16 August 2008

What song is it you wanna hear?

"Life is too f**king short to play or hear Free Bird."

--Isaac Brock (Modest Mouse)

One big reason I long ago crossed concerts off my list was underscored by the latest post from The Georgia Road Geek:


Instead of a "HIGH TICKET PRICES" warning sign, perhaps Gov. Sonny Perdue would be wise to borrow from the playbook of the infamous Lester "Axe Handle King" Maddox, and erect billboards like those which he did in the late '60s outside of Ludowici. At the time, it perhaps the most infamous speed trap in the country:
(this billboard so angered local officials that Gov. Maddox assigned the State Patrol to guard it 24/7)

But this isn't about speed traps. It's about "music traps." I'd say there are but two things that've risen faster than inflation: 1) health care, and 2) concerts.

Have you seen ticket prices lately? Holy schitt, just one nosebleed seat for your average rock concert can easily set you back $75-100.

It reminds me of the glory days when I saw Van Halen open their 1984 tour in Little Rock, of all places. One (1) ticket - general admission - was $14.00! Loverboy in 1982 set me back $12.50.

And prices in 1970? Listen to these promos and hear for yourself:

Stevie Wonder, 10/31/1970 - Troy State

WBAM Fall Spectacular - 11/27/1970 -- Karen & Richard Carpenter meet Height-Ashbury? Or Iron Butterfly meets Chocolated Ex-Lax?

And while $5.00 (for choice seats at the Big Bam show) wasn't small change in 1970, compare that to the cost of filling the average fullsize car's gas tank in 1970 -- 24 gallons at 29.9¢ -- $7.17! Minimum wage that year was a whopping $1.45 an hour.

Best of all: no service charges, Ticketmaster, Clear Channel and their slimy ilk.

For me, the turning point came in 1990, when my significant-at-the-time-other and I went to see Heart and Cheap Trick at Garrett Coliseum in Montgomery, perhaps the worst accoustics of any venue -- even Barton Coliseum in Little Rock, and that's saying a mouthful.

Several things I gleaned from that experience:
  • Concerts had devolved into strictly a promotional tool for a group's current album. While that was long the norm, there were always "classic favorites" a group would play onstage. Heart - and especially Cheap Trick - loaded their respective shows with filler cuts from their most recent releases. Cheap Trick did one (1) 'classic' - "I Want You To Want Me" - which made it even worse: comparing the rendition done before me, at 5,000 dB in an acoustically pathetic horse barn, with that on vinyl (1979's classic Live at Budokan). Heart gave us two "older" songs, one rather obscure (although likable on my end): "Love Alive", and something from 1985. I think it was "What About Love." Everything else was from their (forgettable) 1990 album, whatever the hell it was called.

  • Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Although - so sue me - I thought Ann Wilson looked kinda sexy with some extra meat on her bones.

  • If you're a crappy, has-been act, make up for that by cranking the amps up to 11. It worked for Spinal Tap. Perhaps even the puppet show they opened for, too. Cheap Trick, again, was the worst offender. At least Heart compensated with more bass.

  • My ears stopped ringing along about 1994.

  • The tickets were comps (Whatzername managed to score 'em through her job), but the face value for the (general admission) concert was something like $30.00! Double the admission for the Van Halen show just six years earlier -- and VH was still a headlining act, as "Diamond Dave" was still up front.
I walked out of there, deaf as Beethoven, vowing never again to attend another rock concert. Besides, they weren't selling T-shirts, and groups had since breached the sacred rule of allowing concert shirts to be sold ONLY at the shows. Anyone who went to high school in the '70s and '80s remembers how cool it was to wear your T-shirt the next day at school, and just by walking the halls you could see who all were at the concert with you.

Even in college, my disposable wampum went toward buying LPs and CDs instead of going to concerts. I thought them a better investment. More than one said "Why don't you go to any shows in Memphis?" I pointed toward my records and replied, "That's why." Plus, I want to be able to bloody HEAR those albums when I turn 50!

The only rock concert I've seen since then was in 1999, when Sera and I went to the Riverfest in Columbus, Ga. That year, Kansas was playing an outdoor show; I seem to remember it was free as part of the overall admission. Good thing, because you wanna talk about falls from grace.

How long to the point of no return? As long as it takes to go from selling out arenas to a makeshift stage on the banks of the Chattahoochee River.

All they are is dus------

Never mind!

Ciao for niao.

--Tinnitus Tal


Lauren said...

The Hubz and I were planning on seeing Cheap Trick and Heart (and Journey, incidentally) next week, but the ticket prices stopped us.

Actually, it wasn't the ticket prices--those were reasonable. It was the extra fees that turned $25 lawn seats into $43-dollar tickets: $6 per ticket parking fee; $8.50 per ticket "convenience charge"; and a $5 "transaction fee."

As I so eloquently said at the time, "EFF that!"

Talmadge Gleck said...

Fees have ruined even concerts in other genres (jazz, blues, etc.) that generally aren't as loaded with greedy egos like pop and rock.

Makes one curious whether Ticketmaster, et al, are owned by air carriers.

Not much that can be done in today's Corporate America, except vote with our wallets.

Georgia Road Geek said...

Thanks for the "shout-out".

Love the old photo from Ludowici and, yup, I'm familiar with that piece of Georgia history. :)