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Arts and Entertainment

This Downtown 'Rage Room' Lets Customers Smash Stuff With Bats And Sledgehammers

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There's a trope that occurs in TV and film time and time again, in which a character is so consumed with uncontrollable fury that they wreck a room or punch a hole through a wall. It's three disgruntled employees smashing apart a printer in an open field in Office Space. Comedically, it's Rocket yelling, "You're making me beat up grass!" in Guardians of the Galaxy. My personal favorite? Mild-mannered Selina Kyle having a very over-the-top transformative tantrum that begins with her shoving her stuffed animals down her garbage disposal and ends with her becoming Catwoman. In real life, laws and civility generally prevent us from allowing our anger to physically manifest in such a cathartic way. Unless, that is, a business opens with this specific intention.

At downtown Los Angeles' Rage Ground, one can meet their wit's end on the other side. Here, co-founders Peter Wolf and Edwin Toribio allow guests take out their angst on a variety of delightfully fragile inanimate objects with their weapon of choice. As Emperor Palpatine would say, "Let the hate flow through you."

The rage room, as they are often known, is not an entirely new concept. Wolf was inspired to open his business after watching a 2013 episode of The Moaning of Life, in which host Karl Pilkington visited Anger Room in Dallas. Anger Room, which held a brief and quickly sold out pop-up in Los Angeles back in February of 2016, has been around since 2008. Animation studio Titmouse has an annual "Smash Party" where guests may bring an object to destroy. I attended in 2016, and saw people pulverize lamps, TVs, and effigies of political figures. However, Rage Ground seems to be Los Angeles' first permanent venue for such a thing.

Rage Ground offers five separate rooms of various sizes for smashing, though they're all linked in such a way that a large group could turn them into one massive anger-fueled free-for-all for around 25 guests at a time. Various packages include a variety of objects to obliterate, including glassware and household appliances. For instance, a $13.99 starter package gets a single person five minutes with three small items and two medium items. The "Get Smashed" package ($29.99), which is particularly popular, scores one person 10 minutes with eight beer mugs, five shot glasses, and three martini glasses. For an extra fee, Rage Ground also offers specialty items for destroying (they're currently all out of Trump pinatas), or guests can make a special request for a particular item in advance. They'll even get you a motorcycle if that's what'll take the edge off.

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Some items are found on the streets, while others are purchased wholesale or via Craigslist. Wolf calls it a "repurposing of objects." I asked if anyone had come by to collect broken pieces to make assemblage art in the middle of the desert, and while that's currently a 'no,' it could be a 'yes' if any readers out there feel so inspired.

When it comes to the actual smashing, guests must be at least 18 years old, wear close-toed shoes, and sign a waiver before proceeding. They are then provided with safety equipment that includes a vest, a mask, gloves and an optional helmet. The next step is to choose the instrument of chaos that feels best in your hands: a shovel, a bat, a mallet, a sledgehammer. The most popular choice is typically the bat, which is both easy to use and familiar to most people. Guests are monitored via a security camera, and that footage is typically available for those who wish to watch their fits of fury later.

Wolf and Toribio have seen all sorts of people come through their rooms, though they find most guests prefer to smash in groups. Some people smash without any particular agenda, but others are angry about something in particular.

"We had one woman come in who had just finalized her divorce and she brought in her wedding photo," Wolf said.

Some customers cry during or after the experience. One man came in following the death of Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington, and wept as he tore apart the room to Linkin Park songs.

Linkin Park has been a particularly popular musical selection for guests overall, though tracks from Rage Against the Machine's catalogue remain the most frequently played cuts. Some, however, smash to classical music (Wagner and Prokofiev are both pretty metal when you think about it) and at least one couple selected Etta James.

Guests go about smashing in various ways. A base is provided should people like to swing from the hip, or you can place items on the floor. Common smashing techniques include throwing an item into the air then hitting it with the bat, or "decorative stacking."

"They'll use our cinder blocks to make a pyramid [of items] with maybe a martini glass on top," Toribio said. "Or, they'll just throw a shot glass against the wall."

Some walls—in particular, one made of drywall—bear the wounds of the public's aggression.

Many psychiatrists advise focusing on more gentle tactics to alleviate anger as opposed to giving in to destructive urges. Dr. Gail Saltz, a clinical psychiatry professor at New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell Medical College, told CNN she instead advises "deep breathing, muscle relaxation, using visual imagery or stepping back to take a mindfulness moment." However, Saltz said that while they don't yet have the data to assuage if these rooms are good for people or not, time will tell as more and more of them emerge.

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For now, Wolf and Toribio say many of their customers seem to be raging for fun, and most leave in a chipper enough mood. If your appetite for destruction has been stimulated, you can book a session with Rage Ground online here.

Rage Ground is located at 1120 1/2 Main Street in downtown Los Angeles, 213-536-5356.