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Raging against the concert system

Posted on February 19, 2020 by Taber Times

By Greg Price
Taber Times

Well, that hope ended quickly.

Fellow Taber Times scribe Cole Parkinson and I were hoping to get tickets last Thursday for the upcoming Rage Against the Machine concert in Calgary, only to be quickly kicked out by the ‘Machine’ in still pricey $190 tickets for floor seats.

Soon we saw prices morph, where even a quick look Friday morning, prices had tickets (from scalping websites) as high as $1,000, and lower bowl at Ticketmaster were $400 for re-sells.

I get the ‘Game’ when it comes to high-demand concerts, where you have to be in the que early if you want face-value tickets, as you get re-sells and scalpers gobbling up tickets, and then inflating the price.

It is just there is so much irony to the process, especially given it’s a Rage Against the Machine concert. RATM formed in 1991, with songs expressing revolutionary political views like how old men horde wealth and keep the working man down. Ticket prices were outside the realm of the target audience. It’s hard to sing about the darker shades of grey that capitalism can produce when the cost of a ticket is the same as a nice vacation for a working stiff. Even for the most die-hard Rage fan, there’s got to be some buyer’s guilt if you are willing to pay that outrageous price, where one ticket is the equivalent of a single mom’s grocery bill for her family for the month.

Rage Against the Machine was the jump-off band for me that helped my segway into punk music, transitioning from the top-40 music I was listening to in high school, afraid of ‘sticking out’ as we all do in our formative teenage years.

I loved the passion of punk music and I still do today, where if you strip it down to its most basic elements, it’s about caring about something that is bigger than yourself. Question all you want about the ‘skill’ required to play it in your mostly three-chord ways, it has an energy all its own.

I’ve been to punk shows both big and small, where even a ‘Big One’ like Punk in Drublic I saw in Edmonton, had me seeing well known bands like Bad Religion and NOFX for $100, which also got you craft beer tokens. The upcoming Pouzza Fest in Montreal on the May long weekend gives you 140 different punk bands at just over $100 at several different venues.

One of my favourite bands is Anti-Flag. I interviewed them in Las Vegas and there they were, manning their own merch tents, giving hugs to fans and posing for pictures. A vivid memory I had of Anti-Flag was when they performed with Rise Against and Billy Talent in Lethbridge back in the day.

I tried valiantly to get off work early as I heard they were signing autographs and taking pictures with fans at the mall. Given they are a band out of Pennsylvania, I was wanting to bring my Mario Lemieux Pittsburgh Penguins jersey for them to sign. You know what the cost was to get some face time with the band? — an old blanket, coat or other outer wear for the local shelter. No $100 fee for you to stand two feet beside Britney Spears, but something simply of use for the less fortunate.

That’s the spirit of punk.

I get it, having a reunion tour of one of the most iconic bands out there of the 90s counter culture is way above the prominence of say a Real McKenzies, Screeching Weasel, Sum 41, Offspring, Bad Religion, Refused or Against Me! concert, which I have all been to, and is going to pump up a ticket price. But there’s something to be said like a friend of mine noted, where you could get a handful of top-shelf punk bands for under $100, and their merchandise table didn’t require you to take out a second mortgage. Would you see Madonna, Taylor Swift or Eminem share a drink with you at the bar before their performance like Paul Mckenzie did at a show in Lethbridge with the Real McKenzies?

To be fair to Rage Against the Machine, there are simply things beyond their control. If someone buys one of their tickets and then wants to re-sell it again to someone for a higher price, I guess that’s what the ‘market’ dictates. But again, even that caters to the well off who can afford to speculate by buying rows upon rows of tickets in re-sells with investment capital.

RATM added more shows on their tour in New York, Detroit, Washington and Toronto and have come up with a plan to try and halt ticket scalpers and get the tickets into the hands of the real fans.

The band said in a statement: “Since the announcement of our tour, scalpers and broker sites have been listing fake tickets for Rage Against The Machine. We want to do everything we can to protect our fans from predatory scalping and, at the same time, raise a substantial amount of money for charities and activist organizations we support in each city. At many concerts, up to 50 per cent of the seating is scooped up by scalpers and then resold to fans at much higher fees. We are doing everything we can to protect 90 per cent of the Rage Against The Machine tickets from scalpers, and we are holding in reserve 10 per cent of the seating – random seats throughout each venue – to sell at a higher ticket price, but low enough too undercut the scalpers. We will donate 100 per cent of the money over the fees and base ticket price to charities and activist organizations in each city. We are confident this will help many more fans get tickets at face value, and put a big dent in the aftermarket gouging. We hate scalping as much as you do and will continue to try to find ways to combat it. Additionally, we are donating all profits from our first three shows to immigrants’ rights organizations and will be supporting multiple charities and activist organizations throughout the tour.”

Nevertheless, seeing the very thing unfold in-front of my eyes that is the complete 180 of Rage’s messages was disheartening. I’ve been told often in my love of punk music that I need to ‘grow up’ and I can’t possibly be so ‘naive’ as if to think this is how the world works.

In trying to make this world a better place, I’ll admit I’m not quite as naive as I was in my 20s. But if I am lucky enough to live until I’m old and grey, I’m hoping I can at least hold onto the lighter shades of grey on the moral spectrum for as long as I can. No one should be getting too old for that. While the goings on with Rage tickets were disheartening, I can still listen to their lyrics in the comfort of my home and hope it encourages me to be better than I was the day before in both small and big ways.

Who controls the past now controls the future

Who controls the present now controls the past

Who controls the past now controls the future

Who controls the present now?


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