So as has been much hyped for the last few weeks Prince, the 80’s pop star with a thing for Purple and squiggly symbols, is in London at the moment and doing a load of “small scale gigs in iconic venues”.
(ETA It has been hypothesised by a particularly pedantic Facebook friend that my description of Prince’s career may lead to my complaint being dismissed as Not A Real Fan. Funnily enough lots of other people read my blog who are not music geeks, in the queue yesterday, the most common response on being told who we were queuing for was ‘Prince Who?’ If anyone wants a detailed run down on just how much I love obscure tracks from the mid 90’s or follow artists that did one song with him in the early 80’s,or they won’t take me seriously they are utterly missing the point!)
For the last two nights that venue has been the Electric Ballroom in Camden.
The first nights gig was not really publicised. A lady who is Prince’s manager or tour manager or something posted on Twitter at 10pm on Tuesday night that he was there, a few fans turned up and got let in, but mostly it was a teaser for the press. Yesterdays gig however, for anyone following Prince related twitter feeds was fairly well publicised.
Doors at 7pm at the Electric Ballroom, but if you wanted tickets you had to be down there for 2pm to pick them up. The accepted wisdom was that it was two per person. Now immediately this did not bode well for the rest of the tour. Much as I miss the days of camping out overnight for David Bowie or Foo Fighters tickets, and awful though the way most of them seem to end up in the hands of touts is, being able to buy tickets online has massively democratised the whole gig scene in Britain. No longer do you need a mate without a job residing in the actual area the gig is being held at in order to be able to see a band play. However as I was feeling vaguely well yesterday and don’t actually have a job, I went down to try and get tickets for Jon and I.
I left the house at 11.30, it was not the warmest weather but dry, and I was relatively well wrapped up, black ski-jacket/market coat, red wool hat, no gloves and mary jane shoes, but at that time there was no indication the weather was in any way bad.
However by the time I got to Camden at 12.30 it was flooding down. Sheeting freezing rain with a bitter wind driving it into everyones faces and turning umbrellas inside out. This may not have been easy to tell for an American, but this was particularly nasty weather even by British standards.
So I queued, the guy next to me bought a £5 umbrella from one of the tourist tat stalls, I bought a pair of socks to keep my feet a bit warmer, as a little huddle of us we took it in turns to go for hot drinks and crepes from the stall across the road. It was actually quite good fun in a bizarre way, and it would only be an hour and a half till we got in to buy our tickets and then headed off to the pub for the rest of the afternoon.
We were about 30 back from the front of the queue when we got there at 12.30, but by about 1.15 it was 350/400 strong right round the block.
Then two o’clock came, the security guard came out of the building, everyone cheered. But suddenly complete confusion. This wasn’t a queue to buy tickets at 2, this was a queue to get into the gig at 7. And it was one entry per person not two. WTF!?
So not great, but fair enough you couldn’t get a ticket for a friend with a job, but we had been waiting for an hour and a half, the queue had been massive for an hour of that, why could they not have just told us in advance so we weren’t wasting time? And if it was one entry per person, where the hell was the harm in giving out wrist bands to everyone there, so they could go away and come back again later?
But oh look, what have we here, about 2.15 as everyone was milling around, unwilling to believe we’d actually been screwed that badly and not sure what to do, here comes members of the national press, with video cameras and microphones, being all “look at all these obsessive Prince fans, theres so many of them, and they’ve got here 5 hours before a gig in this weather” no mention at all of the fact everyone in the queue had been tricked.
Of course people left, I left, I was starting to get cold to the core, and realistically there was no way I could queue for 5 hours for anything. I’ve been told off for moaning about this, cuz Prince is already discriminating against people with jobs and who don’t live in London, but this is FULL OUT DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION. By tricking his fans into turning up early and then forcing them to wait in the bitter cold and rain, Prince is actually excluding anyone who doesn’t have the stamina to stand out for 5 hours and wait from going to his gig. I have Chronic Fatigue, if I get too cold and don’t have anywhere to sit down for several hours I get very very ill. I was in fact ill last night and am sneezing rather more than I’d appreciate the is morning.
I couldn’t just go home then come back again as I live about an hour away.
Apparently at some point in late afternoon/early evening a big corporation brought out sponsored purple umbrellas for the people who were left. Apparently Prince’s retinue provided food. Both of which were interpreted by the press and tweeters from his retinue as wonderful bountiful gestures, isn’t he being sweet to his crazy crazy fans! Fans who were only bloody there in the first place,and had only got there so early because they had been deliberately tricked!
So yeah, I hear it was a good gig, I hear that the people who actually got in really enjoyed it. However spare a thought for the at least half the queue who couldn’t cope with a 5 hour wait in the cold and had to go home, we’re not so impressed. And nor are our friends who couldn’t believe it when we told them what was happening. And it will get around. Not to mention all the people with actual jobs or who live out of London who are completely excluded from the queuing up process in the first place.
Prince may think its a cool romantic idea to put on impromptu small gigs in London with bizarre and exploitative means of getting tickets, but given he is a major international act who hasn’t visited Britain properly in 7 years, this is not the way to win fans. Its not the way to treat existing fans. In fact for anyone who isn’t Prince or doesn’t have the stamina to stand in the freezing rain on one of the coldest days of the year for 5 hours, its a complete shambles!