I'm With The Band

On Monday at 9 am, Jim James announced he was performing his new album, Uniform Distortion, in full at Rough Trade on Tuesday at 10:45 pm.

My best friends and I already had tickets to see Elizabeth and the Catapult at Rough Trade on Tuesday. So, we were already going to be at the venue where Jim was going to be playing.

Tickets went on sale at noon on Monday. I pushed my lunch plans back so I could be home and ready to get my tickets. I sat at my kitchen counter watching the countdown clock for 10 minutes, nine minutes, eight minutes…

0:10
0:09
0:08
0:07
0:06
0:05
0:04
0:03
0:02
0:01

GO! I clicked quantity “4” and “Get Tickets.”

Less than two seconds later, the website said: “No Tickets Available.” It didn’t even do the timer thing where it was looking for tickets. I was certain it didn’t even look for tickets. Or maybe tickets weren’t even being sold, they just wanted to see how many people they could get on the site. I tried for two tickets. One ticket. I hit refresh many, many times. Nothing.

I immediately jumped over to StubHub and discovered that people were selling tickets for $1029. Yes. The dot after the 9 is in the correct spot.

I spent the next 36 hours disappointed and annoyed. I asked some music industry friends if they had any connections. No luck. But I was determined. I've seen Jim James (and My Morning Jacket) many times but there's nothing like seeing one of your favorite artists in one of the smallest venues in NYC. 

On Tuesday night, my friends and I walked into the Elizabeth and the Catapult show. We’ve been to many of her shows over the last 15 or so years. She opened with Apathy which is one of my favorite songs.

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I suddenly realized that I knew the guitarist. Okay, didn’t know but had a connection to. I had completely forgotten.

The backstory: Nine years ago I was looking for an apartment in Tel Aviv. I went to this website where people posted looking for apartments/roommates and this girl and I connected. She was from Australia and was going to med school in Tel Aviv. We decided to look for apartments together. We decided not to commit because it was clear she was going to be there longer than I was and it didn’t make sense. Last February she and I caught up over dinner in Tel Aviv. Somehow it came up that she had a brother in New York. I asked her what he did. She responded that he was in a small local band that I wouldn’t know. I asked what they were called. She said “Elizabeth and the Catapult” to which I responded, I’ve seen them 10+ times.

Back to Rough Trade. Elizabeth and the Catapult show ended. While my friends finished their drinks inside, I went out to the ticket booth to beg the woman to sell me a ticket.

“I don’t have any,” she said, “If I did, I’d sell it to you. I’m not in control of this. There’s nothing I can do.”

I sensed that she felt bad but not enough to finagle something for me.

I was willing to leave my friends behind (sorry friends, you guys don’t care as much as I do!) to get a single ticket.

As I begged the woman at the ticket booth, a guy who looked older than he probably was started talking to me. He had been waiting for tickets to go on sale the day before and somehow waited 15 minutes past the ticket release time (noon) and got one.

Lesson: Never give up — keep refreshing the page!  

“If you have a ticket, why are you here?” I asked him.

It was 8:15 pm and the show wasn’t until 10:45 pm.

“What else am I going to do?” he responded. I think his name was Todd.

I stood around waiting, waiting, waiting for her to feel bad for me. I checked in. I told her about the StubHub bullshit. She kept apologizing.

I went back inside and approached the guitarist telling him how I knew his sister. We chatted for a few and then I asked him if he was staying for Jim James. He wasn’t. I asked if they were allowed to stay for it. He wasn’t sure.

“Can you possibly find out? And then I can have your sticker?” I asked.

He was open to it so we exchanged numbers and he said he’d text me if he had any luck.

My friends suggested I didn’t leave the venue but I had a good feeling it would work out. We left and walked to The William Vale for our dinner reservation. I was making my friends absolutely crazy. Anxious. Nagging. Annoying. Desperately waiting for a text message. I shoveled down a bowl of pesto pasta. 

A photo of a bandpass came through my text messages.

I hugged my friends goodbye and ran back to the venue.

Scruffy, brown-haired white dudes were lined up outside the venue waiting for the doors to open.

I met the guitarist who immediately gave me the pass. I put it on and hung around the merch booth with him, Elizabeth, and his girlfriend. They were all leaving the venue shortly as they had to leave early the next morning for their show in Boston.

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It was time for them to load out so I offered to help. Gotta work for my pass. Gotta make sure the security guard sees that I’m with the band.

I carried the kick drum and pedal outside. Came back in, grabbed the amp, went back outside. As we walked back in to ensure we didn’t leave anything behind the security guard stopped us.

“Nobody can go back in there.”

“I left my beer in there,” said the guitarist.

“She can go in, you can’t. You need a pass.”

I didn’t even look but I assume he took his off already. I smiled at him and walked through the door.

Done. I’m in. This is it. I didn’t know what to do with myself, but I had to play it cool.

The guitarist texted me, “Yay!”

I ran into the bathroom to text my friends that I got in and apologize for my psycho-ness. Okay, collect yourself, Harper.  

I walked over to the merch table where a girl was setting up the t-shirts.

I forget what question she asked me but I said I was with the band that played earlier. She asked, “what do you do?”

I fumbled with my words. I am not a good liar. Do I say I’m a drummer (#goals)? Singer? Manager? Girlfriend? Sister? Cousin? Fuck. Quick, answer her!

“I’m a friend of the band.”

Phew. Got something out.

We chatted for a while. I learned that she was the intern and we had a similar musical taste. I bought a t-shirt and pin. The minute they started letting people into the space, I thanked her for entertaining me while I anxiously awaited the show to begin and went to take my spot.

I stood against the wall on the right side of the venue which isn’t even a real wall. It feels more like a room divider. I had the opportunity to stand front and center with “Todd” but I was afraid it would be too loud with the speakers right there. I could enjoy the show just as much without touching the stage; I was still incredibly close to it.

There was a couple standing next to me and the guy suggested they move closer in and the woman refused.

“Are you claustrophobic too?” I asked.

“Yes, very much so.”

I told her about the time I saw Tom Petty at Firefly Festival. We were 20 rows from the stage and there were easily 40,000 people behind us. When we decided we had enough for the night, my best friend escorted us out of there and made it clear I should not look behind me because I’d panic. She safely got me out of the spot we were on a clear path. For someone who sees as much music as I do, I really hate crowds.

A short, skinny girl with dark eye-makeup, leather jacket and a beer in hand came over and started talking to me. She spoke so fast that I only understood every five words. Something about knowing the bouncer at The Surf Lodge. All I could think was I’d lose my mind if she talked to me during the show.

11:15 pm and the lights went down. Music stopped.

There he was.

Dark cobalt blue peacoat with large buttons, sunglasses, and his wild hair.

Jim James.

The crowd went wild.

I am always honored to be in his presence.

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He played the new album in full. It was a lot more rock than I anticipated and I loved it. He spoke once to thank the crowd for coming to watch them try things out.

I was in my zone. Not interrupted by any talkers or drunk or annoying people.

He left the stage after the album was complete. The crowd went wild and he came back out for:

  • Here In Spirit
  • A New Life
  • Same Old Lie
  • State of the Art - A-E-I-O-U

I went CRAZY during State of the Art - A-E-I-O-U. It was the best performance of the song I’d ever seen. He did the “the powers going out” so many times...the energy in the room was contagious.

Lights out. Show over.

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Most importantly, thank you to the guitarist.

Thank you to Jim for an incredible, intimate night. And for being you.

Thank you to the staff/security for not kicking me out.

Thank you to my friends for not hating me for being a crazy person.

Note: When showgoers arrived, their phones were put in locked pouches so they couldn’t take photos or videos. Since I’d already been at the venue for hours, there wasn’t an opportunity for them to ask for my phone. My photos suck because I was afraid they were going to take my phone away and I wanted to be present. I also knew Danny Clinch would take epic photos as he does.