I saw my favorite band, Rush, at the PNC Bank Arts Center last night. It was, as always, a damn good show and, while driving home, the thought struck me that Sept. 17 will mark 25 years since my very first concert — Rush at Radio City Music Hall.
I also thought about one of my biggest pet peeves: the fact that, unless you “know someone,” it’s utterly and completely impossible to get truly great seats for a concert.
I’ve had times when tickets have gone on sale at 10 a.m. and I’ve gotten through to TicketBastard.com at 10 a.m. and one second and ended up in the third deck. And, if you want to take a ride in the way-back machine, there were times when I was one of the first few people on line outside a TicketBastard outlet or a venue’s box office and gotten disappointingly mediocre seats. As always, the true fans get screwed, much like sports.
Then I had a few laughs thinking about the things I used to go through to get tickets before the Internet became the norm.
I remember camping out at Madison Square Garden from 6 p.m. on a Friday until 10 a.m. Saturday morning, when tickets for the first KISS show at the Garden in years went on sale. And after 16 hours of no sleep but plenty of Jim Beam, fast food and emergency runs to the lovely, pristine bathrooms of Penn Station, about 50 people, clearly working for scalpers, rushed the front of the line. Not only did the cops and security guards do absolutely nothing about it, but they prevented any of us from doing anything about it. So the end result of my 16 hours on the street was a set of marginal, second-level tickets.
I remember spending the night outside a Sam Goody on Madison Avenue with a TicketBastard counter on a frigid winter night to buy Metallica tickets. I wanted to strangle the guy two spots ahead of me on line for playing Metallica’s “Trapped Under Ice” about 30 times in a row until, mercifully, the batteries in his boom box died. Other than being scarred for life and never being able to enjoy that song again, take the KISS/MSG experience and substitute Jack Daniel’s for Jim Beam and the spot between two delivery vans on 44th St. for the Penn Station bathroom, and there you have it.
I remember somehow scraping up enough money on a college student’s budget to see seven of the nine area shows by Rush on the Hold Your Fire tour. Even though every show had the exact same set list and I didn’t have good seats for any of the seven shows, I still enjoyed every minute.
Things are different now with the Internet. But are they really any better? Getting tickets is still absolute torture.
Granted, it’s a lot more comfortable in a T-shirt and shorts, in my climate-controlled apartment, in front of my PC than it was on the sidewalk of Madison Avenue with temperatures in the 20s and a biting wind.
But there are few things in life more infuriating than the countdown feature on TicketBastard.com. The irritating little device that tells you how long your wait is for tickets is nowhere near accurate. I’ve seen it count down from 15 minutes to 1, only to ratchet back up to 6, stay there for about 10 minutes, then suddenly offer me tickets for seats that I’d need a sherpa to bring me to. Watching the computer screen while praying you get tickets for, say, the last show at Giants Stadium by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band one of the more nerve-wracking experiences I’ve ever endured.
It is really that much worse than a night outside, fueled by whiskey and the naïve thought that I might actually, for once, get good seats? Ah, to be 18 and dumb again. (Well, I’m still dumb — just double the 18 and add four years.)