Tuesday, July 17, 2012

You've Got to Suffer For Art

I was sitting at dinner tonight with friends of a certain age (and by "a certain age," I mean my age), discussing great concerts.  Somehow the topic of procuring concert tickets came up.  In today's age of getting online and clicking a button, the machinations that the rest of us went through to get tickets back in "the olden days" (aka the 90s) seem slightly ridiculous.  Or nostalgic.  Whichever, depending on your certain age. Sure, you might've taken the easy route by pressing speed dial with the Ticketmaster 800 number, but the die-hard amongst us took a more drastic step. 

Take for instance a certain concert in 1998.  The Tibetan Freedom Concert, right here in D.C. Any self-respecting 22 year old needed to see this show.  Spanning two days and with a lineup including the Beastie Boys, Radiohead, Sean Lennon, Mutabaruka, Money Mark, A Tribe Called Quest, Dave Matthews Band, Sonic Youth, Nawang Khechog, Wyclef Jean, Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters, Buffalo Daughter, R.E.M., KRS-ONE, The Wallflowers, Blues Traveler, Live, Pearl Jam, Luscious Jackson, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Chaksam-pa, and Pulp (I'm pretty sure Beck and U2 were there too, as were Brad and Jennifer in the dawn of their relationship, but Wikipedia doesn't mention that), it was all a young and hip person needed to confirm her awesomeness.  It was life-threatening to not procure tickets.

Which brings me to the actual procuring of the tickets. In the dawn of the internet age, when Al Gore was just dreaming of the possibilities of what we might achieve, the rest of us still had to figure out how the hell to get the hottest ticket in town.  The speed dial method just wasn't cutting it.  And thus, we resorted to that age-old tactic of sleeping in the street outside the sales venue.  In this case, it was the (now defunct) Tower Records on the GWU campus. 

I can say with near certainty that nobody cared particulary much about the plight of the Tibetans (with a musical lineup like the one above, why would we?  We were 22, had disposable money, time to sleep in the street for tickets, and a lack of social awareness).  We just wanted to see the most kick-ass bands of our time.  And so it happened that about 100 of us slept on the sidwalk outside a record store (Google it, they used to be a thing) for tickets to the hottest show in town. 

I should pull an aside here to say that I don't camp.  I don't forgo beds, showers, toilets, or warm food for the "thrill" of "roughing it."  BUT . . . apparently for the privilege of seeing Dave Matthews, Radiohead, and the Beastie Boys, I'm willing to abandon my principles and sleep in the street.  I, of course, use the term "sleep" loosely, as we merely dozed in between sad boombox (also used to be a thing) blasts from each of the bands slated to play the concert.  Looking back, I can say with certainty, it was one of the most miserable nights of my life. 

But then the morning came, the lights in the store came on, and the doors opened.  One by one we filed in to get our tickets. There was no simple click of the mouse. There was no advance purchase for fan clubs or American Express card holders.  We were all equal -- equally miserable after having slept on concrete.  And we all got our tickets. 

The show was great -- despite some girl being struck by lightning -- with some of the greatest bands of my generation. And while I'll always remember the concert, what I remember more is that night, camped out (the closest to camping I will ever get) on the sidewalk at GWU, waiting, hoping we'd be able to get tickets before they sold out.

These damn pampered kids today don't know how easy they've got it.  You haven't really enjoyed a concert until you've suffered for it. Trust me.


  1. I didn't enjoy it. I only bought for the first day. And I was so awful, that I wanted a refund when they cancelled the festivities. I couldn't help it. I was a teenager therefore awful by default.

  2. Now hold on just a minute. The kids of today have to figure out COMMENT VERIFICATION before obtaining the tickets of their dreams. Torture, I tell you, torture. Almost as hard as rewinding a cassette tape after it has come unwound. As cleaning a VCR tape after it has gotten corrupted. As NOT KNOWING WHO THE HECK IS CALLING YOU WHEN YOUR PHONE RINGS because caller ID hasn't been invented yet.


    Great piece - yes you suffered for art...and Tibet!

  3. My co-worker yesterday was just telling me that he NEVER buys tickets ahead of time and chooses to buy scalped tickets instead. Apparently, he's had tremendous luck doing that. Inadvertently ending up paying half the price more often than not. Does that count? No? Seems to me like the only parallel to this are people waiting to buy Apple products. Love my iPhone but I can wait. Thanks.