The Art of Ticketmastery 

The all-night box-office vigil desperately needs a modern equivalent.

It's a testament to the band's greatness that more people bitched about not getting Pixies tickets at UC Davis than about not scoring David Bowie seats at Berkeley Community Theatre. (The truly pragmatic would've gone to see Bowie, hoping he would've done his cover of the Pixies' "Cactus," which he did.) Maybe it was the element of surprise that threw some of us -- no one expected to actually be lucky enough to score tickets for the Thin White Duke, but everyone thought the Pixies 2004 tour would be relatively easy to attend.

We were wrong. Tickets to the Boston band's show in Davis sold out in a millisecond. Devout fans lit up message boards instantly, kvetching that they got frozen out by Ticketmaster's unforgiving Web site. Where's Fast Times' Mike Damone when you need him?

The problem is that with the advent of Internet ticket sales, we now have one more group of people to supersede with lightning speed to go to Creed. And it's only going to get worse. Ticketmaster estimates that 50 percent of its sales are now from the Net. Brian Sikorski of Ticketrends.com, the self-described Wall Street Journal of the ticket industry, sees online ticket-buying growing tremendously in the next year. He likens the process to the airlines industry: "You go online, choose your 'seat' from a number of options, then go to the kiosk for your 'boarding pass'/'ticket.'" With luck, they won't tell you are too fat and need to buy two.

But do you remember simpler times, old-timer? Those days when you could wait in line all night to make sure you got a great seat? Sure, it would take some sacrifice, but you knew that if you brought your sleeping bag and slept in front of the box office, you would be first up to snag some righteous REO tix. If you weren't the Speedwagon's number-one fan, you could also wait until the next day and take your chances, but those who had to have great seats knew their overnight vigil would pay off.

Not anymore. There's no equivalent, no guaranteed payoff. Your extreme fandom no longer matters.

Fast-forward a decade. You have just slept on the ground all night waiting for the box office to open to get your REM tickets. The window finally scrolls up, and the clerk offers you a map of available seats. But wait -- what's this? It seems some bastard called up right at 8 a.m. and bought out the entire front section. "Unfair!" you scream. "I've been here all night!" You grudgingly buy a ticket in section B, for Biyotch.

Nowadays, only a total dumbass waits in line all night. In fact, those who are logged onto their computers or have their phones programmed to dial right at opening time have no real guarantee of getting any tickets at all. Part of the problem lies in the fact that thousands of people apply at once in a massive game of musical chairs.

Some things still haven't changed, of course, and you can still always blow a security guard, but that leaves out the prudish and the homophobic, thus making some Modest Mouse and Creed fans very unhappy.

The point here is that getting hot seats used to require some sort of sacrifice. To make things right again, ticket sellers need to implement some obstacle that only the most dedicated fan will endure to ensure a ticket.

For example, how about being forced to sit through three consecutive playbacks of the band's worst album? You just know most casual REM fans will run screaming from the room the first time Monster's "Bang and Blame" begins bleating; watching Madonna fans bail out to the strains of "Music" would be sweet vindication indeed. If Dizzee Rascal ever tours here, they should give the front row tix to whoever can decipher more than 30 percent of his lyrics.

Or how about a really hard trivia questionnaire?

1. What is the "It" in "Whoomp! There It Is!"

2. Who let the dogs out?

3. How do you talk to an angel?

4. How can we be lovers if we can't be friends?

5. What the hell is Chingy talking about?

6. What is Michael Jackson's "Age of Attraction"?

7. What is a woman with Beyoncé's looks doing with a trout like Jay-Z?

Any ideas should be forwarded to Ticketmaster forthwith. See you in line.

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