Unless you were away somewhere on a desert island or on a distant planet — or of course, you simply don't follow these things — then you are probably aware that Bruce Springsteen released a new album, played the Super Bowl, and announced yet another tour with the E Street Band this week.
Speaking of which, is there anyone besides me out there who remembers when Springsteen tours with the E Street Band used to be rare and special events? These days, the guy trots out the boys for another worldwide juggernaut nearly as often as Dylan does. Oh, right — his tours used to be pretty rare too.
Not that I'm complaining or anything…
So, as we Springsteen fans tend to be a somewhat fussy lot, it goes without saying that not everyone was going to be happy with those damned capitalists at TicketBastard this week.
Personally, I'm just pissed that Bruce apparently isn't getting anywhere near the Northwest part of the country this time around. He probably still holds it against us that we didn't sell out the Tacoma Dome back in the Nineties on the Human Touch/Lucky Town tour — to which I say, get over it, Bruce, okay? Nobody else sold that one out either.
But back to TicketBastard. When big-time tours like Bruce, U2, and the like go on sale, everybody pretty much knows that these guys are a necessary evil. As such, fans have come to expect the usual outrageous service fees, system overloads, and computer glitches. It's just part of the deal we have all come to expect.
We either don't get the tickets, or we get shitty seats — even though we had fifteen windows open at 10 AM. When by 10:01, the only seats left in the house are the nosebleeds, we also suspect the usual hanky-panky with scalpers and ticket-brokers. We then complain about it, and in the case of Springsteen, go to BTX for a decent ticket, then forget about it, and start making plans for the big show.
At least, that's how it usually works. Not so this time.
When Springsteen tickets went on sale this past Monday, TicketBastard did all of the usual things it can always be counted on to do. The system froze, credit cards and accounts weren't recognized, and those damn security code-words couldn't be read without industrial-grade bifocals. But then, there was a most interesting new wrinkle…
On the east coast, in particular, ticket buyers got redirected from TicketBastard to the even nastier bastards at TicketsNow. For those unaware, TicketsNow is essentially one of those ticket broker sites that can get you premium seats — for those willing to pay prices up to triple or more of their face value. TicketBastard apparently has some sort of business arrangement with these fine folks.
Super Bowl and Obama inaugural triumphs aside, Springsteen himself hasn't had a great month anyway. The new album has gotten mixed reviews, and he recently apologized to fans for selling a new greatest hits package exclusively at the decidedly labor-unfriendly retailer WalMart.
This week, Springsteen and his management had to apologize again for the TicketsNow debacle, which is something that, as a fan, I give him all due credit for doing.
In fact, this in turn prompted a counter-apology from TicketBastard CEO Irving Azoff, in which he went so far as to offer those fans who got stiffed by the TicketsNow re-direct to make up the difference on the inflated prices they ended up paying.
Anyway, all of this got me to thinking back about how different purchasing tickets used to be back in the old days.
In Seattle, this usually meant going down to the Fidelity Lane ticket office, looking at a seating chart, and haggling over what seat you preferred with the nice ticket lady at the counter. Choice meant standing in lines that were long at times, often behind a family buying tickets to the Ringling Brothers Circus or the Ice Capades. In a lot of ways, it was a real pain in the ass. But it worked.
Most importantly here, you still had choice. In other words, no computer generated "best available" bullshit, which at 10:02 on game-day can mean seats somewhere between the roof of the venue and just due south of Max's drum-riser behind the stage for an act like Springsteen. Which is exactly what I had to look at when I tried to get tickets for the nearest Springsteen show to my house — some 900 miles away in San Jose, California.
Hardcore fan that I am, I reluctantly passed.
Speaking of Springsteen, I can also remember spending the night in many a ticket line for every Bruce tour between The River and Tunnel Of Love. The way the drill went here was that you showed up the night before at the ticket office with the essentials of sleeping bag, beer, and Bruce tapes (this was in the pre-CD era). And then you stayed up all night getting drunk and listening to Springsteen with your fellow Bruce fans.
You didn't sleep, and right around 2 or 3 AM you also started to freeze your ass off. But you also had a great time, and if you arrived early enough, you were guaranteed something in the first ten rows. Once you got your precious cargo, you then ran to the back of the line, flashing your tickets and joyously screaming something like "Tenth row, baby! Read em' and weep!" It was just too damn sweet, and worth every single freezing fucking cold, drunk on my twenty-something-years-old ass minute of it.
The ritual was similar for the other mega-tours. I have a distinct memory, for example, of spending the night in a local park in Seattle as a thirteen-year old with my buddy Dave Dudley. We stayed up all night, smoked an ungodly amount of weed, and then walked ten miles down to the Seattle Center to buy six-dollar tickets to see the Stones on the Exile On Main Street tour.
That's just the way that tickets were bought back then. And for six bucks! Can you imagine that now?
Like most other things these days that have come about as a result of our ever-increasing reliance on doing most everything by computer, I guess it comes down to a matter of convenience over a more personal experience.
I'd be kidding myself if I thought I could still do the sort of all-nighter in a ticket line that I did so many times in my reckless youth now. Hell, I don't even like standing on the floor at concerts these days.
Still, there was something to be said for looking at a seating chart, and taking however many minutes were necessary to choose the best one available.
I guess it all comes down to choice.