So to say the least… I’m a little disappointed.
When I heard AVB was making a stop in London, I was completely ecstatic. Though I’m growing out of trance and towards house and dubstep, AVB is nothing short of a God of the genre. He’s been named DJ Mag’s #1 DJ four years in a row – more than any other artist, and his radio show A State of Trance (ASOT) boasts over 550 shows and millions of live weekly listeners.
I rounded up my usual concert posse, Teri and Matt, and bought tickets the minute they went on sale. In retrospect, this was likely our first mistake. With fear of selling out, we didn’t risk waiting to see if there might be a price drop. Online tickets were “$40″. I say “$40″, because once taxes, fees, and delivery are added, the cost was nearing $60. Even the display price was $45, despite the promoter’s explanation that “you see, $45 is actually $40, because we add SOME of the fees on before checkout, and some later.” …right. Hard tickets were an even and honest $40, and even after 2 price increases, we’d have saved money by buying $50 tickets at the door.
By the time the show arrived, we’d all been thoroughly educated on the music of AVB. I heard word of a few more people going to the show and invited them to join us before the show. The more the better, right? Another mistake – I spent my night trying to get in contact with people who told me they were coming over but never showed up. I didn’t want to strand anyone. Something I need to learn to care less about; if you don’t have the decency to contact me and let me know you’re going to be late, or aren’t coming at all, I’m not going to waste my time on you.
Finally, around 11:30, everyone had arrived and had a couple of drinks (except the driver, of course), and we headed to the show. This one took place at Western Fair District in order to facilitate a larger crowd, and because of the double-booking for London Music Hall with Young Jeezy. It was originally planned as a Tent Party (as it should have stayed, in my opinion), and only became a “wareHOUSE” party several weeks before the show.
When we arrived around midnight, we were met with a lineup, and a massive one at that. Another mistake. Our tickets were only guaranteed until 11:30pm. We knew this, and thought we’d be OK arriving closer to 12. Most other people in line seemed to be oblivious to the “guaranteed entry” times most events boast; if you’re not in by the cut off, the remaining portion of the line is processed and allowed inside in order. Tickets are irrelevant and ticket holders are not given priority. If you’ve already bought a ticket, they still honor it, but your spot inside is no longer reserved. If they hit capacity by selling tickets at the door and you’re not inside, too bad for you.
The line, entering the building at the end farthest the slots, reached around the corner and back almost to the casino entrance. For some time, we moved quickly. Capacity was hit 10 minutes after we arrived, but the line continued to move smoothly. It wasn’t until we were meters from the door that things really started to slow down. Move the first 90% in 10% of the time.
The first real problems I noticed with the show were here in line. So many people were oblivious to the details. London Music Hall uses mainly social media, so anyone who doesn’t monitor Facebook or Twitter and buys their tickets from the website or directly from a promoter is left out of the news. Even the venue change was only announced to ticket holders by email, and only hours before the show. I knew through social media, but others did not. Anyone who bought a hard ticket wouldn’t have been on the mailing list and would be completely in the dark. Almost everyone was oblivious to the entry cut-off time. I’m unsure whether it appeared in the ticket disclaimer, but again, no mention on the tickets themselves. It was only in a brief tweet, a reply to a single person, that mentioned the cut off time. I saw it only by chance, but even followers of the promoter wouldn’t have seen that news. The start time was changed several times, and the door time shifted between 7pm and 10pm depending on which promoter you listened to. Set times were never announced. The details were incredibly unclear. Considering I’m a person who follows social media, the promoter’s main method of communication, and couldn’t even find a definite time for AVB’s set or a cut off time, I’m not surprised.
Another major issue in line was security. It’s not like the line was small and calm – this was a line-up of hundreds. Over an hour wait. Most girls in heels, many freezing and without coats. Intoxicated and impatient. No place to use the bathroom. Garbage everywhere. With security doubled at the Young Jeezy concert due to yesterday’s shooting, a definite lack of security at AVB was apparent. Often in line ups, even at smaller clubs with only a few dozen people waiting to get in, there is at least one bouncer walking the line. This was a line that reached at least 50 meters, most of it out of view of the door, and not a single security person around. Line jumpers and fights were left to run their course, causing a lot of frustration and bitterness among those who did wait – not the best feeling to start a show with.
With the long wait in line, anyone who had been excited, pumped up, or even drunk, was just exhausted, cold, sober, and frustrated in short order.
Even once we approached the door, it became apparent there were very few security people. 5, if I remember correctly. A male and a female doing pat downs at general admission, the same at VIP, and a 5th to control the flow between the two. Even when we were 10 feet from the door, a large group of a dozen or so guys violently forced their way in line. The crowd erupted with screaming, shoving, and booing and still, nothing was done. When the one in front of me made the mistake of waving his ticket in the air and mocking those in line behind him; I tried to grab it out of his hand when he looked away. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite get it on the first try so he tightened his grip, and saw me. I was hoping I could snatch it and he’d panic, not knowing where it went. Instead I slipped back in the line to avoid getting punched in the face. I’m sorry, but if you shove me violently out of the way to avoid the lengthy wait that everyone else just endured, I have no issues with ruining your night in return.
Security was tremendously unpleasant. I know they have no patience, so we prepared by actually having our bags open and our ID’s ready, unlike every person in front of us. Still, we were treated like the biggest waste of time they’d ever expereinced. I held my bag open for the female security office after she’d frisked me, but it didn’t help her from barking “c’mon, your bag, I need to see it, open it”. I mentioned, “by the way, the dozen guys you just let in shoved everyone out of their way at the front of the line”, and she replied with “well you shouldn’t have let them!” Last time I checked, that’s not my job – it’s security’s. I’m not risking getting in a fight or getting arrested for doing security’s job. At any other event they’d be banned from the show.
We got inside and the first stop was the bathroom. 4 stalls. Thousands of people at the show, and only 4 stalls were open. One was out of order, bringing the total down to 3. Again, more shoving in line, and a lengthy wait. The women’s bathroom was not a pleasant area. Girls desperate to get back to the show would do anything. The line was merciless to line-jumpers, so I had the delightful experience of watching girl after girl hop up on the garbage can and sink to pee there. Another squatted in the corner and went on the floor. I didn’t witness a single person wash their hands. I feel terrible for whoever had to take out the garbage after that one – probably one of the most disgusting things I’d ever experienced in my life. That alone must have been someone’s version of hell.
After making it through that 20 minute experience, we headed for coat check. Another line. 2 people working. The line wasn’t moving. We decided to carry out coats with us instead. We lost all the guys with us. Drinks were an option, but we didn’t want to risk another wait in the bathroom from hell, so we forewent. It didn’t help that you couldn’t purchase just one drink – it was drink tickets only. Another line up.
The set up inside was nothing short of terrible. The back half was general admission and the front half VIP. From the very front of the main GA area, we couldn’t even see the top of Armin’s screens. GA extended in a small, 10 foot wide strip up the center of the floor. It was jam-packed. We didn’t even try to navigate through the crowd any farther.
Another “special feature” of the building was a long, gentle slope making GA at the back much lower than VIP at the front. In addition to the obvious vision issue, standing on that sort of slope is nothing short of excruciatingly painful. Pair that with cement floors, and both me an Teri were in extreme pain from the waist down in barely 30 minutes.
The final, and I’d say most important issue of the night, was sound quality. I’ve always though of trance as fairly subtle, with many different lines mixed together. Without fairly high quality, this becomes the “wub wub wub” everyone associates with electronic music. This happened to an extreme level. The echos were terrible, and, though I could be wrong, it sounded like the metal roof was vibrating with the bass, causing the music to lose all it’s subtle appeal. Through shows at London Music Hall, Rum Runners, Cobra, and even Mustang Lounge, I’ve never experienced sound quality quite that poor. It was absolutely pitiful. The venue choice caused beautiful music to become noise. Just noise. It absolutely destroyed the show, and the entire experience for me. I couldn’t get excited about the music like I do at other shows. I’ve had an amazing time at much smaller events (Michael Woods at LMH, or Wolfgang Gartner at Mustang Lounge for example), even with the smaller capacity and unbearable heat. Don’t get me wrong, these shows have their own issues, but the music always sounds good, and that’s what I’m there for.
Overall, I was extremely disappointed with the show. It fell so short of my expectations – but I think the sound quality is really what did it in. The show just couldn’t be redeemed for me with something like that.
I think from now on I’ll stop getting disappointed about missing huge shows, especially at Western Fair District. The great times I’ve had at smaller venues around the city put my experience at Armin’s show to absolute shame.