It was a busy Saturday, one in which we were going to run errands and getalottastuffdone. Thee Perfesser, glued to his busy-screen as ever, noticed the news going around that the Stones were going to play a show at a small local venue, and that tickets were $20 apiece.
We’ve both been to a million shows in our lifetime, but we’d never seen The Rolling Stones live in concert. One would think that someone like me, who’s been going to shows since she was 16, (actually, younger if you count No Nukes), would have checked that one off years ago. But I’m not a fan of stadium shows, and I can probably count on one hand the big acts that I’ve seen: Genesis, Prince… I can’t think of who else. My most vivid memory of a stadium show actually belongs to my oldest/dearest friend: She went to see the Stones at the L.A. Coliseum or Forum or whatever the state-of-the-art large venue was at the time – and what started as a quiet afternoon on the lawn became roiling waves of hyperactive human bowling pins. She’s a tall girl – almost six feet – and yet she was pressed shoulder-to-shoulder with the rest of the crowd so tightly that she was lifted off her feet and dragged around. She never found her shoes.
Now me, I’m barely five feet tall, so diving into a huge crowd just to stare at somebody’s back all night, or worse get trampled, is not my recipe for a good time. But as the morning wore on, I couldn’t shake the thought that this might be my last and only chance to see the Greatest Living Rock Band In The World up close and personal.
“Let’s just drive by and see how long the line is” I posited. “But, what about all our errands”? Thee Perfesser is sometimes the more pragmatic of the two of us. “It’s the Rolling Stones!” I replied, but deep down I sort of hoped that it would be obvious that we weren’t going to get tickets so that we could just get things done. We were both inclined to ignore the hype and just get on with our day, but this thing had started to gnaw at us like a rock in our shoe. “Okay”, Thee Perfesser agreed, but we were both thinking that we would see a line miles long and then we’d be free. It was a little out of our way, but what the hell.
I should mention at this point that Thee Perfesser was hobbled by an injured knee, and so was on crutches and in pain – not ideal line-standing or concert-going conditions. I dropped him off at the end of the line and miraculously found all-day parking 2 blocks away. Had I already used up my miracle ticket on parking, or was it a sign that better things were in store for us?
Back in line, we learned that it was going to be a lottery process: 1 ticket per person, $20 cash only, ID required, no exceptions. We had no idea how long the wait would be, nor how exactly the lottery was going to work. The line stretched from the front of the El Rey on Wilshire Blvd., where they were selling the tickets, down and around the block to 6th Street, which runs parallel to Wilshire. Not bad, actually; we had expected a much, much longer line.
“Let’s just wait an hour and see if the line starts moving”. We were willing to wait a little while, but not waste a whole day, fuhgawdsakes. We soon settled in and began chatting with our line-mates. It turned out that we were in the presence of Uber-Fans: these people not only knew where the Stones had been practicing all week, they’d actually gone down to the rehearsal space and hung out, listening through the walls. One of them got Mick’s autograph as he left the parking lot. There is apparently a whole Stones Fandom Underworld of which we were not aware until that day.
After about two hours, an announcement was made: They were going to hand out the lottery tickets, one per person. It was surprisingly low-tech. A woman and her assistant came by with a bucket full of small blue paper tickets – the kind you get in a raffle, and handed them out to each person. People clamored for more information: “when will you call the numbers”? What happens next?” but they only said that more information would be forthcoming. More waiting.
The lottery system isn’t a bad way to go in this type of situation – it’s fair in a way because it’s random, but unfair for those who got in line super-early. One woman even flew in from Osaka, Japan! It’s also unfair in that there was a great possibility that only one person in a couple would get tickets. We decided between us that whoever got in was going to go, no whining and complaining from the other party.
About an hour later, a man with a bullhorn came slowly down the line, preceded by rumors and repetitions of the golden ticket number. I should point out here that the raffle tickets were mixed up – so when they handed them out to each person, they weren’t in numerical order. So Thee Perfesser and I ended up with tickets that were 150 digits apart or so, even though we were standing next to each other in line. We had hoped against hope that we’d both either get in or not, but of course, that was not to be: When they called the numbers, it was everything above 312259. He was in; I was not.
At first, I was okay with that. Of course, I’d love to see the Stones. Live. In a small venue. But, we have things to do. And there would still be people there taller than me, and I’d have to jockey for a place to stand, and I probably wouldn’t be able to see anything anyway. That’s fine. I’m glad he got in.
Another guy who had been standing near us began to get desperate. He offered to buy Thee Perfesser’s ticket. He explained that his wife couldn’t be there because of a work obligation, but that she was the real fan, and he would do anything to get her a ticket. Thee Perfesser politely declined, but the Desperate Husband pressed on. Thee Perfesser said, “okay, name your price”. They guy offered $100. No dice. He begged. “Would you sell your ticket to me if I were in your position”? Thee Perfesser posited. “No, I wouldn’t” the guy confessed. Point made.
A bigger issue began to rear its ugly head. Should Thee Perfersser give me his Golden Ticket? – he offered, but I declined. I asked him if he would take my ticket if I had won and I offered it to him – and he said no. It was like the fuckin’ Gift of the Magi.
The line began to move, and the lucky golden ticket holders made their way toward The Chocolate Factory. I followed along, not wanting to lose sight of Thee Perfesser and to see what was going to happen next. As we got closer to the front of the theater, the winners were funneled through metal barricades, and each ticket was scrutinized and compared to a number scrawled on a crumpled yellow post-it held up by The Gatekeeper. Eventually, Thee Perfesser was through and he disappeared into the cool shade of the lobby. I was fine with it. I really was.
My heart sank. It was quickly dawning on me that I really, really wanted to go to this show.
Our only communication now was the occasional text. “Going to start processing soon” was the next text I saw, and then, “It’s going to be a little while”. Meanwhile, the rest of us poor suckers waited outside in the hot sun, searching for shade that was near enough to the theater doors so that we could get back in line, should any more tickets appear. There had been a rumor that more tickets might be released once the first wave was processed. I only half-believed it, but I stuck around, mainly because I wasn’t going to strand my beloved, alone and on crutches, in a crowd of rabid fans. That, and also, I wanted in. A dark cloud had formed over my head.
After another eternity (but in reality only about a half-hour) there was another unintelligible announcement, and then a rush toward the door – people began cramming back in line, and from my vantage point (the shade of the bus stop kiosk in front of the venue) I saw that they were letting people through, those that had stuck around hoping for a second wave. This was it. I started walking the length of the new line but quickly realized that I would never get in if I went to the back. One thing I’ve always been good at is making myself invisible – that’s the advantage to being a small and often quiet person, and that day I used it to cram myself into the tightly packed 2nd-wave line. I figured that if I were 100% honest I would never win. So I cut in line. Much to my surprise, nobody said a word. Everyone knew the game.
Minutes later, I was streaming past the ticket-taker and I, too was in the cool shade of the lobby. I couldn’t believe my luck, and I didn’t allow myself to really believe it until I actually had a ticket in hand. It felt like I was a new immigrant just setting foot on Ellis Island, the realization of my good fortune bubbling up inside me. The line inside snaked around a series of ropes like an amusement park ride, and I craned my neck around to see if I could find Thee Perfesser. Another series of short texts, and I located him up near the front. I was finally in!!!
In the meantime, I settled into conversation with the two young women in front of me. They were younger than me by at least 20 years, but professed their love for classic rock and excitement at finally seeing the Stones in concert. One of them mentioned that she would be going to the upcoming Fleetwood Mac show as well. We chatted excitedly as our proximity to the ticket table shortened. I felt lighter and happier as we made our way toward the front, but I suppressed my urge to jump up and down and scream, mostly because I didn’t want to let myself believe that I was going to this show until I actually had the tickets in hand. There were people in line who were letting loose – one guy was glibly shoving fries into his mouth while doing the happy dance – and I enjoyed their celebration as if it were my own.
“What time is it now? How long have we been waiting?” we kept asking each other. It had only been 45 minutes inside the venue, but it felt much, much longer. One of the Gatekeepers got on stage and welcomed the newcomers into the theater, entreating the first wavers to welcome the second wavers with a cheer. A big applause went up, and then she announced the rules: One ticket per person, must have I.D., must keep the wrist band on, must have corresponding ticket, names will be written on tickets and wristbands, no tampering, cash only, no cameras allowed into the show, including cell phones. Rulesy is as rulesy does. There was an El Rey employee whose only job was to make sure that nobody sat in the chairs that were enticingly lined up against the walls. We were tired. We had been waiting in line for hours, and there was more waiting to be done. But we had somehow descended into the category of lesser-than, and we were all willing to follow the rules and accept our status as Lucky Bastards, but in exchange we gave up many of our civil rights, like the right to sit down. Funny how these things work, that we accepted this as the price to pay for a great privilege.
Inch by red-carpeted inch I eventually made it to the ticket table, where a row of young women sat. It was all very old-school and analogue: one had a cash box, one had a sharpie and a list, another had a stack of tickets and a sharpie, and finally the wristband. They took your cash and ID first. Then wrote your name on a list. Then wrote your name on the wristband and a ticket. Then put the wristband on your right wrist with the admonishment not to get it wet or tamper with it in any way. (Shit, I had been planning on taking a shower.) Then they gave you a little flyer with all the rules. Again. And finally, they had a lovely lass with an English accent taking pictures of the lucky winners for the Rolling Stones website. I was actually going to see the Rolling Stones! At long last, I let the wave of excitement wash over me. This Jaded Girl hadn’t been that giddy and excited about a show in a long, long time.