My 18th birthday was in October and many years ago. At the time I was working a crap job delivering pizzas for the arch nemesis of the pizza place where I’d had my first job and I hated it. The hours sucked,the people were rude, it felt dirty and the pizza was nasty. The pay was good but that’s about it.
I dropped a pie off at a friend’s house and they over-tipped me because that’s what you do for a friend. Then they informed me of their evening plans.
Phish was scheduling a bunch of concerts and they wanted to go to at least three of them around the state of Michigan. In order to accomplish this lofty goal they were going to have to camp out overnight in front of a place in Kalamazoo called Boogie Records and buy tickets from an actual person. And hey, by the way, it’s your birthday, do you want to go too?
Hell yeah I wanted to go too.
My boss sucked, according to the teenage version of me. It was my 18th birthday and it was slow and there was no reason to make me stay until close except to be a dick. The fact that I had asked for it off and been refused should have been a warning sign but I ignored it because when you take a job, you do that job.
I quit that freaking job.
I ran home, loaded up on warm clothes (fall in Michigan my friends) and met up with a friend I had nicknamed Japhy after a Kerouac character. We had folding chairs, blankets, and each other and what more did we need?
Boogie Records in Kalamazoo was an interesting place. Walking in there felt dangerous back then. It was where all the college kids hung out and it was at an intersection in town where Ghetto Dangerous met with Student Living. Had my mother known I was going there she would have worried her ass off.
We could buy actual vinyl records there and order cassettes from reggae bands in Jamaica. It always smelled like incense and every now and again when an employee came out of the back room a whiff of ganja would float through the store. These days people would be surprised if their clerk wasn’t all bloodshot eyes and stoner pauses in conversations but back then it was intimidating as Hell.
We got there around midnight and were the first in line. Oh, the joy of being first! There wasn’t a chance in Hell anyone was going to get better tickets than we were. Both of us had wads of cash, my own from working and Japhy from collecting ticket fees from the 10 other people who wanted to go but didn’t want to put in the work, and were innocently and happily sitting on a street corner where people had been robbed for 1/10 of what we had.
The innocence of youth.
Eventually there was a line extending around the block. It was a weekend night and a lot of them were coming out of the bars so there was a party atmosphere. Marijuana and cigarettes were shared freely and people were kind enough to hold places in line while others dashed to the only clean Shell station for bathroom purposes.
I met so many people! It was a truly amazing experience and I tell stories about it all the time.
When the store opened we went in and bought a crapload of tickets for three different shows. Probably agitated a lot of people who felt their hangovers were coming on and had to wait for us to pick and choose seats in Lansing, Kalamazoo and, holy crap, I can’t remember where the other one was anymore. Getting old over here.
While we’re talking to the clerk about our seats they set out another sign. Tori Amos,one night only at the State Theater in Kalamazoo. Hell to the yeah. Japhy bought tickets for the two of us as a happy birthday present to me (sorry people behind us, we’ll buy you a beer when we legally can…) and we left that place with several bulging envelopes.
Had I been one of the people farther back in line I would have considered mugging the happy and exhausted high school kids but that’s just me…
We went to the Phish shows and bumped into many of our new line friends. We were front row and center at all of them and to this day I swear the bassist was staring into my soul as he bounced on a trampoline but that’s a story for another time.
Japhy and I went to the Tori Amos show. It was Tori and a piano and one of the most amazing nights of my life. We weren’t front row center, we were off to the right a little but because of the way her piano was set up every time she stared into the crowd it was directly at Japhy. We laughed, we cried, and I’ll never forget that show.
A show we never would have seen had we not been waiting in an actual, physical line for tickets.
Now when people want to see a show they wait in a queue online. They don’t have to chat with their neighbor and they surely won’t see a sign pop up for a show in a completely different genre and be able to buy all tickets at the same time.
Don’t get me wrong, obviously the clerks were using the internet or we wouldn’t have had tickets to shows in three different cities but the internet has, ultimately, ruined one of the better parts of the concert going experience.
I miss those days. In my 30’s I don’t actually want to wait in line all night but goddammit I would – if the show were worthy.
Now when people wait in line overnight it is for tech. Nothing wrong with that, we can use tech to do many things including buying our tickets, but can we stop insulting the people that do the overnight waits? What people call a fanboy now would have been considered a fan or groupie back then and it wasn’t an insult, it was a remark upon their dedication.