Internet sales, certainly, changed almost everything overnight. The big shows really changed. We more often started finding ourselves
getting seats apart from friends and really missed those seating blocks of 10-20 friends. Plus, we really missed the overnight ticket
camp outs. On the bright side, friends and parents no longer had to worry that we would be robbed or worse overnight outside the
malls camping. Gone was the need for moms or friends to drive by to drop off food or to camp in cars nearby the lines to keep a
watchful eye out, when it was obvious that some -- either music lovers who could afford it or out and out scalpers -- paid pretty
scary street derelicts and shady characters to stand in line for a day or three and buy up the maximum number of allowed tickers.
Sometimes, we loved internet sales; other times, we cursed its very existence, when none, or too few of us, got through in time and we
were crushed. Victory dances started to come less often with internet ticket purchasing.
Internet sales, definitely, started making event ticket scalpers even richer. Bruce's shows started selling out almost immediately, even
in large arenas, within four to ten minutes. That started my love-hate relationship with the then 30ish GQ type ticket scalper, in a
black BMW. He and I shared a few special moments, always on Sunday afternoons, at the very corner of Rock & Roll, in the
Decade's rear parking lot. We exchanged more money than I freely admitted, even once to an ex husband, with whom there were no
other secrets on my part in 23 years. The scalper's number was filed under S and his ads were always in the Sunday paper the second
Sunday after tickets went on sale and usually sold out right away. We all helped keep him in business because we just had to be at the
shows. He so confidently trusted our need to be at the shows that he bravely kept the same telephone number year-round with
absolutely no fear at all of being arrested.
We, just as confidently, trusted him to have a few more scruples than other scalpers, to trade us only authentic tickets for the
double-triple-or more rates. Somewhere in there, in between "Darkness"' and "Born in The USA,'' the scalper must have started
getting some semblance of a conscience. He might've started seeing us as real people, too -- perhaps even felt compassion, as though
he really understood that we had some type of musical sickness, when he let go tickets to me for a 4th city in a row for actual price.
Not that I imagine he has had to downsize his lifestyle any since then, mind you. It's just that artists sometimes, nowadays, and are in
better position to try whatever they can to outsmart the scalpers and beat them at their own profitable game. Sometimes, some of the
faithful receive secret passwords to access internet sales a day before tickets go on sale to the general public, to help fend off the
scalpers and to ensure that the faithful receive tickets at all and at the intended sale prices.
Tickets this time around, for the Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers shows, featuring Bruce Springsteen, on November 4-5 at
Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall, came one day early to some in a 'pre-sale' sale. Through a secret process that would result in my
being forever cursed by rock and roll gods if hinted at, some following a Code of Silence, received the magical password to magically
enter one day ahead of schedule Ticketmaster's online sales gate for these shows. Tickets for this small 2,300 seat venue likely had
scalpers on edge, wondering just how they could gobble up the seats from the two shows for their big buck profit.
Not that you had to be a musician, a writer, a musician's muse, girlfriend, or anyone really special to get the pre-sale password. But
on the other realistic hand, that band members each were limited to just 4 comp tickets shows how highly valuable these seats could
Impressively, though, even with a leak, scalpers were kept at bay an amazing hour or longer. It still was an impressive display of
coordination and secret plan implementation, in spite of the fact that a few tickets posted for double-triple value prices on ebay.
Scalpers wanted most of the seats, naturally, and had their nails clawed sharply to try to scam those of us on public forums anyway
they thought they could. Long lost camp out friend? Oh, please! Most of us are still in touch with NJ, NY and VA people from
outside areas we met in those 30-year-ago overnight camp outs. Good try, though!
What used to take two days took 5 minutes Tuesday with a password to get tickets. But it wasn't nearly as much fun as was camping
This time around, however, five minutes Tuesday was all the time I had to buy tickets. This window of opportunity, with a
password that came as secretly as it possibly could in the middle of the night, was an unexpected thrill. No priceless ticket was ever
ordered as quickly and easily.
No, it's not the E Street Band with Bruce coming to the Oakland hall in early November. But Grushecky and the mighty
Houserockers, the only band to win the respect of being worthy of even being thought of as the second string East Streeters. And
note that there's really nobody else standing in a line behind this band in that respect.
A long time ago, some of us gasped loudly when Joe told Rolling Stone that his band was as good as Bruce's. How dare he! Joe's early
Iron City Houserockers won that mag's title as the best bar band in the country. And in a day when Rolling Stone liked virtually no
bands or their records, it loved this band from the start. Though Joe led one of our favorite bar bands, and some of us around even
from his earlier Brick Alley Band days agreed with Rolling Stone, we still gasped then -- We loved the Iron City Houserockers, but
gasped because Joe dared to compare Gilbert, Art, Eddie, Ned, Scab, Marc and himself to Bruce and his band. Surely, he jested!
Until you might have heard Joe and his band play in more acoustically sound venues, with better guitars, finer musical instruments
and better sound mixing, we, understandably, gasped. Then we got over it.
This November's shows celebrate the 15th anniversary of American Babylon, a little record that Joe, Bruce, Billy Toms and the rest
of the mid-90s Houserockers made together. Bruce produced the record and helped write and sing a few of American Babylon's songs.
The Jersey rocker was gracious enough to book these 15th anniversary shows so that the band could give their families, friends and
some fans another thrill. It is not a Bruce show per se, but it becomes one in the minds of some who could give a rat's ass about
Pittsburgh music... and even to some of us, who've always seen a natural fit between Joe and Bruce -- even if we weren't quite fully
ready to agree that Joe's band was as good as Bruce's E Street Band.
These 60ish men, all these decades later, still hold our attention and make us ready, even to camp out again for tickets if need be, to
be part of whatever magic we're sure to experience this time around. And not to sell the locals short, it is noted that it wouldn't have
to take Bruce to get us camping out again for tickets... Without hesitation, a camp out would be scheduled immediately, not just for a
show, but even one acoustic song with Joe Grushecky and Bill Toms, followed by whatever rocker tune they want to dust off
together with a full band -- doesn't matter whose great full band it would be, either. The other show, that could get us camping out
again for tickets, sadly, cannot be repeated or scheduled, of course. But, if possible, would start camping right now if there could be
just one more show with Joe, Joffo and Art backing the late Jimmy King. For recordings of either of those two hypothetical shows,
up to a week of camp outs, nonetheless, would be traded. Even more.
But if only we still actually camped out this time, the virtually priceless tickets for the American Babylon 15th anniversary shows
wouldn't be pathetically lost or misplaced somewhere in UPS wasteland -- hopefully, just a temporary issue to be resolved
tomorrow. Hopefully, I say, because the tickets are all sold and days of meeting my GQ scalper in parking lots are so over.
If only one American Babylon guitar is someday restored to its rightful mention in online band history, since we with the music
sickness could never get over the loss if all the music, too, were tossed away.... and if only 47,000 others who wanted tickets could fit
in 2,300 seats... if only all 4,600 who were lucky enough to get tickets also buy a another record or one for a holiday present... if only
some of the sorely missed overnight campers were here still with us... and, oh, if only the shows were today instead of two long
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Once upon a time, to get any ticket with Bruce Springsteen on the bill, we camped out up to 2 days, and at least one full
overnight. We camped outside, regardless the season, at different area National Record Marts, while a few other music lover friends
set up concert ticket seeking camps at one, preferably two alternate sites, at Uniontown Mall, Greengate Mall or Laurel Mall.
For other shows down the road, we camped also outside the Civic Arena, St. Vincent College, outside whatever the venues in
Maryland, New York, New Jersey and Virginia and at Cleveland stadium, until the ticket doors opened...and until any others in the
short line in front of us completed their transactions... and we, so jubilantly, then ran out with our precious concert tickets in hand.
Following our little victory dances in pre-cell phone days, we always ran to the nearest pay phone, to call our designated home base
friend/parent/sibling to hear how many of our other friends in alternate overnight camps phoned in jubilantly as well. Always, always,
there were two more friends, about 10-deep behind us in our same lines, just in case our friends in the one or two alternate camps got
shut out there and our campers 10 or so behind us were needed to remain in line to buy more tickets. The camp outs were essential to
get tickets and to get a good number of tickets in the same seating area. The days of showing up without tickets at smaller venues,
such as the Tomorrow Club/Agora in Ohio, already by the camp out era, seemed to be ancient history.
These days, unless/if/when Bruce goes out truly on the spur of the moment and shows up during the spur of at least one of those
moments, and there truly is no advance notice that he's going to be present to sing with local bands or major acts, play guitar or
otherwise entertain, expect a ticket line to start forming, otherwise, almost immediately.
Tickets for Bruce's great shows from the late 70s at the Stanley Theater, and those, as well, in neighboring cities/states from that time
period, came a little differently. We went from carefree camp outs to high anxiety and frustration, calling an often busy telephone line,
trying to reach live reservation and ticket sales persons. We never fully trusted that system, too reliant on human error and faulty
phone connections, when we did get through and order tickets. Never were any of us fully relaxed after telephone purchases until the
tickets arrived in our mailboxes and hands. Victory dances of that era moved to our front porches or post office lobbies, sometimes in
front of startled strangers and anyone encountered along our ways.
Around this same time period, we of the burgh, under it all, with acquired tastes for classic rock, some blues mix and Jersey musical
influences, started to hear of local bands such as Diamond Reo and The Brick Alley Band. Not too long later, the first round and our
first taste of Pittsburgh Music Camelot, started happening. Three bands that sounded nothing alike -- The Iron City Houserockers,
The Silencers and Norman Nardini and the Tigers -- all had their big record deals. Billy Price and the Keystone Rhythm Band also was
everywhere then. Those who didn't follow Joe from Brick Alley, usually found Joe's new band, the Iron City Houserockers, by
following others, such as the late Warren King and Rick Witkowski, who helped Joe package his new sound early on, in front of
impressively influential industry names, and sell his sound.
That we of the burgh had such easy access to almost nightly good shows in the burgh spoiled us rotten. Anyone who grew up
listening to Pittsburgh's live bands and moved away always misses the live shows and music. Local bands tied us over, until the next
round of big shows and Bruce shows, rather nicely. There was no shortage of live music and no shortage of boot copies of most of the
shows. We would go from seeing The Silencers at a couple local bars each month for a $5 cover charge and go home and watch their
video on MTV. It was surreal! Pittsburgh's Music Camelot, naturally, though, worsened our music sickness and so strongly increased
our dependence on having a lot of good music and good live shows available most nights of the week.
And as though it weren't enough to have four key bands to see almost any night of the week, on the back burner around Pittsburgh,
there were several other really good bands -- The Granati Brothers, Donnie Iris, all the James King line ups, The Mystic Knights of
the Sea -- to keep us entertained and happy. Fat City in Swissvale, the Decade in Oakland and Gene's on 51 hosted local bands, joined
by more venues such as Mancini's, The Evergreen, Rumors, Excuses, Someplace Else. During these Music Camelot days in the burgh,
Bruce also became a huge rock star, right in front of our very eyes.
That all said, by this point in time, our acute music sickness -- being fed intermittently by major acts like Bruce, and more regularly
by top shelf homegrown bands such as Joe's -- had become completely incurable and irreversible. We were just so very hooked.
Cell phones, at least by the late 90s on, sometimes, allowed groups of the overnight camp out era to regroup back together for the big
ticket calling frenzy, when another Bruce or big name concert was announced. Cell phones, in this respect, can be credited with
reuniting former victory dance partners, all in the same kichen or back yard for the ticket acquiring process. Cell phones, joyfully,
restored the mission of getting tickets back to its camp out era party atmosphere, allowing as many of us to gather in one place again,
to try to get tickets together. We always seemed to get tickets -- or get through to phone lines much quicker 20+ years later during
these cell phone days. Likewise, victory dances resumed to be fun again, shared with other jubilant ticket holders.
The 15th Anniversary Of "American Babylon'' Brings Joe Grushecky & The Houserockers
And Bruce Springsteen To Oakland Hall For Two Early November Shows
Still In Search Of Concert Tickets
And This 37-Year Musical Fix
By Julie Toye