Reminiscing about 1984 would be incomplete without mentioning George Orwell’s famous tome. Ironically, the novel might have been better named 2012. Big Brother is alive and well today, notably with the presence of the internet, strategically placed security cameras, and the proliferation of smart phones.
Last night’s trip to see a performance at South Street’s TLA brought life to those things which cause synapse, but until today had not been fully committed to virtual paper. As a long-time avid concert fan, I’ve been to venues all over from JFK to Veteran’s Stadium, to Valley Forge Music Fair, Rockne Hall, Ag Hall and Allentown Fair, to the community college auditorium among countless others. I attended my share of performances, a smattering of the best seats in the house, some with obstructed view or less than stellar comfort, but each one magical on its own.
What I miss, are the long lines on ticket sale days. I miss waking up early on a Saturday morning or camping out overnight on a particularly cold, blustery, or otherwise inclement day to anxiously wait in line along with friends and local fellow fans for tickets to go on sale.
The local Ticketmaster booth would usually open at 10:00 AM sharp. Heaven forbid if there was any delay. One was inside the local mall in Wanamaker’s department store at the Customer Service desk.
You had to camp outside the mall until it opened, and then move your gear indoors to get in line inside Wanamaker’s until the ticket machine activated. The outside lineup was always a game of cat and mouse with the mall security cops, because you weren’t really allowed to “congregate” there.
The Wanamaker employees, many of whom were blue-haired ladies accustomed to a certain sense of decorum, were the working part-time-for-mad-money-between-bridge-game types. They were not particularly thrilled to see long lines of anxious fans waiting for the ticket machine to hum to life—especially the heavy metal freaks whose menacing looks sent shivers through the Misses’ Charter Club section. But for fans, it beat standing outdoors once the deep cold had set in, plus there were public restrooms available.
A result of ticket machines doling out tickets in numerical order had the frequent result of placing you and your friends next to the very same fans whom you met in line for tickets weeks prior, so it was always good to be neighborly. The local radio stations promoted the upcoming ticket sales and shows, often sponsoring ticket upgrade contests, giving front row seats or meet and greet VIP passes to the most creative fans.
Having an actual cardboard ticket in hand was part of the mystique. Today there’s something lost. With internet ticket sales, it’s somehow less cool to hand over an 8-1/2×11 sheet of paper with the UPC having it scanned as you walk through security, and it’s a mediocre souvenir at best. Every venue has its own set of security rules and procedures, and your first trip to a new venue is always a bit of an adventure.
Notable too is that in 1984, you would had to have smuggled in a camera or tape recorder risking its confiscation. Flash photography and video-taping of any kind were strictly prohibited. It was one way in which musicians could insure their ability to copyright and sell merchandise that included themselves or their logo. That, and of course alcohol, drugs, weapons or fireworks could get a person stopped in his or her tracks at the gate before they’d ever get inside, though much made it past security at most places anyway.
At one point in last night’s show, the lead singer asked all of the audience members to hold up their phones or lighters to fill the room with light. From my balcony vantage point, I didn’t spot any lighters, just a sea of cell phone screens. While it was fun to watch, and no one burned their own hand when the metal got too hot, there was likewise an eerie quality to it. Besides, I missed the flickering of so many lighters.
One thing that has not changed at all is the enthusiasm of avid fans. While waiting for band members to exit the venue and depart on their tour bus, excited teens waited patiently on the city sidewalk into the morning hours for a glimpse, and autograph, a photo or even a hello.
And the artists, graciously, rose to the occasion chatting, mugging for the cameras and signing until they bid their fans farewell, leaving for yet another town, tail lights aglow through Old City.