You can’t get into this show with $500 cash

Columns Editor's Reflections


As a show reviewer for a magazine one of the luckiest parts of my job is when I get a ticket and photo pass to a show.  Sometimes it happens the day before even, as was the case for me recently, for a show I really was excited about and couldn’t wait to see.

The ticket and pass will be at the will call / ticket window.  So when I got to the venue, a fairly large outdoor place, I made my way to the window to pick up the credentials.  Then I had to wait for someone from the artist’s team to come out and escort me to the photographers’ area.  The show wasn’t quite sold out, so there were a few people in lines to buy tickets.

When I got there to the window there was a disturbance of some kind in progress.  A man with runaway gray hair and a bushy beard and tie-dyed shirt, waving his hands in the air and raising his voice with the woman behind the counter.  I shied away, making judgements and assumptions in my mind about what might be happening.

But as I waited for the photographers’ escort, I started to overhear more.  I see the man waving around a wad of cash, and agitatedly talking to the woman about how he “just wanted to see the show.”  For some reason then, I asserted myself — asking questions — stepping a little outside my circumspect habitual way of being out alone in a crowd.  I asked the woman if the show was sold out, “No,” she replied.  Then the man was saying “I don’t have a card with me,” and it finally started to click.  “You can’t get a ticket with cash?” I asked him.  “They won’t take cash! I want to see the show!” he said.

He’s showing me $500 in cash.

The ticket is $102.50.

He can’t get into the show.

I bought the ticket for him, using my card.  He gave me the right amount of cash and a hug before he darted over to the gate.

But that’s really not the point. It feels like something larger has shifted.  Something more profound.  I mean, it’s finally happened.  A person can’t get a ticket to a show even with $500 cash at the ticket window when there are tickets available.

The United States Federal currency is apparently no good.

At Dead shows, they used to call it a “Miracle” (and probably still do at shows for the various Dead iterations) when one fan gave a free extra ticket away to another fan.

But with “cash only,” another kind of miracle seems to be upon us. Now it’s become a miracle if some stranger in line offers to buy you a ticket with their card in exchange for cash, if you choose to live off grid, or lost or left your card at home?   I use plastic all the time personally without ever a second thought.  But something about this exchange really gave me pause, and I wanted to put it out there as real food for thought.

Do we really want it to go this far?

Read my earlier review here:  Show Review: Bob Weir & Wolf Bros at Pier Six Pavilion

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