“One hundred thousand dollars.” That’s the phrase that caught my ear this morning as I was driving to work. I was fretting about my blog post being overdue and trying to decide what my next topic could be when I heard the reporter on the radio say some people were paying $100,000 for tickets to the upcoming Grateful Dead shows in Chicago this summer. Apparently, the Dead are reuniting after 20 years to play three final shows and some ticket buyers are looking for three-show packages. Granted, 20 years is a long time for fans to wait to see their favorite band, but $33,000 per show seems excessive to me.
I understand that the tickets are not $33,000 each, face value; that is a secondary market ticket broker price. I am not opposed to capitalism, and I understand that the right price for those tickets is whatever the market will bear. Assuming you’re not price-gouging the victims of natural disasters, if people are willing to pay that much, then go for it. But who would want to pay that much for the Grateful Dead?
I am not a Dead Head, and I think there is a mutual exclusivity to Metal and Dead Headism. I doubt there is anyone who feels equal passion for the collected works of Ozzy Osbourne and Jerry Garcia. I do, however, think the fans’ respective passion for the music is similar. Dead Heads and Metal Heads tend to be ardent and willing to go to great lengths to express their devotion, but I am doubtful any metal fan would spend $33,000 to see any metal band perform, no matter how long they had to wait for a reunion.
I got to see the original Black Sabbath lineup in 2004. Ozzy had left the band in 1979 and this was a somewhat rare reunion show. It was the first and only time I saw Black Sabbath play live. On the same bill was Judas Priest, who had just reunited with lead singer Rob Halford after an eleven year separation. That was an amazing show featuring two of the most definitive heavy metal bands playing as part of the Ozzfest lineup. Along with Sabbath and Priest, I got to see fifteen other bands play, including more metal legends: Slayer, Zakk Wylde with Black Label Society, and Phil Anselmo fronting Superjoint Ritual. I paid $75 for the ticket. That works out to less than $5 per band.
I believe I got real value for my money, but if the ticket had cost $100 I would have had a much harder time justifying the expense. $150, I would have skipped Ozzfest. Further, I would not have spent $75 to see Black Sabbath perform without any other bands on the bill. If they played a four-hour set – which I presume the Grateful Dead will do – I may have paid as much as $50, but there is no musical performance worth $33,000 to me. I wouldn’t pay that much for a car. I would spend more than that for a house, but I would insist on living in it for considerably longer than three days.
I asked a friend at work – a Dead Head – about the ticket price, and she agreed it was outrageous. Especially, she said, since Jerry is dead. That hadn’t even occurred to me, but it does crystallize the absurdity of it all. Why would anyone pay tens of thousands to see the Grateful Dead perform without Jerry Garcia playing guitar and singing “Touch of Grey”? In metal terms, that would be like seeing Mötörhead without Lemmy playing bass and croaking “Ace of Spades.” If you didn’t get to see the Dead with Jerry, you missed out. I’m sorry. By the way, I think time is getting short to see Lemmy, so get your Mötörhead tickets soon.
I have been fortunate enough to see Mötörhead twice, but there are a lot of shows I missed. I don’t just mean that a key band member died before I could see them, but I missed seeing them perform in their prime, like the Grateful Dead playing in the Haight in 1967. I imagine a lot of hippies wish they were there. If I had $33,000 in discretionary income – and, to be very clear, I do not – I might be willing to spend it on a trip in a time machine to see Metallica play at The Stone in 1983 or Iron Maiden at a London club in 1979. That would be pretty cool, but, alas, the opportunity is lost. Time travel isn’t a thing, I wasn’t there, and I can’t recreate those moments no matter how much I’m willing to spend on a ticket. Instead I will reminisce happily about the shows I did get to see and, if it seems important, spend a few bucks on DVDs of the shows I missed. That’s enough.
What show do you wish you could have seen? And what’s the show you’re glad you did see?