Archive for February, 2009|Monthly archive page

Little Cogs, Big Numbers

In Uncategorized on February 11, 2009 at 3:56 am

Too many of you understand the angst I felt on Friday.

At 10 a.m. on Friday, tickets went on sale for what I consider to be the belated Valentine’s date of a lifetime: Flight of the Conchords at the Ryman. Somewhere between 10:15 and 10:25, they were completely sold out.

If this New Zealand comedy duo has so many fans in this region who are dying so badly to see them perform at one of the most phenomenal venues on Earth that they literally kept their fingers glued to their mouse triggers in a virtual line to the virtual box office, that wouldn’t bother me at all. Indeed, it would make me feel better about my neighbors. However, this is not the case.

Many of you know this song-and-dance. Sincere fans are poised in vain with their fingers on their mouses, ready to click the button that will secure their seats to see their favorite act, while ticket peddlers like StubHub or TicketsNow buy up hundreds of tickets they proceed to sell or auction at significant markups. What’s Ryan Dombal calls “glorified scalping” has been going on for years, one of the first notable cases involving Pearl Jam (versus Ticketmaster) back in 1992. The most recent case to receive noteriety is Bruce Springsteen and his E-Street Band. Pitchfork  reports that Springsteen went to bat for his fans who, attempting to get tix for the New Jersey show of his world tour, were redirected to TicketsNow from Ticketmaster’s site so they could bid on tickets ( Springsteen’s representative and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs won this round for his fans (Ticketmaster issued what they consider to be an apology and promised Bruce’s “confused” fans would not be linked to TicketsNow henceforth), but along with Pitchfork’s contributors, The Boss worries about what will happen when/if the rumored merger between Ticketmaster and Live Nation, the only other live performance moguls to speak of, actually takes place. Springsteen points out, “The one thing that would make the current ticket situation even worse for the fan […] would be Ticketmaster and Live Nation coming up with a single system, thereby returning us to a near monopoly situation in music ticketing. Several newspapers are reporting on this story right now. If you, like us, oppose that idea, you should make it known to your representatives.”

Now, I went to StubHub to locate tickets for my Flight show. They had over 200 tickets priced upwards of $99. I refuse to pay that, especially since I was one of those fans with my finger on the mouse trigger. While I’ve got your attention I must implore that you never indulge these scalpers. And if you feel as strongly as I do about it, you’ll heed The Boss’s advice and contact your representative. State representatives have e-mail addresses and phone numbers you can locate pretty easily by searching your state’s government website. I also note here that some states have long made the practice of scalping tickets – no matter what form it may appear to take – illegal.

Like our newly inaugurated president, we find ourselves in a bit of [someone else’s] moral pickle these days. We’ve “inherited” a country who, no matter in what corner of her we search, we see at least traces – but mostly flagrant reminders – that corporate capitalism is king. No, capitalism isn’t bad; but the greed it sometimes is prone to nurturing is self-destructive, as we are experiencing in the collapsing economy. This diseased economy is a direct result of an administration that prioritized big businesses like Ticketmaster, who the Bush administration would have claimed had every right to grow as big and greedy as it possibly could; it propogated a “to hell with the little guy” attitude. But the little guy – yes, even the little Tennessee fans of little New Zealand comedy acts who just want to buy their tickets with their hard-earned dough honestly and at a reasonable price – spoke up in November 2008. After eight looooooong years – nearly a decade! – of watching our blood, sweat, and tears lubricate the machines of corporate fat cats, we elected a president who would speak up for us.

What happened under the W. administration could easily happen in its microcosmal world of live entertainment: an almost monopoly becomes a full-fledged monopoly, big just gets bigger, caters to those with the biggest wad of cold, hard cash, and the true fans get left out in the cold. Consider what Wired‘s Eliot Van Buskirk has to say about it:

“While the combined company might take the opportunity to ditch the ‘convenience’ fees that are detested by fans — or at least internalize the fees (which are divided between Ticketmaster, the promoter, and sometimes the performing artist and other parties) — the idea of bypassing the primary ticketing market entirely and introducing them directly into the TicketsNow auction system could give prospective audience members with more cash to burn a big edge over impecunious fans — even if those other fans are quicker on the draw when it comes to buying tickets.

“In other words, thickness of wallet — and not quickness of response — would become the salient factor when trying to buy tickets for hot shows.


(My emphasis.)


The two things we can all immediately do to show these big ticket businesses that we are the fans who may wield power in numbers and in intensity of purpose, we are the cogs that keep this machine going, and we are not going to take a backseat to big business is a) contact our representatives to either demand they seriously look at remedying this issue and do everything in their power to freeze the possibility of a monopoly on our live entertainment, or thank them for supporting scalping as an illegal injustice and b) refuse to buy tickets from TicketsNow, StubHub, or other secondary ticketing sites.

I will be very curious to know what kind of responses you receive when you write to or call your representatives.


Three Recommendations

In Uncategorized on February 1, 2009 at 7:05 pm

Never have I actually experienced wit so razor sharp that it almost wasn’t funny at all. Until this morning.

En route to a solo grocery trip this morning, I switched on NPR. Now, “Says You!” has been airing for many years now, but since I usually am not in my car on Sunday mornings, I’ve never had the pleasure of hearing it.

Two teams compete in several various wordplay games. It was like listening to someone figure out a pun-laden crossword puzzle. It was also like listening to very amusing linguists who, I must say, are not the least bit stuffy (they weren’t at all afraid of innuendo of any kind) play Balderdash. For those of you who have never played Balderdash, I refer to one of that game’s requests that its players guess the definition of an obscure word.

The “Says You!” team consists of Richard Sher (host and producer), Barry Nolan (a member of Mensa – you make me sick, smarty), and several other influential jacks-of-all-trades-television/radio-related like Francine Achbar and Paula Lyons. You can read more about these characters at I recommend you give the archival broadcasts a try. The thing I love about listening to NPR is that all you have to do is listen; your brain will do the rest.

My second recommendation to those of you who intend to visit Nashville or those of you who live in or around this great city, is to pay a visit to the elegant Allium restaurant that just opened a couple months ago on 5th and Main in East Nashville.

East Nashville has been welcoming good locally-produced cuisine of all price points for several years now, becoming a perfect target for “foodies” and “music-ies” who want to do it all in one area with minimal driving. Just park, drink, eat, celebrate yourself and the city. Incidentally, park underground to go to Allium and take the elevator or stairs up one floor.

Allium is a fantastic edition to East Nashville’s village atmosphere. And it graces a spot that was once sadly an eyesore, a blight on one of the gateways to East Nashville. The restaurant makes the most of its locale’s once industrial drabness. Normally I do not gravitate to the industrial decor most modern restaurants champion, but Allium’s proprieters have managed to find that impeccable combination of minimalism and warmth. One wall is comprised of beautiful wood panelling that heats the fishbowl up; it’s opposing wall is entirely made up of windows, some of which overlook the famous Nashville skyline. Even the lighting is inspiring: cylandrical glass lights seem like suspended firelight.

The menu is very unintimidating, offering Italian and French dishes coupled with comforting Southern selections, and the service is friendly and down-to-earth. Even the salad (so fresh it seemed to spring from the plate) and the dessert sandwiching my entree (scallops smothered in a creamy, mild cheese) were highlights.

And don’t be surprised if you are approached by Allium’s proprietor or head chef just to make sure you are pleased, to thank you for visiting, to invite you back, and to find out a little about you! These are individuals who take great pride in having helped vitalize the now-beautiful Germantown district (they also own Germantown Cafe), and are no doubt inspired to bring their flair to East Nashville, too.

My third recommendation is more of an insistence. Please achieve these commands in this order: 1. Visit Nashville on a Saturday night. Bring some friends who like to let loose and have a good time. If you’re the stuffy Stepford Wife/Husband type, this is not for you. 2. Eat at some fantastic locally owned restaurant in East Nashville (i.e. Allium, Margot, Battered and Fried, Eastland Cafe, The Family Wash). 3. Have dessert. 4. Travel across the river, go downtown to Broadway and find Layla’s Bluegrass Inn. The band playing there every Saturday night is Heath Haynes and the Hi Dollars.

I’ll just put it this way: for many years I’ve known that traditional marriage (with the white gown, the wedding party, the church, the caterers, the minutiae, etc.) isn’t for me. However, if I could ever book these guys to play my wedding, I’d say “I do” tomorrow.