The big sell

Given up on Pearl Jam tickets? Don’t be such a damn quitter —Tara Lee Wittchen has a handful of ways you can still get in.

illustration Lisa Lipton

So, crybaby, can’t score tickets to your fav-ourite band’s sold-out show? The big night’s approaching and you’re empty handed and broken hearted? Chin up, kid—you don’t have to miss out, you just have to get creative.

Some tried and true methods include buying tickets on eBay (or from dodgy-looking men near the venue); being the 14th lucky caller; writing a preview for a local rag (ahem); helping—or fake-helping—the band load in their gear (tip: use George Costanza’s ingenious “impatient and annoyed” look when doing so) and of course, the Pamela Des Barres classic, offering services of a personal nature to roadies, security guards and, if you play your cards right, the musicians themselves.

“I heard from a concert security guard the other day that 13-year-olds were offering blow jobs to get backstage at The Backstreet Boys,” says local promoter Waye Mason. “Yech.”

Yech indeed. A much less revolting yet still sketchy tactic is to hop a festival’s fence or break into an unattended door.

“When the Smashing Pumpkins played at Musique Plus in Montreal in 2000, we went in through the parking garage, took the emergency stairs and kept opening doors until one led us to where they were playing,” says Kenda Landry, a student at Saint Mary’s. “We did the same thing at the Spectrum the following night.”

A bit artistic? Make fake laminate passes. “My favourite has to be the volunteer at the Halifax Pop Explosion who made himself an all-access pass,” Mason says. “When Ben Pearlman saw it around his neck, he took it, had him thrown out of The Attic and banned from the rest of the fest.”

Andrew MacGillivray tried a lazier method to get into a sold-out Trews show on Boxing Day in Antigonish: “I just drew the stamp on my hand with a pen and they let me in.”

You can lie about your connections to the band. “One of my favourites is ‘I am with his label,’” Mason says, “which of course means nothing.”

Phil Howe, from Moncton’s Treble Kings, recalls an acquaintance who used a little recycling ingenuity to get into a Slayer show. “He waited by the side door with a ticket stub from a previous show. When the first band finished and everyone came out the side door to have a smoke, he just walked in, flashed the old stub to the security and they let him in.”

Be persistent and patient. “I got into a sold-out Neko Case show while in Victoria by hanging out front,” says Peter Lionais of Halifax. “There were about five people trying to get in. Three left and the owner of the bar let the two of us still there into the show. ‘Sold out’ just means it’s harder to get in.”

It doesn’t hurt to show the band some love, and not the kind that will leave you in need of mouthwash or a penicillin shot. You can sometimes score a guest pass by postering for an out-of-town group or inviting them on your campus radio show. Or you can do what Pavement fanboy Jesse Proudfoot did. Calgary music editor Jason Lewis explains:

“Pavement was coming to Calgary and my friend Jesse wasn’t old enough to get into a bar show. On the day of the concert, he sat outside the Republik nightclub with a sign that said ‘The Calgary Hospitality Society welcomes Pavement to the land of milk and gravy.’ Mid-afternoon, a van pulls up and a bleary-eyed Steve Malkmus gets out. He wanders over to Jesse and, without noticing the sign, asks Jesse if he knows where the club is. Jesse points him in the right direction and Steve moves on. When he comes out, he walks up to Jesse again and asks him if he knows where a laundromat is. Jesse points down 17th Avenue and Steve nods and starts to walk away.”

At this point, Lewis says, Proudfoot felt choked that his idol hadn’t noticed the sign, and told Malkmus so. Then, like an indie rock Mean Joe Green in a Coca Cola commercial, Malkmus turned around and threw the kid his dirty t-shirt.

OK, not really. But he did peel off his sunglasses and read the sign. “They started talking,” Lewis says, “and Jesse not only met the band and did laundry with them, but got to hang out with them in the green room before the show and watched the band from next to the stage.”

Kelly Clarkson is right, you know: dreams can come true.

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