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The Pixies at Hammerstein Ballroom

November 24, 2009

I went to the Pixies show at Hammerstein Ballroom last night. I’ve seen them there once before – maybe four or five years ago – and it was great. I didn’t see them in their heyday so I can’t compare, but it was an excellent show.

I figured for more of the same. They are currently touring playing the entirety of Doolittle, their “seminal” (as the guy who bought my extra ticket described it) album (plus b-sides). This is a to my mind curious trend of late, bands playing their seminal albums, but whatever.

So last night’s show, perhaps a curiosity, but no less an attraction for being so, since I like the Pixies, they are legendary, and I’m pretty sure they’ll bring the goods.

Unfortunately, I had to leave a bit early. And thus the crux of this here story. This show was ****ing packed. I mean, it was mad crowded. I was standing on the floor, in the back sort of in the corner and as I waited there 15 minutes or so for the band to take the stage, my meager personal space rather quickly disappeared, save for a few feet in front of me – which was odd, to be honest; it was so frigging crowded in there, I wondered why that bit of floor wasn’t filled.

Sooooo … The first thing that happened was as the band started, people really started to squeeze in. Nothing unusual there. Then these two young women and a hirsute young dude moved through that space in front of me, as others had been doing – or so I thought. No, they weren’t moving through, they were moving into. Fine. However, that space had shrunk a bit so this hirsute dude stopped right the **** in front of me, blocking my already mediocre view completely. I mean he was right there in front of me. I could see his neck hair in silhouette against the stage lights. He was texting someone and I could read the goddamn text. I know to a degree this is par for the course but this was outrageous. You don’t squeeze your way right into someone else’s eye-line.

So after reading his text I decided to take action (keep in mind by this point I already knew my time at this Pixies show would soon be up; four or five songs in and I was real uncomfortable). I said “excuse me” to the gentleman next to the hirsute guy and went around and stood right in front of that shadowy bearded figure. Fronties-backsies. “How do you like that, mother****er,” I said (to myself, in my head). However the glow was not off my macho victory before a guy and a smaller guy or girl muscled their way through the crowd roughly, and planted themselves in front of me. I didn’t care too much though cause I could see over them easily. But the taller of the two was acting weird – jostling other people, looking at them funny, jumping up and down as if there was any room for dancing of any sort. … I saw him randomly talking to the man next to him; he seemed agitated as hell (and this was the second agitated fellow I’d seen. Earlier, a somewhat muscular jerk-off made a show of strength pushing his way back through the crowd, dragging his girlfriend behind him and mouthing off to any poor nerd who impeded his progress, as impossible as it was not to).

Anyway this guy in front of me was looking around, looking for trouble or something. He turned to me and said “Do you want this?” showing me a half drained cup with a mixed drink in it. I scrunched up my face and shook my head, though only after giving the contents of the cup a good look – you know, to see if I wanted it.

At that point I decided to pack it in. It was just getting weird in there, and like I say it was real crowded. I made my way to the closest edge of the crowd, then through the lightest spots I could find through the perimeter to the large, maybe 40 foot wide, three- or four-step staircase nearest me. These stairs were the only way out and they were crammed full of people, I assume trying to take advantage of the height increase.

I more or less had to guess where these stairs were, because the crowd was as thick – or thicker – there as anywhere else. A guy coming toward me from the bar beyond the stairs with a beer pushed his way through; rock show etiquette tells us that that is now a pathway, apologies to those in that pathway (we’ve all been there and yes it’s a drag). I went right for the spot he’d just come through, between two young women. Now, a quick note: This show perhaps unsurprisingly was probably 2 or 3 to 1 male/female ratio. But these stairs were full of women, and for whatever reason, most of them large women. And though the guy with the beer had just come through, the hole he’d temporarily created was apparently now closed for business.

It was too late, though – I was on the move, I couldn’t just stand there anyway. “Excuse me, ladies” I said. The one to my left said, reasonably, “There’s a railing over here so I don’t know what to tell you”, ie, she could move no further. I said “Sorry,” and ever-so-gently pushed on through. They really were not giving any ground. Then, I shit you not, one of these women pinched me, on the arm. Not like, “hey how you doin'”, but as punishment for jostling her and ruining her entitled rock moment, there on the stairs, where she had strategically set up even though there was as much if not more room on the floor, so she could see better – and I should say I was doing as little jostling as possible, but these people would not budge and, for pete’s sake they were all mashed together on the stairs – again, the only way out.

I don’t know which one pinched me, except it came from my right. Then the young woman immediately to my right (perhaps the pincher!) said after trying to bounce-dance me back into the floor “Wait until between songs!” with an angrily indignant, and may I say unappealing look on her face. To this I replied “Believe it or not, I did” – which I did, I waited to leave until between songs, but you know, they only stop for about 20 seconds and if I only moved for 20 seconds between songs, I’d never have made it out of there at all.

Well from there it got a bit easier; I guess they were the forward guard and resistance was far less entrenched after that. I popped out to find myself at the bar, and started to pull some money out of my wallet. Now’s the time for a drink, I thought. Then I thought of the prices, and giving money to this place that for the last 45 minutes had seemed to devolve into some kind of troll and devil gathering and put my wallet away. I looked at those “no re-entry” signs on the doors and thought for a moment. The show wasn’t half over, but who was I kidding? I felt like I just had endured the Battle of Helm’s Deep. I stepped out into the night, feeling a twinge of guilt but an even greater sense of relief.

20 Comments leave one →
  1. LindaAnn permalink
    November 24, 2009 11:46 am

    Sounds like the HB was WAY over capacity. I had the same horrendous experience with people getting right in front of me, planting their big-ass selves RIGHT in front of me, and then being obnoxious with spilling beer and sh-t, at the Cake show at Terminal 5 this summer. I mean, I have been on packed floors before, and if everyone just behaves themselves (i.e., aren’t drunken/stoned/drugged-up assholes), then the proximity can be downright pleasant, like the bovine flank-to-flank camaraderie of the human herd. But when people act like that, it is definitely time to split.
    Was the show any good at all? or were you just too distracted to notice?

    • A. Strung permalink*
      November 24, 2009 11:52 am

      It sounded great but yeah I was kind of distracted. I was busy being pinched!

  2. Pete permalink
    November 24, 2009 12:54 pm

    Stumbled across your blog while looking for “evidence” that the Hammerstein was over capacity last night. I am working on getting my $$ back from Ticketmaster.

    I had the same experience. Some nasty woman, possibly the pincher, got pretty bitchy when I tried to pass and planted an elbow to my back. I have never seen so much hostility among fans at a show in NYC. The sense of entitlement among the slightly older concertgoers was very clear.

    • A. Strung permalink*
      November 24, 2009 1:13 pm

      Damn, if you get your money back let me know. I hadn’t even thought of that, but it’s a reasonable idea. Overbooking may have contributed to the Lord of the Flies vibe in there, too. I swear I’ve been to Slayer shows with more genteel clientele.

      Facing away from the stage, the stairs I went up were on the left, so if that’s where you got elbowed, maybe it was the pinching person. I kind of hope it was.

      • Pete permalink
        November 24, 2009 3:05 pm

        Yes, same spot. Probably the same woman – I kind of felt sorry for her making herself miserable all night. I definitely would have moved from a high traffic area.

        On Brooklyn Vegan someone pointed out that there was no security preventing people with balcony tickets from walking onto the floor, hence the crowd.

        I think Live Nation, the Hammerstein, or Ticketmaster should issue a refund. I plan to dispute this on my credit card otherwise.

      • A. Strung permalink*
        November 24, 2009 5:26 pm

        What there probably needs to be is some quasi-class action movement, as in a large group of similarly-aggrieved people act together to get a result. On a case-by-case basis the powers-that-be will most likely just blow complaints off.

        If one person gets their money back, that will probably open the flood gates, so they will be resistant, I’d think. But if we could somehow get a bunch of people on the same page, then the flood gates would already be open and they’d be obliged to deal with it. I don’t know where to start with something like that, and anyway I wasn’t the purchaser of my ticket so I don’t know that I’d be any help anyway.

        So funny, that pinching, elbowing lady.

  3. November 24, 2009 1:06 pm

    I was at the show… pretty much in the lobby. Fuck Live Nation and their overbooking!!

  4. November 24, 2009 2:07 pm

    I was fortunate to have a choice between seeing the Pixies in Chicago or in NYC. I chose Chicago, and after seeing the Chicago show was hoping the NYC one would be better for the fans than the Chicago show was. It seems similar. I wrote my review here:’m-all-confused-about-the-pixies-show-chicago-aragon-ballroom/

  5. November 24, 2009 5:54 pm

    I just sent an email to Ticketmaster asking for my money back… Live Nation denied all responsibility. What a shocker.

    • A. Strung permalink*
      November 24, 2009 6:02 pm

      Seems like Live Nation and the venue would bear more responsibility than TicketMaster. Well good luck. Continue the updates.

  6. Pete permalink
    November 24, 2009 6:02 pm

    I think that with a critical mass of complaints, Live Nation or Ticketmaster will refund. The rep. at Ticketmaster who I spoke to (after the call being elevated twice) said these things happen and refunds have been issued before.

    Live Nation already offered me a 25% discount on a future show given the circumstances. I’m pushing to get more by pursuing the issue with ticketmaster. Hundreds of people paid $60 to stand in a lobby.

    Number for Ticketmaster customer service is: 800-653-8000.

    • A. Strung permalink*
      November 24, 2009 6:22 pm

      All right, I’ll advise the buyer to try that route.

  7. November 24, 2009 6:30 pm

    I just called Ticketmaster and hit a brick wall with them after a good 20 minutes. The supervisor wouldn’t do anything — he said I should’ve just shown up to the show earlier — and said he was the ultimate authority on this. No amount of logic would get past his thick head. WTF????

    • A. Strung permalink*
      November 24, 2009 7:00 pm

      Wow. Well you could chalk it up to one jerk that works there. I’ve tried that tactic before, if I think the rep is an ass or stupid, I’ll call back and sometimes a more reasonable person will produce a better result.

      Again though, I really don’t know how much responsibility Ticketmaster has for overbooking. I would think the venue is at fault first, then the promoter, then the ticket seller. I’m really kind of clueless though. Maybe the venue tells the promoter how many tickets can be sold and the promoter sells more anyway. It does seem like all three parties should know the capacity of that venue by this point.

  8. hipster permalink
    November 24, 2009 7:15 pm

    just stay home you wimp.

    • A. Strung permalink*
      November 24, 2009 7:50 pm

      We’ve been expecting you

  9. November 24, 2009 8:03 pm

    Man – I’m sorry to hear about your terrible experience! That is such a bummer. We got to the venue at 630pm and got front and center, THE RIGHT WAY. But we did have people pushing and trying to get in front of us but my friend kept asking them “What time did YOU get here” to shut them down haha What I’m trying to say is that there WERE a lot of douches and i feel your pain!

    Another part of the problem was that NO ONE at the venue was making sure that only FLOOR people were on the FLOOR. That was probably the biggest problem for those with floor tix that were in the back.

    DAMN man – sorry you missed it! It was a good time.

    • A. Strung permalink*
      November 24, 2009 8:30 pm


      I got there pretty late but then again I was fine watching from the back of the actual floor area, in principle at least.

      When I saw them a few years ago at the same venue it was sold out, yet I was hanging out in front of the board area, and it wasn’t packed in tight at all. I think last night the soundman and all his equipment were swallowed up by a hellmouth.

  10. tiefighter25 permalink
    December 11, 2009 8:24 pm

    What is going to happen if they ever return to the Orphieum?

    • A. Strung permalink*
      December 13, 2009 10:48 am

      Kim Deal replaced by Kid Rock?

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