The Art of Sneaking into a Concert

This year ASUCD’S Entertainment Council and Mondavi Center have done a fabulous job of bringing a wide variety of talented artists to our small campus, spreading fresh waves of excitement and anticipation among students that haven’t seen such popular line-ups in this city in a while, or ever. In this small college town, when someone as prestigious as Drake or Bon Iver is heard to be performing at your campus, tickets will sell out fast, and you will seriously regret ever saying, “I’ll just buy them tomorrow.” No. Bad move. Chances are that long line you see outside of Freeborn is just going to get a lot longer and won’t thin out until that last ticket is gone.

I experienced such regret when I saw that line and figured it was for an artist other than Bon Iver. After all, tickets had started selling before Bon Iver had performed on Saturday Night Live, and only a couple of his songs were mainstream hits. Given the smaller venue at Freeborn Hall compared to Drake’s performance at the ARC Pavillion, I assumed that a smaller performance hall meant a smaller crowd, which meant slower ticket sales. I didn’t expect Bon Iver’s indie style to be so popular. Either I underestimated Bon Iver ability to touch people’s lives with his music, or the myth that Davis is full of hipsters is completely understated.

It sucks when you’ve already missed Drake and Steve Aoki, and plan on missing Florence + the Machine and The Shins because, as passionate as you are about the music and artist, sometimes the time isn’t right, and you have to sacrifice a mind-blowing experience to study for an 8am midterm you have the next day.  But Bon Iver, the timing was perfect. Third week of the spring quarter. Midterms would not be until later on that week, so procrastination was still acceptable. First class the next day wasn’t until the afternoon, everything was perfect, except for the fact that all of the tickets were sold out.

I tried everything I could -- entered in contests to win free tickets, contacted craigslists sellers, looked up re-sells on stubhub and sacramento backpages. But I didn’t win the contests, others had beat me to the craigslist sellers, and I made the mistake of hoping that other sellers would lower their ticket prices as the day of the concert approached, when in actuality, the cheaper tickets sold out and the remaining tickets were ridiculously expensive and remained that way.

With all this luck, it seemed the only way for me to get into this concert would be through stealth and skill.

Prep Work: The Basic Necessities
While googling “How to sneak into a concert,” I accumulated a variety of tips that would aid me in getting into the Bon Iver concert for free. According to wikiHow, some random blogs, and this Youtube guy that calls himself “nalts,” I would need:

  1. A clipboard
    1. I did not have a clipboard so I bought one for $7.
  2. A walkie talkie
    1. No walkie talkie either, but I had the next best thing: an iPhone
  3. To know my way around the venue
    1. I had performed in Freeborn Hall before. I knew that on stage left was a dressing room where Bon Iver would probably be. The only direct way there was through the door at the back of the building or through the side stage entrance. On stage right was another door to the stage, which would get me to the left if I could walk behind the curtains. The stage right door was connected to the rest of Lower Freeborn. This would be my point of entrance.
  4. Inconspicuous dress
    1. Black shirt. Dark jeans. Black flats. Hair down, nothing fancy. Natural makeup. Hairbands on my wrist. Compared to everyone else I looked pretty serious, but not too Men in Black serious. I wanted to look like a kid that was just doing her job. If I seemed too serious I risked looking like I was trying too hard to pass as someone I wasn’t.
  5. Confidence
    1. Pep talked my reflection in a bathroom mirror. We’ll get to that later.

 

Assess and Strategize
The day of the concert, I made my way to Freeborn a couple hours before the concert dressed the part, the clipboard and iPhone in a package so that it looked like I was just there to deliver something. I also had an old EC volunteer badge, and tickets to another show I was going to at Freeborn later on this quarter. I planned on posing as a volunteer, and asking security to go backstage so I could find “her” because “she left her clipboard and phone out front and wanted me to deliver them to her.” I read somewhere that vague is the way to go, and you should act like the people you’re talking to should know what you’re talking about since you’re all part of the same crew.

Security was already out and about guarding entrances and keeping an eye on the line that was forming. I was getting nervous, and decided to walk around Freeborn to do some people watching and information gathering. Wandering around Lower Freeborn, I found myself at All Tiny Creature’s dressing room, and taped next to their door were all sorts of very official looking schedules -- just what I needed for my empty clipboard. Looking around to make sure nobody was near, I grabbed the schedules off the wall, ran to make a copies, and rushed to put them back hopefully before anyone saw anything suspicious.

It was 7:30 by then. Doors had opened and the opening act was going on in 30 minutes. My nerves started kicking in again. I decided to get a pizza. I ditched my package of goodies behind a plant, and for about an hour I was just another student eating at the MU and drinking hot chocolate.

Keeping Your Eyes on the Objective
Then, at around 8:30, I decided to act. Taking a secret passageway that goes from the MU to Lower Freeborn, I walked up to the base of the stairs that led up to the stage entrance and panicked. I hurried to the bathroom to prep myself one last time.

Looking at the mirror, I could see stress in my eyes. My hair was flat, my make-up made me look older and tired.

“Hey, my manager asked me to bring this stuff to her,” I said to reflection.  I wanted to be satisfied I looked and could act the part.

In case he wanted someone else to bring it to “my manager”: “I would feel a lot better if I could give it to her myself, I don’t want to get in trouble.”

If he’s still reluctant to let me in, I would attempt to use an innocent girl charm and say, “I’ll be in and out in a minute, I promise. I don’t want to cause any trouble.”

If still resistant: “Here, I can give you my ID card so you know I’ll come back.”

A couple minutes later I felt I had all the confidence I needed. Without any doubt in my steps, I walked up the stairs and opened the door to the stage.

The Moment of Truth
A security guard was there talking to a couple of people trying to get in. Whatever story they were trying to sell, the guard wasn’t buying it. The guard looked stressed, probably from bouncing so many kids all night long. When I opened the door, he looked at me and nodded, and escorted the two others out. Turning to him as I entered the doorway, I said, “Hi, I’m a volunteer, I just need to get this to someone...”

He took a look at everything I was carrying -- the badge, the clipboard, two different phones. I’d plastered a worried no-nonsense face on, using my stress and twisting it to my advantage. I am Anne Hathaway, desperately trying to find the last Harry Potter book for Meryl Streep. I’m on a mission, I’m serious, please just let me do my job.

“Yeah sure, just go on through.” What a friendly guy.

Finally I was in, on the stage, twenty feet from where ATC was rocking out with their adoring fans. But my path behind the stage to where Bon Iver was waiting for me was blocked with a forest of entangled wires and musical equipment.

I turned back to the nice security man. “Do you know how I can get to the other side of the stage?”

He seemed very intent on helping me, as if my worry to complete my important task was his own.

“You know what, the best way for you to get there is probably just around the crowd.”

He opened another door, and with that, my mission was complete. I was in for the rest of the night, just another fan in the crowd.

But that seemed too easy. I wanted to meet Bon Iver and decided to try the same scheme with the security guys guarding the other entrance.

“Hi, I need to get this to someone inside. I’m a volunteer.”

“I’m sorry, I can’t let anyone in.”

“It’ll be really quick.”

“You can drop that stuff off at the front.”

“Oh, okay.”

I left. Came back.

“She says she’s inside and won’t be out for a while. Can I give you my ID and I’ll be right out.”

“No, I can’t let you in. Who’s ‘she’?”

“Uh, Samantha Mukai. She’s the EC volunteer coordinator. Tiny, Asian looking.”

The security guard went in to look for this Samantha Mukai. Another guard took his place and he’s looking at me hard. This wasn’t going anywhere

I took out my phone. “Hey Samantha. You’re where? I was just there. Oh, okay. Yeah. Got it. I’ll be there soon.”

Enjoying Success against All Odds
Walking away, I ditched the clipboard behind some curtains, keeping the photocopied schedules as souvenirs. Paranoid about security, I tied my hair up, turned my jacket inside out, and dove into the crowd. Found some friends, and squeezed into a spot in the second row right in time to see Bon Iver perform. And it was amazing. A sold out concert and a fantastic performance, all for the price of a clipboard.