I arrived in downtown Richmond with 10 minutes to spare. It was 9:50 AM, and The National’s box office was just about to open. As I rounded the corner and approached the historic theater, a line full of single-speeds, jorts, and carefully coiffed facial hair came into view–the River City hipsters had beaten me to the box office. What on God’s green earth could get hipsters out of bed before noon on a Friday?
Three words–Neutral Milk Hotel.
The last time I saw a line like this at The National’s box office was back in 2010 when Widespread Panic tickets were going on sale. It was snowing, but that didn’t faze those hippies. They sat patiently and waited for a chance to buy tickets to see their beloved jam band. That’s what devoted fans do. And, no matter the type of fan–hipsters, hippies, hip-hop junkies–if there is a chance that their favorite band’s show will sell out quickly, the line inevitably turns into an adult version of our favorite childhood game Telephone, where rumors run rampant and anxiety builds as the line lengthens.
That Friday morning was no different. Though hipsters may want you to believe that they are trailblazers–leading the way with their thrift store style and non-conformist attitudes–they too succumb to the box office woes that plague the rest of us not-so-hip-sters.
I got into line behind about 2 dozen hipsters, and was quickly handed an info card to fill out–name, address, credit card information, number of tickets to be purchased, etc. This was intense and quite honestly, a lot to ask of these young, sleep-deprived 20-somethings. Grumbles rippled through the line.
“What is this for?” asked a girl behind me. “Do we actually get tickets when we get up there?”
I assumed the answer was yes, but the tall lanky guy behind her had a different take on the situation.
“Um, like, I’m pretty sure it’s just like a lottery, and like all we are doing is waiting in line to be put into the lottery to see if we can maybe get tickets.”
Well that’s complete horse shit. I didn’t drive 3 hours to get put into a damn lottery. Others shot him looks of anxious skepticism with this new information. Immediately, everyone within an ear shot whipped out their iPhones and searched frantically for anything that could confirm or deny Mr. Lanky’s revelation.
NEUTRAL MILK HOTEL TICKETS ON SALE AT 10:00 AM EST
Phew. Thank goodness! What did Mr. Lanky know anyway? A sigh of relief echoed down Broad Street. Wait, hold up…what does that sign say over there?
LOTTERY PROCEEDINGS FOR NEUTRAL MILK HOTEL
(WHAT!? Heart rate increasing–panic setting in…)
-Lottery tickets and info cards will be handed out at 9AM sharp
(Lottery!? Wait, it’s 9:55 and I didn’t get a lottery ticket. WTF!?)
-Everyone in line at that time will receive a lottery ticket
(WHERE IS MY LOTTERY TICKET!? ALL I HAVE IS THIS STUPID INFO CARD!)
-A number will be drawn and the corresponding lottery ticket holder will become first in line
(Seriously!? There’s no way the guy with the handlebar mustache and mesh tank top who just rolled up is going to get dibs before me)
-The line will form numerically thereafter. Make sure you have your ticket in hand when reaching the window
(Who is in charge here!? I DON’T HAVE A TICKET!!!!)
-Tickets go on sale at 10AM
(Ohhhh…Duh…I knew Mr. Lanky was full of it–heart rate returning to normal)
Okay, now we knew that the lottery theory applied only to people who got in line super early, which was NO ONE (hipsters aren’t THAT motivated). It was now 10:10 AM, and while the box office was open, they were moving at a sloth’s pace. The first guy to get a ticket walked back to chat with the fashionably disheveled guy directly behind me.
“Dude, did you get an actual ticket?!” he asked.
“Um, well all of the tickets are will call, but yeah, of course I bought a ticket. Isn’t that why you are here?” Mr. First-in-line replied.
“Yeh, but some jockstrap back there said something about a lottery, and we all just about lost it. I am thinking about just buying them online. I’m looking it up right now. This line is moving too slow. I seriously need to go back to bed ’til about 3:00,” he mumbled.
“Well, you should get to the front in about 15 minutes. Is that worth $10 in extra processing fees?”
While the evil Ticketmaster processing fee debate transpired, a threesome in front of me caught my attention. Two girls and a guy, all dressed up nicely for graduation day at VCU. The girl in the blue sequins dress and thick rimmed spectacles beamed with excitement–not because she was about to celebrate the culmination of all of her hard work over the past 4 years, but because she was getting closer to solidifying her chance of seeing Jeff Mangum up close and personal. Priorities people–get with it.
Her girl friend was obviously just there for moral support, although she did look the part with her layered lace dress, flats, and unkempt pulled-back hairdo.
“I don’t even like Neutral Milk Hotel,” she admitted louder than her friends would have liked.
“SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! Don’t say that here!” they pleaded in unison, as they looked around to see if anyone heard her.
That was like the hipster kiss of death–well perhaps yelling “I hate Radiohead” in a Brooklyn dive bar is a greater offense, but that’s a whole different story. Statements of that nature could seriously damage a hipster’s street cred. I couldn’t help but laugh at the entire scene, and since I was dressed like a 34-year old Maxxinista, they knew I had no pull in the hipster community. Their secret was safe with me–another catastrophe eschewed.
“Boom! I just got two tickets. I’m outta here,” said Mr. Ineedanap behind me. He must have had Verizon because I couldn’t get a flippin’ signal if I was covered head to toe in tin foil. Damn you Sprint! I, too, had contemplated just taking a hit on the processing fees, because–God forbid–I get to the window and they are sold out. My husband would be crushed.
A few yards back came an outburst, “They just sold out online!”
And three…two…one…PANIC! It was only 10:20 AM, we had moved maybe a foot and a half closer to the box office window and there was no telling how many tickets they had set aside for the locals. This was becoming more stressful than an Avett Brothers’ presale. I found myself completely relating to the hipster’s dilemma, and I was right there with them, speculating, postulating, and praying to the music gods that it would all work out.
The young man directly behind me, now that Mr. Ineedanap was gone, was also graduating that afternoon. He was in a state of quiet panic, and hid it well as he buried his face in a paperback while he waited–apparently real books are cool to read again. Thank you hipsters! After getting bored with the book, he fumbled through his tattered canvas delivery bag, trying to bide some time as we inched closer and closer to the box office window.
“I have to get these tickets. I mean, I’m graduating today. I deserve it, right?!” He was one of those hipsters you just want to fold up, put in your pocket, and take home with you–sweet and friendly, with the perfect amount of piercings and tattoos, who made an army green t-shirt and cut-offs look like they belong on the runway in Milan.
“Yes, of course you deserve tickets,” I assured him. He was like a puppy who had lost his way–endearingly pathetic. My mind raced and I thought, “What if I get to the window and I am the last person who can get tickets?! Should I give them to this kid? I mean, it is his graduation day. Ugh, damn you Haley Joel Osment and your whole pay it forward campaign!”
I was next in line. Breathe. Speculate. Breathe. Speculate. The blue sequined dress girl chirped with joy as she was handed a receipt. It was my turn, and by all accounts it appeared that there were still tickets left. Phew. However, I still could have been buying the last two. So I did what I do best–got nosy.
“Soooo…did you guys like put aside a specific amount of tickets for locals?” I asked.
“Yes. I’m hoping that we have enough to help everyone here today, but I am not totally sure,” the girl behind the glass responded.
That was enough of a confirmation that my nervous neighbor in line would be getting his graduation present today, and I wouldn’t have to disappoint the husband with my “pay it forward to a hipster” story–yet another disaster avoided.
I received my receipt, congratulated the graduate, and went on my way, thankful that I had secured two tickets to see an amazing band that hasn’t toured together in 15 years. It’s pretty interesting to think about the fact that 90% of the people in that line weren’t even born when Neutral Milk Hotel released their first EP. It just goes to show you that great music is powerful enough to infiltrate one of the most discerning of communities out there–the mighty hipsters.
The show sold out quickly thereafter. You better believe that I will be looking for my line mates come October 12th. If by chance I see them, I will be sure to buy them each a tallboy PBR to celebrate our recent box office adventures. That is…if tallboy PBRs are still hip in 5 months.
Author’s note: I caught Jeff Mangum’s solo performance this year in Wilmington, and it blew my mind. What I found extremely telling was that it was the hipsters who were polite and attentive in the audience, while the drunk 30-40 somethings needed to be told to pipe down or leave. Perhaps this new generation can teach the older generations a thing or two about concert etiquette. Tighten up Generation X!