Take It to the Limit

The Eagles’ embarrassing retraction last week of a top ticket price of $272 for their two local July concerts was apparently sparked by inquiries from Tribune and Sun-Times reporters; last Tuesday an amended set of prices was released. For the record, the original pricing structure included approximately 500 seats at both the World Music Theatre July 14 and Alpine Valley July 15 going for $272 and some larger number of seats going for $167 (most of the prices here and below are rounded off, and all include service charges). Most of the rest of the World’s 11,000 pavilion seats were priced at $87; most of the rest of Alpine’s 7,500 pavilion seats were priced at $112. Both venues also had some back and side seats going for $62 and $87 respectively. Lawn tix at both were $37.

While the top price on the closest seats was brought down significantly, little noticed is the fact that many thousands of tickets actually increased in price. Now the top ticket price at the World is $118; the rest of the pavilion seats are $88, and the lawn’s $38. At Alpine, there’s one $120 price in the pavilion and about 32,500 $40 lawn seats.

Of course, even the new improved prices seem fairly outlandish. On the other hand, I’m sure the Eagles’ position (the band’s publicist isn’t saying anything) is that scalpers will be charging hundreds of dollars for tickets to the eagerly awaited shows–why shouldn’t the band take it for themselves? The argument has some legitimacy; even if you don’t like the Eagles, you have to admit that they have a more reasonable claim to the money than scalpers. The real issue here is something different, and reminds me of the complaints you used to hear about downtown clubs like Shelter. I always figured that if you were dumb enough to stand out in the cold while a doorman decided whether you were dressed well enough to get in, it was your problem, not Shelter’s. Similarly, if some mopes want to pay more than 100 simoleons to see what’s being all but openly called “The Greed Tour,” let ’em pay it.

Still, the high ticket prices rankle, and it turns out that there is, after all, a limit to shamelessness–witness the price retraction. Secondly, there’s the issue of fairness: Pearl Jam and many heavy-metal and country acts make it a point to keep tickets affordable so the rock proletariat at least has a chance to get good seats when the tickets first go on sale.

So what should be done? Hitsville has a friend, a local lawyer named Dino Armiros, who has an intriguing solution. He envisions a situation where the promoter and the band take a certain number of good seats for high-demand shows and sell them at face value to a local charity, which is then encouraged to scalp them fiercely. Armiros, thinking on a grand scale, would like to see a cross-country coalition of promoters and stars set up a national nonprofit organization to handle this process for most major shows. Hitsville thinks this is a powerful and elegant plan. Reasonably priced tickets would still be available to people willing to wait in line, and the fans with big bucks could lay their money down for good seats. A massive amount of money would be channeled to the homeless, AIDS patients, whoever. Scalpers would still exist, but they’d find a big chunk of their business vaporized. And the acts and promoters involved would get good-works brownie points. Anyone have a better idea?

Even with the reduced ticket prices the Eagles will still be breaking new ground; people like Rod Stewart and Michael Bolton have only been charging $75 and $100 for shows at smaller venues than the World. Say 7,000 of the World’s pavilion seats go for $118, the other 4,000 for $88. Add in the 19,000 lawn seats at $38. That’s a nice 1.9-million-dollar evening’s work. At Alpine, similarly, the boys of summer will gross about $2.2 million, or about $100,000 per song, give or take an encore.


Last week Hitsville merely mentioned the Jon Spencer Blues Band and still managed to misspell Spencer’s first name. Sorry….Rumor is Big Star will announce a local show soon, possibly for June 8….On their last album, Saturation, Urge Overkill sing an ode to All My Children’s “Erica Kane.” The show returned the favor last week in a scene that included Trevor Dylan and kids Jamal and Timmy in a restaurant. (Janet, the evil sister of Trevor’s dead wife Natalie–who’d gone to prison for kidnapping Natalie, hiding her in a well, and conceiving a child with Trevor after assuming Natalie’s identity but is now out and unrecognizable due to plastic surgery–was listening at a nearby table, but that’s neither here nor there.) “You guys want to hit the jukebox?” asks Trevor. “Yeah,” responds Timmy. “I’d love to hear Verge Underkill’s latest,” chimes in Jamal. Unfortunately, the jukebox turns out not to work….Overheard in a laundromat: “A really terrible thing has happened since Kurt Cobain died. I’ve been listening to the Smashing Pumpkins a lot.”…A “certified and notarized copy” of the death certificate of Kurt Cobain “detailing the causes of death” can allegedly be had through PostMortem Productions, 2922 Western Ave., suite 510, Seattle, Washington 98121. The place is charging $25 (an additional $5 gets you a copy of the medical examiner’s report as well) and it doesn’t have a phone, so Hitsville suggests writing ahead for confirmation…. Overheard later in the same laundromat: “If I hear Eddie Vedder singing ‘I’m still alive’ one more time…”

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Brian King.