How Far Would You Go To See A Show?
You've undoubtedly said at least once in your life, "I'd do anything to see _________ in concert." The question is: Would you really?
The most drastic measures I've ever taken were to attend the closing of the iconic New York punk club CBGB, which happened to fall on my 21st birthday, four years ago today. Even though I wasn't able to get a ticket to the sold-out show, I decided to make the trip from my home in Phoenix, Ariz. anyway, and spent most of what little I had on a redeye flight.
When my friends and I arrived at the club on the afternoon it was to close, there was already a line to get in that stretched around the block. As we waited, we heard people telling stories of the time they spent at CBGB over the years. I was fascinated by these tales, but my friends decided that hunger had gotten the best of them. They went to get food, and I stayed put.
At that point, I noticed another girl sort of milling around and talking to people she clearly didn't know. After making eye contact a few times, I asked her if she had a ticket. Sure enough, she did not.
I learned her name was Lucia. She was from Italy, and absolutely gorgeous. Not one man was able to resist turning his head as she walked by. In fact, all the guys there probably believed that they had fallen in love the moment they saw her. For them, it wasn't simply a rush of lust. Lucia had the ability to stir men deep down to their core, and was somehow sweetly and naively oblivious to her allure.
Realizing that we were two of the only women who were there alone, and bonded by punk rock rebellion and an unnatural (and arguably unhealthy) belief that there were no obstacles too big to overcome -- and no club we couldn't get into -- we grabbed each other arm in arm. We were instant sisters.
As we stood there, the CBGB staff made announcements every twenty minutes or so telling everyone who didn’t have a ticket to get out of line and go home. But punk rock wasn't important and influential because people followed the rules, so Lucia and I stayed put.
While holding our ground, we began to talk more with those nearby. The handsome man behind us was very interested in starting a conversation with Lucia. His name was Adam, and after he and Lucia had chatted for a while, he revealed to us that he was on the guest list. We both got big smiles on our faces.
Not long after, my two friends returned with some pizza. I paid them for it, but started to worry that I wouldn’t have enough money to properly bribe the door guys to get in. (I had long figured that this would be my fallback plan.) We stood and waited. After a while, my friends decided to bail. And while I was disappointed, I stayed put.
I offered Lucia a piece of pizza. Just then, I heard someone from further back in line call out to me. "Are you selling pizza?" he screamed.
"No," I replied. "I'm giving it away."
"What?" he yelled. He couldn't hear me.
I thought for a second about my situation, and decided to seize this golden opportunity to make a few, much-needed dollars towards our cause.
"Yeah! I'm selling it."
I thought quickly and responded, "Two dollars a slice."
"How much?" He still couldn't hear.
"Three dollars a slice."
Within about 26 seconds I had sold all the pizza, save the one slice I had eaten, and the one I had given to Lucia.
Now I was feeling good. I had some money in my pocket, the most attractive woman on the Lower East Side on my arm, and a man on the guest list right behind me. Things were looking up.
Adam's friend showed up and the doors finally opened. We put Adam in front of us, and when he got to the tall burly door man he said, "I'm on the guest list." (As a brand-new 21 year old, this was the first time I had ever been with someone who could actually utter these words.)
"Which guest list?" the man replied, unimpressed.
I got nervous at this point. Who knew that there was more than one?
"The house list."
Adam gave the man his name and the four of us waited in anticipation. The man came back and said, "Okay."
He went to wristband Adam and his friend. Adam looked him right in the eye and said, "I have a plus three." (This wasn’t true. In fact, he only had a plus one. Lucia and I were the other two.)
The man didn't flinch. He just picked up two extra pink-and-white checkered wristbands and fastened them around our arms.
As soon as we walked in I grabbed Adam, stood on my tiptoes, and kissed him on the cheek. "I'm buying you and your friend drinks all night," I said.
My determination paid off in so many unexpected ways: That night I met Steven Van Zandt at the bar. I talked with Patti Smith’s guitarist Lenny Kaye after the show. I caught drummer Jay Dee Daughterty's signed drumstick at the end of the night. Patti Smith came back on stage after her encore and she herself handed me a button that read, "What remains is future." (So ominous and simultaneously optimistic.)
I waited, after it was all over, and watched the signature canopy get cut down from the rails, amidst crying onlookers. I walked around the Bowery with Lucia and Bobby Schayer (the long-time drummer of Bad Religion) as he gave us an annotated tour of the neighborhood, pointing out where the Ramones took the picture for the cover of their first record, and where the New York Dolls played their first gig.
And I was a witness to what was one of the best and most historical concerts of my time. I could go on at great lengths about the power of Patti Smith's performance. Suffice it to say, her overwhelming presence, her heartfelt remarks, her raw emotion, and her painfully intense music, poetry, and sentiments overtook me. For weeks it was difficult to concentrate on the details of my seemingly mundane day-to-day existence.
I know it sounds cliché, but I genuinely mean it when I say that this experience was life-changing. It completely altered my ideas about what I wanted to do in life, what was important, and what was possible. Had I not attended this, I don't think my life would have taken the direction it has.
So how about you? How far have you gone or how far would you go to see a show? And what are some of the best things that have happened to you as a result of waiting in that impossibly long line?