Saturday night was one for the record books. My little brother is a huge Ryan Adams fan. So for his 21st birthday in October, I said I’d get tickets to a Ryan Adams concert. As luck would have it, the alt-country/rock singer-songwriter was on tour and scheduled to perform at Walt Disney Concert Hall.
I purchased tickets through a ticket broker for the show on Saturday, February 18th. For me, there’s only one reason to use ticket brokers and that’s to get great seats no matter the cost. And I am self-admittedly a ticket snob. So when it comes to an artist who I love, the best seats are a must! In this case, it wasn’t MY love, it was my brother’s and that’s good enough reason for me.
So I purchased the tickets months ago. They arrived by FedEx a few days later. Saturday night came, and as we were in a rush to get out the door only to sit in traffic for more than an hour to get to downtown on time for our dinner reservations at one of my favorite Little Tokyo eateries, The Lazy Ox Canteen (go! you’ll love it), I couldn’t find the tickets.
I had cleaned my office the day before and couldn’t remember seeing the FedEx envelope. I knew I had put the tickets in a “safe place,” but now that safe place had escaped me. So I printed out the email confirmation from the ticket broker, assuming the box office would be able to reprint the tickets. Boy, did I learn my lesson the hard way…
Meanwhile, we met our older brother and his wife for dinner, albeit 15 minutes late. The food was fantastic as always — highlights were the polenta, braised short rib, tempura artichoke, and the farro. We enjoyed the conversation, catching up with family, and the delicious wine and dessert – the chocolate pate was divine – and we even had the celebratory candle for my little bro to blow out and make a wish despite his birthday being months ago. And it was time to head over to the concert hall.
We arrived at 8:15 pm, after having to go around the block because I missed the parking lot and then proceeded to get lost in the one-way streets of downtown Los Angeles. There was no line at the box office and I spoke to the man at will call to explain the situation.
To his credit, he tried to be helpful. But not having purchased the tickets through the box office or Ticketmaster, he said there wasn’t much he could do. My credit card didn’t pull up any records, nor did my name, nor did the name of the broker. The email confirmation only supplied the section and row of the seats, but not the seat numbers. He said there was nothing he could do, and the show was sold out.
“Can’t you just print us a couple tickets to get in, and we’ll find the two seats that are empty in that section and row?” I said pleading and batting my eyelashes. “It’s for my little brother’s birthday, and clearly you see that we HAVE tickets. I just don’t PHYSICALLY have them in my hand.”
“Sorry, nothing I can do,” he said, as we overhear another box office staffer say they’re closing the windows in four minutes.
I refused to budge. This cannot be happening!
Then, a gentleman walks up to us and says, “Do you need tickets?” And I said, “Well, no, but yes…” I explained the story to him and he says, “Well you can have these two. The people who were meeting me can’t make it, so they’re going to go to waste anyway.”
And he said, “Nah, I work for the guy.” I didn’t question it. We took the tickets and walked in the door, stunned at how lucky we just got. As he scurried away, I yelled, “Hey, what’s your name?” He yelled back, “Steve.” And just like that, he was out of sight and lost among the crowd.
But it doesn’t end there.
We get up to the section where the seats were. I had seen on the ticket that they were marked at $55. Probably face value, but I knew I paid more than that, so I thought they were probably crappy seats. Oh well, at least we were in. We stopped to get a glass of wine before heading in. My brother ran into Steve in the men’s room, and asked him if we could at least buy him a drink to thank him, which he obliged.
We thanked him and again talked about the ridiculousness of the situation, and I said, “When you said you work for the guy, who’s the guy?”
Ah. The guy.
Turns out Steve (Martin, I later discovered, although nothing like the other Steve Martin we know) is Ryan Adams’ publicist with a music PR firm called Nasty Little Man that reps groups like Beastie Boys, Radiohead, and Foo Fighters, among others.
We enjoyed talking shop with Steve, and my brother in particular got a kick out of discussing interviews he’d seen, the latest album, the time off Ryan took while he was suffering from Meniere’s disease and couldn’t perform, the acoustic show he’s currently on tour with as a result, and how he chose historic, classic venues for it like Walt Disney Concert Hall and Carnegie Hall.
I told my brother we’d check out the seats and if they weren’t good, we’d look for the two empty ones in the row and section we knew ours were in. Only, we walk in and get to the seats, and oh my. They were quite possibly two of the best in the house. Orchestra Center, several rows back, but close enough and definitely better than the great seats for which I paid all too much, and most importantly, on the side of the Hall that got the most face time with Adams, who made great effort to include the audience behind him and to the sides of the stage.
During the show, one rowdy gal exclaimed, “Turn around!” And another man kept yelling the name of a certain song he wanted to hear. To both, Adams heard and turned it into a comedic jingle on the fly or an inside joke with only those in attendance. It felt intimate and personal and special because you could tell that no two shows are alike. The set list might be the same, but Adams has a unique ability to come across as authentic and passionate about each show that few artists can master. He rolled with the punches, tossed his jacket on the floor, was casual and off-the-cuff, self-deprecating in a brilliantly charming way, and certainly fed off the audience’s energy.
It was a mellow night of music, that’s for sure. But it was brilliant. Not many can hold and entertain an audience for 90 minutes as a one-man show with nothing but a killer voice, a couple guitars, a piano, an harmonica, and improvised commentary.
The evening as a whole was fantastic and my brother and I celebrated his belated birthday in quite a memorable way, thanks to my forgetfulness and publicist Steve. Sorry new buddy, your secret’s out of the bag – you’re no nasty little man. You’re one of the kind, decent, generous ones who made our night!
It was one of those instances where timing was everything. Had we not been late to dinner and arrived at the theatre early, had I not missed the turn to the parking lot, had we given up when first being told nothing could be done, had we gone to a different will call window, had Steve not been walking in right at the very moment we were turning away from the box office…
But it happened. And the lesson in all of it? If EVER I buy from a ticket broker again, the tickets are going to be in one place and one place only. No safe place. No hiding places. They’re going smack dab on the refrigerator door with a post-it note that says, “Don’t move me or forget me. Steve may not be at the next one.”