Local Rhythms – Ticketmaster Alternatives

I was all set to rant about live music monopolist Ticketmaster this week. Have you heard the one about this summer’s Bon Jovi concert tour? There’s a special American Express pre-sale, which purportedly offers a free copy of the band’s upcoming CD with every ticket. But each seat comes with a 10-dollar surcharge – in addition to their already usurious handling, convenience and venue fees – to cover the cost of the album.

In other words, Ticketmaster isn’t giving it away at all. On the contrary, they’re FORCING YOU TO BUY IT if you want to see Bon Jovi.

Dishing out the hate to that is easier than hitting a beach ball with a cricket bat.

Why bother?

Instead, let’s talk about some alternatives to the evil empire, right here in your own backyard. 12 years ago, Pearl Jam tried and failed to manage their ticket sales. But that was before the Internet, with its low operating costs and tight fan connections.

Of course, Ticketmaster has a web site, but they do things on it like charging extra to print tickets at home. That saves them money; why should fans pay?

Virtuous.com sells online tickets for Boccelli’s in Bellows Falls, Brattleboro’s Latchis Theatre, and several other smallish New England venues. They have a service fee – everyone does. But it’s simple, fair and they donate ten percent of their profits to local charities.

Higher Ground, the long-running South Burlington music club, also keeps service charges low and explains where they go – agents, venues and so forth.

How does this ethical company compare to Ticketmaster? Well, seats for Bob Dylan’s upcoming Burlington show come with a $4.50 “convenience” charge – compared to nearly 15 dollars in assorted fees for Dylan’s Boston gig.

Iron Horse Entertainment Group sells tickets through the Northampton Box Office, with fees that typically represent about 15 percent of a transaction. That’s a little high, but you can hand pick from available reserved seats for Calvin Theatre shows, for example, and pay face value day of show.

Closer to home, Lebanon Opera House has a small online fee of $2.00 per transaction, and Claremont Opera House doesn’t charge anything but the ticket price.

So while you hate Ticketmaster, remember to spread a little local love – and don’t forget these shows:

Thursday: Granite State Stompers, Bistro Nouveau at Eastman – The phrase “New Orleans Music” brings many things to mind – the bon temps Zydeco of Beausoleil, the bouncy free form jazz of the Marsalis family, or the smooth vocal style of Harry Connick, Jr. But Dixieland put the Crescent City on the musical map. This homegrown ensemble swings the way they did at the turn of the 20th century.

Friday: Sleazy Listening, Marzelli’s Cafe – This young, fresh and talented jazz combo doesn’t get around nearly enough for my tastes. But they sure sound good. This Sunapee Coffee House set is a “pass the hat” affair. Sleazy Listening has an upbeat, tightly syncopated sound, and lead vocalist Andal Sundaramurthy sounds like honey on strawberries tastes. They also play a 5 PM Saturday set on the New London Town Green.

Saturday: Matt Haimovitz, Boccelli’s – A renegade cellist – now there’s a concept I could grow to love. Haimovitz started out as a modern classical musician, but these days he’s as likely to perform Hendrix as Handel, the Beatles as Bach. In concert, he positively rips “Kashmir” apart – Led Zeppelin never sounded like this. His instrument is 300 years old, but everything else about Haimovitz is 3rd Millennium.

Sunday: Quechee Balloon Festival – This is the third and final day of this annual event. As in past Father’s Days, dads get in for half-price today, provided they bring their kids. Nice little racket, that. Speaking of which, there’s music all weekend long from the likes of blues boys Johnny B and the Goodes, the Bela Fleck-inspired Don Sheldon & Friends, and what I’m promised will be a festival high point, the Burlington Taiko Group, featuring Japanese drumming and eastern rituals.

Monday: Heartless Bastards, Iron Horse – The first time I heard this three-piece band, they sounded like a punkier Over the Rhine. It turns out they share the ethereal pop band’s hometown – but not much else. This is edgy, full-bodied and aggressive music, led by take-no-prisoners front woman Erika Wennerstrom. Enter at your own risk – you may be hooked.

Tuesday: Acoustic Coalition, Firestones – Two Quechee picks in one week – that’s some kind of record. Led by area music maven Dave Clark, Acoustic Coalition is an open mike of sorts staffed by musician friends and whoever happens to drop by. Clark says the idea was born after seeing a David Bromberg acoustic jam session at the old Higher Ground a few years back. It’s one of those places where just about anything can happen.

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