I attended the show that night and, while things were indeed bad—waiting in line 45 minutes only to be told at the door to get rid of my cell phone; waiting somewhere around an hour between bands (I’m guessing at the time because I didn’t have my cell phone) while watching a lone Interpol roadie tune three guitars six times each—it wasn’t much worse than the standard treatment I’ve come to expect at music events. In fact, this one didn’t even make the list of my Top 5 worst concert experiences.
However, as I drove home that night past the Arena Formerly Known as the Delta Center, I began to wonder why I set my expectations so low for concerts as opposed to sports events, where it seems like they actually want me to come in and enjoy the show. Why does it take three hours to get 1,500 people into a club when the Jazz can move 20,000 people into their arena in under an hour?
The obvious answer is that a large arena has more entrances, but it also often has to do with music promoters hiring too few security people with too little training. At the Warped Tour at the State Fair Park three summers ago, those in charge had many potential entrances to work with. Yet, thousands of fully-pierced, black-clad people who take pride in their lack of conformity to society’s norms were herded along like cattle for about a mile in 100 degree heat over a one-hour period before arriving at the one and only entrance—where a grand total of eight security guards were doing some very slow frisking and searching. Treating customers poorly seems to be the standard in the live-music industry.
Maybe the difference between concerts and games is best explained by looking at who puts on the events. Sports promoters and team owners are generally business people—conservative capitalists who have been financially successful in other ventures and know what it takes to keep customers happy. Meanwhile, the roster of rock & roll impresarios is generally made up of liberal dreamers who are long on conviction about the music, maaaaaan, but short on execution.
The difference in working environments certainly can’t explain the opposite outcomes for fans when it comes to show time. Both types of events serve alcohol (probably easier to get at sporting events because you don’t have to wait in long lines). Both types of promoters, owners or managers have to deal with performers (musicians and professional athletes) who expect their idiosyncratic diva-demands to be met, have been known to use recreational drugs and expect the show to revolve around them.
To put it another way, it’s hard to imagine Jazz owner Larry Miller sitting around doing bong hits while ticket-holders stand in long lines outside the arena. OK, it’s hard—even scary—to imagine Miller doing bong hits under any circumstances, but the point is that sporting events are able to choreograph a variety of entertainers down to the minute, while rock fans have to stand crowded together in front of a stage for long periods of time listening to roadies say, “Check 1-2” repeatedly while the band and management sit backstage partying with groupies.
So, rock fans, unite! Start demanding the same level of treatment already enjoyed by your sports-fan comrades! Fifteen minutes from arrival to getting in the door or the show is free! If a headliner can’t get on the stage within 30 minutes of the warm-up act exiting—just plug the damned guitar in and play it already; the excitement of rock & roll is its spontaneity—everybody gets a free T-shirt!
The first thing we’ll do is put Larry Miller in charge of all concerts. Gay bands need not apply.