PATRICK MCVAY

WRITER

My Musings

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Bait And Switch

Beck-at-MGM-Fenway-Music-Hall


I would venture to guess (without checking the interweb) that Ticketmaster was established something like 30 years ago. In my not fully informed mind, this was the start of online ticket sales, and I'm sure I was immediately irritated by the fees. Prior to online sales, if you wanted to see the Rolling Stones in Atlanta, you'd have to do what Hache Verde did when he famously tried to awaken our favorite acerbic high school principle at 2 in the morning to head to the Civic Center in Atlanta, GA to buy tickets for a show at Fox Theater.

Fast Forward to early October, 2022. I've obtained tickets for a strange double-bill: 1) Beck; and 2) a Montreal-based band called Arcade Fire. I bought the tickets to see Beck, figuring that, at worst, Arcade Fire would be harmless. Stranger still, I learn that Beck would be first to take the stage.

Shortly after buying these tickets and forking over exhorbitant fees, I encounter a friend – a Canadian friend, truth be told – whose daughter was playing soccer with my daughter, and I ask if he has ever heard of Arcade Fire. His reaction, at first, is to look at me for signs of a punch line. Then, he turns almost angry. "They're one of my favorite artists," he says, incredulous. That's the way Canadians are when you dis their favorite rock bands.

I had never heard of them.

Anyway, it seems I'm going to see this band, but only after the great American (nutty Scientologist, but who cares) Beck does an acoustic set.

So about a month before the show, I get an email from Ticketmaster, my favorite agency that has a monopoly on ticket sales, informing me that Beck will apparently not be playing at the Beck concert. Instead, a Haitian band I'd never heard of would be replacing Beck at the Beck show. Which, it seems, is not the Beck show, but is the Arcade Fire show. But I'm not to worry: "Your tickets are still good!" What a relief!

As you might imagine, I immediately seek to rectify the situation by telling Ticketmaster that I don't care that my tickets are still good. I don't want them anymore. To which Ticketmaster replies that "we are just the ticket vendor. The promotor is not offering refunds at this time." I then have my battery of lawyers reach out to MGM Fenway, the alleged promotor, to threaten the legal action if I do not get a refund. (In fact, I reach out to the Office of the Attorney General of Massachusetts to loudly complain about the bait-and-switch.) The acerbic high school principal, who is to accompany me, is about as interested in seeing Arcade Fire as I am. In other words, he isn't interested at all. I had already challenged him to find a single good song by Arcade Fire, something I could hang my hat on back when the worst of the situation was that we'd see Beck first and then would have to sit through Montreal-infused rock fare. Now a good song was needed just so that the night wouldn't be a total bust.

Meanwhile, I offer up our tickets for sale. Mind you, I had already bought tickets for $56.50, which came with a whopping $25.75 in fees (nearly half the ticket price). Now, by reselling through Ticketmaster, I would incur new fees. Additionally, people buying our tickets would also pay fees. (Yes, it did occur to me during this process that I have had a lifelong career in the wrong industry.) However, I was willing to take a modest loss, so I sought to price my resale tickets below other offers already listed. Alas, the evil promoter, which by now was quaking in its boots, disallowed the reselling of tickets at a price below face value. The best I could do was match what Ticketmaster was selling tickets for. And since there were still plenty of tickets left, only a sell-out would cause someone to buy my tickets.

A week before the concert, my acerbic friend and I were resigned to enduring this show. No doubt, we'd have fun, despite our lack of interest in the music and MGM Fenway's efforts to stymie us on reselling the tickets. Maybe we'd enjoy a drink, and there was still an outside chance that the music would be tolerable. This was something that we joked about relentlessly, as we were pretty sure that the music was not going to be our cup of tea.

When Arcade Fire finally came on and played their first song, Age of Anxiety I, my acerbic friend to turn to me and yelled, "This band is lame!"  But from that point on, the band ripped through the rest of their set, playing an entertaining array of Québécois-infused pop music and ending the show with a superb rendition of the Pixies "Debaser."

The next morning, my wife, who had heard of my Ticketmaster and MGM Fenway complaints many more times than she cared to, asked me how the show was. "Strangely enough," I had to admit, "It was really good."

Never saw the Haitian band. 

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Gimme Good News

Each morning I wake up hoping that when I look at my handheld device I will be treated to some really awesome news. Maybe there's an email asking if I would mind terribly if a highly respected publisher would issue a hardcover edition of a novel I wrote in the 1990s, which they've not actually read but are guessing must be good. Or maybe someone wants me to join their rock band as their drummer, touring with them across the world, but only if i get a legit neck tattoo. (I'll do it!)

Better yet, maybe there is good news from the latest and greatest European war, the one that had been foreshadowed by the American government for weeks ("they are massing troops on the border; now they are bringing in supplies of blood."), news that tells us that the invaders had decided to go home instead of fighting on. Or that that Vladimir Putin, one of the biggest jerks in the 21st century, has been deposed – thrown in jail, made to scrub floors, and forced to write on a chalkboard 50 times "I will not invade a sovereign nation." In a just world, a-holes get their comeuppance and live through decades of having their names peed upon, euphemistically, by "the public at large." Then, after they die and are buried, we pee on their graves too, and not so euphemistically.

Alas, fantasies! The news of the world is generally pretty bad, and no one wants to read my novel or add me to their rock band. Not to mention that all of our hopes and dreams about Russians finally throwing off the yoke of oppression seems unlikely, given that protestors are apparently being given 15-year prison sentences for complaining about the war.

OK – a tiny bit of good news: it does seem that Ukraine has beaten back the invading hordes around Kyiv, taking back territory. Alas, even this has an awful side, as we find the streets of Bucha littered with executed civilians.

Maybe better news tomorrow. 

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Sneaky

When I was a kid, rock bands didn't design tours around playing a single album beginning to end. We the fans had to settle for listening to the hits at rock concerts.

You'd think a concert of nothing but hits like Howard is hearing tonight at the Fargo Dome would be perfect, but sometimes it's more perfect to hear a whole album, especially if you love it and have played it many times through. I didn't regularly listen to any Elton John albums beginning to end because I didn't own any. Probably Howard did, but would still prefer to hear the hits tonight.

My friend Tim recently confessed that he didn't particularly care for the full-album concert: there is no mystery as to what the next song is. For this, the priest told him to say three Hail Marys and an Our Father, and to sin no more. I'll concede that it can be fun to guess what the band will play next, but when I'm listening to an album I love, I'm rarely disappointed that I know the order of songs. Preparing for a climax that you know is coming any minute can be enormously invigorating.

I've seen four of these one-album shows, and I'm all for them. First I saw Liz Phair doing Exile in Guyville at the Paradise Rock Club in good old Allston, MA. Then Mike Doughty, twice, doing the first and best Soul Coughing album, Ruby Vroom, which includes "Screenwriter's Blues" and "True Dreams of Witchita," two of many "hits" for Soul Coughing fans on this album. And most recently, I saw the Irish American punk outfit Titus Andronicus do The Monitor beginning to end and back to beginning again (they played the first track twice!).

Now I'm ready to lead a campaign in which we the public conscript the band Spoon into service playing A Series of Sneaks beginning to end. Either that or Telephono, their first album.

Not sure if it will be an old-fashioned letter-writing campaign or if I'll employ social media. Stay tuned on those details. 

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Ladies and Gentlemen, Please Welcome The Umlauts

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I'm thinking of rounding up the boys and reviving the old rock band thing one last time before it's too late. We could reprise our versions of Cheap Trick's "Surrender" and Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" – our terrible versions of those songs – which we had played at the New York State Fair, circa 1978, in a "talent show" judged by a man named Allen A. Allen. To be honest, I don't know if the judge's name was spelled Allan A. Allan, or Allen A. Allen, or whatever. The only thing I know for sure is that not a lot of talent was on stage that day.

At the time our group was named "The Krash," a misspelling that we hoped would lend us a tiny bit of rock cred, enabling us stand out in the crowded world of teenage garage bands. By eliminating letters or swapping out one for another that is phonetically similar, we were following in the footstep of our heroes "The Beatles" and "Led Zeppelin." ("Def Leppard," which had formed a year earlier, wasn't particularly influential in our naming decision.)

Other bands went farther with "alternative lettering" by borrowing an umlaut or two from Germanic languages and placing them helter-skelter over whichever letter they thought looked cool, as Mötley Crüe did in the early 80s. "Spin̈al Tap" did those bands one better by putting the umlaut over the N. How cool would it have been if we had put the umlaut over the R, so we would become The Kr̈ash?! Alas, we didn't have a good enough sense for humor for that. (Double alas: the umlauts over the n and r are barely noticeable! The creators of the text editor that I'm using in this blog apparently didn't foresee the need to give bloggers the option of sticking umlauts over random consonants.)  

Soon, we jettisoned the name The Krash as well as my friend Pete's younger brother Tommy, our singer, for a guy we met in high school a few months later. Then we added a guitarist, then Pete's older brother Rob, and finally settled on five of us with the name "Eclipse," which included my old buddy Johnny G., who occasionally made use of a beach towel on his fret hand to assuage the sting of callouses.

We were pretty bad, me in particular. I was an expert at hitting the drum skins hard and often, but keeping a steady beat was a challenge. "You're speeding up!" was a common refrain from Pete. Didn't sound that way to me. Everyone else was slowing down. It never really mattered that we were not particularly good. Kids showed up at our shows anyway because we were loud and had flash pods that blinded them for several seconds at a time. We got paid for this, and now and again I was asked to sign autographs and had girls I didn't know calling me on the family phone.

Now that my drums are set up in the basement again, I'm working on keeping a steady beat in case the lads want to pull out the old leather jackets and start screaming into microphones again. Gotta admit, it would be a nice change of pace. 

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J'Biden Era Haikuage

 

People's Arms. That's right!

200 million shots

In 100 days

 

We are good people

But we still have far to go

Repair. Restore. Heal.

 

There's nothing new here

The Affordable Care Act

We're restoring it 

 

America's Day

Democracy is fragile

The world is watching 

 

Strategy is based

On Science, not politics

Truth, not denial

 

 

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