Sunday, October 19, 2014

Splitting the Ticket

Sadly, this post has nothing to do with politics, a great love of mine, but rather the costs associated with live entertainment. 

This year, I've attended 16 shows, which is 14 more than I went to last year and there are still two months, three Slackers shows and a Damned show to go.  Now, generally, I purchase tickets in advance.  The reason being, it serves to encourage me to go to events and on occasion, such as the Slackers boat show or Slackers secret show, gives me access to sold out events. 

When I went to purchase tickets to the Damned from Ticketmaster, it was going to cost just north of $100 to purchase two tickets from them for the Stone Pony.  Having business in Asbury Park a month ago, I purchased them directly from the Stone Pony, total cost, $55 for two tickets.  It was like getting a ticket for free by going to the box office.  Since it was Ticketmaster, I assumed it was an isolated event, since we are all used to overpaying on Ticketmaster fees.

However, today, I purchased a ticket to Skanksgiving at the Starland Ballroom.  I'm quite excited to see the Slackers for the 20th time, Westbound Train for the first time and the Pietasters for the sixth time.  Even though I live close to Sayreville, I've never been to the Starland Ballroom and sadly, just haven't found the time and motivation to drive to Sayreville to get a ticket ahead of time, since unlike Asbury Park, there is no reason anyone would want to go Sayreville for the day. 

So, I broke down and bought a ticket today.

The ticket itself was $15.95, which represents less than half the associated costs with going to the event.  On the other side, there is $1.05 for tax, an unavoidable reality.  A $7.50 charge to use, which feels more expensive than Ticketmaster, probably because it is just under 50% of the total ticket price.  But since I wanted a ticket, I needed to pay an additional $5.00 for a ticket to be mailed to me, which was actually cheaper than Will Call, which was $6.00.  Six dollars to write a name on a piece of paper.  That's law firm or consulting pricing, not real world pricing.  (Admittedly, in consulting pricing that would be a good deal.)  So, we are at $13.55 in fees on the ticket.  Which if there was reliable public transportation to the area (there isn't, since my train station is closest to the event, which they recommend a cab from), would be the end of it. 

Instead, there is now parking, which is either $7.00 to use their lot or if I was mentally challenged, $18.69 for Star Parking, which gives me a slightly closer parking spot and the ability to be first in line.  It's a six band ska show.  I have night terrors about sitting through six bands at my age.  Four, with Mephiskapheles, might be a bridge too far in terms of time.  But I don't need to be first for that. 

So, adding in parking, we are up to $20.55 in fees versus $15.95 in actual ticket price, which seems sadly absurd and likely has a strong, long term impact on live events, when more of the consumer's money goes to other fees, rather than artists.  Someday, when I'm very old, instead of regular old, I will complain more about how economy shifts money around to at best, create jobs, but more likely, unjustly enriches people who provide no value, aside from taking advantage of their monopolistic position, but in the interim, I'll go to the show and realize I paid $36.00 for a $15.95 ticket. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Parade Marches Between a Man and His Sandwich

I hate holidays.  More importantly, I hate holidays where I am at work, while other people are enjoying themselves or keeping me from important business, while I am stuck at work. Today was one of those holidays.

While some people like the celebration of the subjugation of indigenous people, other people want to be able to cross 5th Avenue to get a sandwich.  Having some time in my day for a decent lunch, I decided to make the trek across town to DiSuso's Sandwich Society.  I greatly wanted one of their fine Italian sandwiches and started the walk.  Passing 6th Avenue, I see there are barricades, but walking around in New York, you come to expect barricades randomly placed.  Sometimes, there is an obvious reason, sometimes, there is just a barricade across the road. 

One somewhat empty block passes, when I see it, a parade.  A Columbus Day parade.  The New York City Columbus Day parade.  Deciding that panic is over rated, I begin the walk downtown.  Going one block, I see what I think will be an opening.  There are people looking to join into the parade, which might mean one block to salvation and sandwiches.  Crossing in front of the parade people I get to the next barricade. 

At the barricade, I see it, floats, floats and groups of Italian men dancing and parading around in feathered hats as far as the eye can see.  In a false irony, an Italian American parade is preventing me from having an Italian American sandwich for lunch.  Crestfallen, I need to work my way back across town and eat something vaguely resembling a quesadilla from Cinnamon Snail, distraught that I would not be eating a fine Italian sandwich. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Fixing My Record Player

The downside of starting a record collection is maintaining a record player.  In four months, I'm actually on my second record player.  I originally purchased a Crosley Cruiser my first day as a record owner.  The Cruiser lasted about a month, before I started to become paranoid.  Well, paranoid might be the wrong word, since my records started to skip or sound scratched.  With my tastes in records, this was quite the problem. 

So, I literally spent an entire evening researching what to buy and ended up purchasing an Audio Technica AT-LP-120-USB, after coming to the conclusion that A) I would probably struggle to find a good used record player that I trusted and B) would also need to get a receiver and cabinet, rather than just buying a record player, some speakers and setting up shop on my dining room table.  So, after some difficulties with UPS that I won't recount, but it is suffice to say, they are a carrier whom I hope to never do business with again, I was able to set up a real record player that Saturday. 

Of course, unlike the Crosley, the Audio Technica required some knowledge of setting up a tone arm and anti-skate, neither of which was really in my wheelhouse.  After some struggle, I was able to do so, getting the tone arm to balance correctly, neither grooving my records nor merrily skipping along and not playing.  This managed to work for the most part for two months. 

So, last night, I'm listening to my brand new live Anti-Nowhere League which I picked up, when I hear that sound.  The sound is the scratchy whine of the needle shooting all the way across my record and settling into the paper covering the center of the record.  A slight correction to the anti-skate knob made it better.  Then, two songs passed and it went straight to the paper again. 

Turning off the record player, I waited a day, since I had other issues to handle today and yesterday, I was just not getting it right.  Realizing this is not going to work, I sit down and start the process of fixing the record player.  First, I make sure the tone arm is balanced, which miraculously it is, since that always takes fifteen minutes, moving it forward, moving it back, bouncing it off the mat, watching it fly away across the record.

This meant it was record test and anti-skate time.  Fortunately, I bought a poor copy of Let There Be Rock by AC/DC for a dollar yesterday and began to play it.  The needle moved inward way too fast.  So, I made a small adjustment and it seems to be working, but not after spending 15 minutes not playing records, so I could play records.  There is a slight cruelness to the whole concept, as I all I want it to do is stay setup.

Knowing the way life works, tomorrow, the needle will be moving outward instead of inward, leading to odd sounds and more tinkering. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Scariest Store on Earth

After going to a record show today, I meandered up to my old haunts in Bergen County, primarily to get pizza from Angelo's in Maywood and ice cream from Bischoff's in Teaneck.  Despite spending over two hours sifting through what seemed like endless boxes of records, I thought, perhaps I could look at just a few more. 

Generally, New Jersey record stores can be sorted into two categories.  Category 1 is Vintage Vinyl and the Princeton Record Exchange, which are both excellent record stores with great selection and perfectly acceptable prices.  Category 2 is basically every other store I've been too, with stores usually marked by high prices and poor selection.  (I'll exclude the new Spina Records from this analysis, since they are both within walking distance of my apartment and actually have records I would willingly and have willingly purchased in the past.)

However, today, I met a store which defies categorization today.  Today was my first trip to EZ2Collect in Fair Lawn.  I didn't know much about the store before going there, though I did have some trouble finding it, first by being on the wrong side of Broadway in Fair Lawn, which is nigh uncrossable, then by having to walk around the entire lighting store to find the store is actually the basement of the building.  Not in the basement, mind you, but the entire basement. 

Not prepared for what terrors lurk within, I enter and see items everywhere.  Boxes and bins and stacks of records, CDs, cassettes and various video entertainment was piled everywhere.  I take a slow, measured walk into the space and decide to look in the first box I find, which is filled with represses of various records, primarily punk rock records at that.  Quite the find given the size of the store.  I leaf through the records and find nothing I want at a reasonable price, since most of the records on my list were definitely available for less than $29.99 elsewhere.  But new records are seldom the lifeblood of a record store, so I thought perhaps I would find better prices elsewhere in the store. 

So, as I move down the first row, the gentleman I presume to be the owner introduces himself and asks if I would like some assistance, which I politely decline, though he informs me there are another 100,000 records in the back.  I took a peak in the back and can confirm this seems like an accurate, if not small number, but continued searching the store.  I eventually found a small section of ska and reggae CDs in the way back of the store, but couldn't bring myself to pull the trigger on a Skatalites CD.  After passing a box of Christmas records, a box of country records and various boxes which I would define as rock, I make my way back to the front of the store and find some various rock records with an organizational system.  These were at least alphabetical by letter and I made it all the way through B, finding a copy of Master of Reality, which was high in price and was also not allowed to look at.  I poked around a bit more in these stacks, but really just began walking around the store, trying to look for things.

In reality, I was just overwhelmed by the amount of merchandise crammed into the store.  I bet there were some truly great items I would want hidden away in some nook, cranny or pile, but I lacked the insight to gleam where they might be, other than the fairly expensive copies of the Wrestling Album on display.  It was just too much chaos to even begin to formulate an effective plan and after about 30 minutes of not finding anything, I slowly worked my way out the back door, never more frightened of a store or the organizational system which kept it together. 

Perhaps someday, I will pack a lunch and a soda, and prepare to spend the entire day either attempting to find some records I want or to see a sailboat.  I suspect I might see the sailboat first, since I would have an idea of where to look.  However, if no fear lurks in your heart, you should definitely go to EZ2Collect and see what you can find, for you, as a braver soul than I, deserve whatever you find.