6 in. x 6 in. x 2 in.


I also want to know what clutch purse size they are basing this off of. If you do a search on “clutch purse” on the Macy’s website, what you get are fancy glittery things meant for an evening out. The most suitable thing I could find was this, which is basically a large wallet on a string, which is designed to carry an iPhone 8, a pair of sunglasses, a slim wallet, a charge cord, a lipstick, and a key on a key fob. Its dimensions? 9"W x 6"H x 2-1/2"D, making it non-compliant.

Where, exactly, are all of these 4x6x1.5 clutches that these regulations have been based on? Because I have spent so many hours trying to find something, anything, that would work.

If you’re tempted to say something like “just buy one that’s close to that, no one is going to prohibit your bag if it’s ½” too big” you have not ever been to a concert with a bag, so take a seat. There are plenty of security people who want nothing more than to send you back to your car or out of line and that might not matter in a theater but it definitely matters in a general admission scenario.

It is also obvious that the venues in cities where most concert-goers are arriving via public transportation do not have draconian bag policies, because no one has a car to leave their stuff in. But, like, either the bag policies exist because of security issues -- do not even start with “health and safety” -- or they don’t.

As for the assertions around speed and efficiency, I have yet to enter a venue with a bag policy any quicker than it takes to enter one that doesn’t -- in fact, it’s usually worse with a bag policy because someone either doesn’t know or has a bag that’s not in compliance because they go to one concert a year and the last time they were at the venue they got in with a similar bag.

Excuses I have heard from various Reply Guys:

  • “They clearly know something we don’t” - so why is it different everywhere, and yet New York City has no problem dealing with bags? It’s not constantly changing based on current events.
  • “People are sneaking in alcohol” - people are still doing that. in their socks. Check there.

I’m still waiting for a believable explanation for all of this, instead of the arbitrary, punitive, unrealistic enforcement of a draconian policy that doesn’t improve the concert-going experience for anyone who needs to bring a bag to a show. They jumped at the excuse of COVID to blab something about “health and safety protocols” as a reason to ban bags. I just want to go to a concert without having to strategize as though I am hiking to Everest Base Camp where it is normal and expected that there will be ever-shifting regulations which your health and well-being actually depend on.

  1. I am not going to discuss whether I think the NFL bag policy is dumb [which it is] because that is not my particular circus.