If you ask me, buying concert tickets at a venue’s box office is the way to go. I do it whenever I can; not only does it feel great to talk with an attendant who won’t ask if you’re a robot, box-office buyers skip online fees and a fair bit of stress. The only thing you have to do is get to the venue.
Hundreds of people had the same idea this morning, when tickets for the October 13 Prince tribute went on sale at the Xcel Energy Center. As details were finally announced last week, fans learned that sales would open at 10 a.m. today (both online and in-person); prices started at $19.99 and went up to $42.50, $82.50, $112.50, and $152.50. The tribute follows three Revolution reunion shows at First Avenue and myriad Purple Rain screenings around town.
When I entered the Xcel this morning, I felt like I could’ve stepped into a parallel universe. People were calmly lined up behind numbered signs, wearing a colorful mix of clothes — some in business suits, some in Prince merch. They could have been travelers standing in an airport security line.
As mentioned on the tribute concert’s website, the ticket system was a lottery, instilled partly to dissuade fans from getting in line before 8 a.m. The catch: they had to show up before 9:40, when wristband distribution would stop. In the lottery, one winning wristband’s number would be drawn, and ticket sales would start there. After that winner became the first person helped, sales would continue down the line until they started over with the people who’d arrived first in line.
From my point of view, the system at the physical box office worked well; after staff wristbanded me with #771, I went to stand in line between #770 and #772. We waited until 9:45. Then, a few Xcel employees stood on an upper deck, using a megaphone to announce the winning number (somewhere in the #550s?). At 10 a.m., the winners marched to the box office windows.
Even in my spot a couple of hundred numbers away, I felt fairly confident about my chances. Those in line around me (mostly people from Twin Cities suburbs) half-joked about buying the maximum six tickets per person just to resell them, and I chatted with a woman I recognized from a Revolution show. Most everyone stood in line while searching Ticketmaster on their phones.
But with about 75 people still ahead of me, a woman delivered the news via megaphone that the bottom few price tiers had sold out. One man near me sighed and said he had to go. The rest of us gritted our teeth and prepared (hoped?) to pay $112.50.
Last-minute plans got hatched as I stood in line. People texted friends looking online; they called each other with back-up plans; they marveled at Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, and Anita Baker sharing the same stage. “People like Stevie Wonder won’t be around forever,” one woman said, lips pursed, and we agreed that Prince’s early death taught us to go see our idols while we could.
And then, I was pointed to a ticket window, where I asked for a group of four tickets. At first, it looked like only single seats were left, but after some refreshing, the attendant found two pairs. I paid, took a second to celebrate, and cast a good-luck glance at the rest of the fans in line. The only thing left was to grab a Hy-Vee donut for the road.