Saturday, March 31, 2007

One for the Show

Place: Tim Horton's
Lunch: Chicken club sandwich, chili, Boston cream doughnut, hot chocolate

I rrrolled up the rim. I didn't win.

(If you're not familiar with Tim Horton's, you won't get that.)

Been to a concert lately? I haven't. Aside from a couple of shed shows featuring rehashed "classic rock" bands, my last real concert was KISS on their "farewell tour".

I think tickets to that one were around $45, plus a couple of bucks for the pre-requisite Ticketmaster service charge. I remember complaining about that.

Oh how things have changed.

Shortly after that tour, some concert promoter looked at "ticket brokers" who were buying said $45 tickets and reselling them for double or triple the value. Instead of getting angry, the promoter said "If people are willing to pay that price, why aren't I charging that price?"

BAM. Overnight, ticket prices doubled or tripled. Crappy seats on the Kiss/Aerosmith tour just a couple years later were $75 for the CHEAP seats. And the best seats were reserved for special ticket packages that ran in the THOUSANDS. And with that, concerts were priced out of the range I was willing to pay.

And that was that.

Recently, I've discovered it's only gotten worse. I was looking at tickets for something on Ticketmaster. I was floored with what I found.

Ticket price for "best seat available": $225.00
"Building facility charge": $4.00
Ticketmaster "convenience charge": $20.40

This was for a single ticket in the sixth row of the lower risers in about the middle of the building.

That didn't include shipping, which ranged from $14.50 to $25.00. To mail a ticket. Unless you wanted the tickets "e-mailed" to you so you could print them on your computer...which cost $2.50.

Yes, you even have to pay to print them yourself.

Shipping could be skipped if you wanted to pick up the tickets at will call. And I guess old US Mail is an option if you order far enough in advance (in some markets, anyway). Still, you see the precedent here.

And yet, people are paying.

So I've sworn off concerts. Who wants to put up with the crowds, parking fees, and all that crap anyway, right?

But once in awhile, a little gem comes along.

A month or two ago, I found myself at the Over the Rhine web page. They're an Ohio-based sort of folky rock Americana-ish...uh...anyway, they're awesome. I clicked their tour dates page. One of the dates was an "all ages" show in Goshen, Indiana. Ever heard of Goshen? Me neither. So I clicked on the page, and was linked to the Goshen Theater. Looked at some pics and immediately decided I had to go to this show.

Tickets? $20 or less. $20 was described as limited reserved seating in the first few rows. Oh yes. I did.

The tickets were sold directly by the theater. No facility charges. No convenience fees. Just $20.

A week later, the ticket was delivered in a hand-written envelope. And last night, I was in the second row among about 350 Over the Rhine fans (a sellout in this building) who enjoyed an amazing couple of hours in a beautiful old movie house.

We heard stories, we laughed a lot, and we enjoyed some really incredible music.

Which just goes to show...There are some great treasures out there if you look hard enough.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Auto Show

Place: Hickory Park
Lunch: Quarter chicken, pork ribs, beans, potato salad, chili, Green River soda

The beginning of Spring for me is the annual auto show. For nine bucks, you can browse, sit in, and mess with, a thousand motor vehicles under the roof of the convention center. Even if I'm not in the market (and I'm not), I go to the auto show. It's fun to see what's new and different. Take all the time you want. I usually take about three hours and am pretty worn out by the time I get to the GM display, at which point it's hardly interesting anymore. Or maybe it's just the GM product that makes me feel that way.

Some of my favorites...

Dodge Charger - When they came out with these, I thought they were pretty darn cool. I also wondered how long I'd think they were pretty darn cool. Well, they're still pretty darn cool.

Volkswagen GTI Fahrenheit Edition - A limited edition GTI in orange with specialized interior packaging and branding. It was the most interesting thing at the VW display this year since VW tragically doesn't have any new models. WHERE'S THAT TIGUAN?

Porsche Cayenne - Here's something new...When you turn on the lights, the instrument cluster lighting doesn't just come FADES UP! That SO makes the price tag worthwhile...

Mitsubishi Outlander - Sort of looks like a Toyota RAV4 without the annoying rear-mounted spare tire. The driver controls and indicators looked great and it had an in-dash navigation system that doubled as the radio, MP3 player, and personal organizer. All with touch-screen control. Pretty sweet.

Hyundai Santa Fe - Controls were all backlit in blue. Soooooothing. VERY nice seats in the uppity leather version. And you can get it with a manual transmission. VW doesn't even make the Touraeg in a manual, and VW sells more manual transmissions than anybody.

Hyundai Tiburon - In a world where cars are all getting taller, sitting low to the ground in a reasonably priced sports car like this feels good. Anybody who owns an SUV should have one of these in the garage for weekend Steak n Shake runs...even if it's the cheap four-cylinder. And it has blue control lighting similar to the Santa Fe. I wonder if Hyundai would give me a package deal...

Scion xB Release Series 4.0 - Actually a 2006 model. It was a special edition with a bronze paint that seems to change color depending on the angle and light you're looking at it in. It was REALLY impressive. I could see myself in one of these things, but I would prefer better ground clearance.

Some of the more boring finds...

Subaru - Doesn't matter which model...Subarus are boring. They're good cars to own and drive, but come on! Some fresh blood is needed in design.

Ford - Styling at Ford these days is a little...weird...obnoxious. That new chrome grill they're using reminds me of the a futuristic vision from the fifties. Something's wrong when you decide you need to revive the Taurus brand. They had a concept branded "Fairlane" that looked like a stretched Scion xB. And the Edge...Who cares.

Ford Escape/Mercury Mariner/Mazda Tribute - I've driven a LOT of these as rentals over the years, so I was particularly interested in their new look. Refreshed for 2008, Ford's mini-ute has new faces and new interiors across its three brands. Gone are the white-faced gauges of the Escape, which I hated. But the gauges are still too small, and I prefer the old look to the new. If you must go with one of these, look at Mariner. I don't know why Mazda even bothered when they've got the much cooler CX-7 and CX-9 crossovers now.

Toyota Yaris - What is Toyota's fascination with putting the instrument cluster in the center of the dash?

That's about all I remember. Chevrolet had a great big red "Dale Jr" pickup truck that was quite impressive. I think it even had a few of its own body parts. I think it was just a concept or some sort of one-off show car though.

Oh yeah, one more category...Most frightening question I heard all day...

Women almost universally were asking the same question..."Does it come with a navigation system?"

Seriously. Are we really that lost?