A Tale of Two Wristbands

Now that the Foo Fighters’ “Sonic Highways” is on DVD, I’m watching and thinking back on the weeks during October through early December when I was obsessively following the small club shows they played in each of the eight cities featured in the series. This is the tale of two of those cities – Seattle and New York – and the lengths you sometimes have to go to get your hands on an elusive ticket to something you really want to see.

Through a combination of luck, preparation and persistence, I got tickets to the Seattle show and my friends Jerry and Elaine* got tickets to the New York show. (*Unfortunately I’m not friends with Seinfeld characters – I’m using fake names to protect the innocent, since there were thousands of very irate people who weren’t able to get into the New York show.) Here are the lessons we collectively learned about making that happen, as well as a couple things we did after it happened.

  1. Be alert and get alerts. By the second week of Sonic Highways, it was clear the Foo Fighters were doing a small show in the city featured in that week’s episode every Friday night, and that each show was being announced early the week of the show through Facebook. Wikipedia told me the night of the Seattle episode (day after Thanksgiving) and I set up Facebook to send me alerts whenever the Foo Fighters posted something so I would see the Seattle announcement as quickly as possible. I don’t know if Jerry had alerts set up, but as soon as I saw the posting for the NY show and realized he’d be traveling there that week, I let him know.
  1. Be willing and able to drop everything. I was lucky to already be off work that week, and Jerry was lucky to have an empty calendar at work the day he had to wait for tickets. The Seattle show was announced five hours before tickets went on sale, so I quickly threw some food, reading materials and an umbrella into a backpack and headed to the closest of the three venues in the city selling tickets. One of the guys standing behind me in line was a grad student who left the undergrads he was teaching that day with some topics to discuss and told them to call him if they had any questions. The gal in front of me was getting ready for a photo shoot when she heard about the show, ordered an Uber and told the driver she was in a race and needed to get to Ballard as quickly as possible. Another guy got up from his desk, got in his car and then texted his boss from the ticket line to ask him to shut off his computer. All of us had single digit wristbands.

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  1. Come prepared. See backpack contents above.
  1. Make friends in line. For me this was a luxury to help the time pass faster, but for Jerry this was probably what allowed him to get a second ticket for the show. In New York, 175 wristbands were given out that were each good for two tickets, and then 20 standby wristbands were good for one ticket each. Jerry got a standby wristband. A guy Jerry had been talking to in line also got a standby wristband, but he didn’t want to go to the show without his friend, so he cut off his wristband and gave it to Jerry. A little Superglue later and Elaine was wearing that wristband.   As for my new friends in line, we talked about everything from the science behind “Interstellar” (the grad student who ditched his students was studying astrophysics, specifically habitable planets) to Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition to being eaten by a snake to six-foot lemurs.

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  1. Follow the rules. Or break the rules. In the Seattle line, we were given strict orders that even though we had numbered wristbands, we had to stay in line to keep our spot. The bouncer told us we could leave for a short time to go to the bathroom or grab food, but we couldn’t be gone too long. As the hours passed, we saw people get their wristbands taken away for missing too many of the bouncer’s periodic line counts. So when Elaine called me the week of the New York show to ask for tips on how maximize Jerry’s chance of getting tickets, the first thing I said was “follow the rules.” Fortunately Jerry didn’t follow that advice or else he never would have gotten a ticket. The New York rules were doomed to fail from the start. The show was announced on Tuesday, but the rules stated people couldn’t line up to buy tickets until 3pm on Friday. No surprise that didn’t work. People started camping out on Thursday and Jerry showed up early Friday morning to an already pretty lengthy line. Eventually the venue gave out wristbands, and they were long gone by the time the original 3pm line up time rolled around.
  1. Compare and contrast to other concerts you’ve attended. Once you are finally at the show, it’s good to compare it to other concerts you’ve attended. I went with my friend Travis, and the only other concert we’ve gone to together was New Kids on the Block/Backstreet Boys with his wife and her sister.

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We liked this one better.

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  1. Don’t forget to buy the t-shirt.

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