Stone crazy! Scott show creates local frenzy
It's Friday, May 20, about 30 minutes before the magic hour of 10am, when ticket buyers all over America are ready to let their fingers do the rockin'. Here at Scott Stadium, the rain and drizzle have just stopped. And a rain-jacketed Madison Cummings, 62, has won the coveted first spot in line at the West Gate of Scott Stadium.
"We were here for DMB– way up in the stands– and it was fun," says Cummings, a former Albemarle School Board member.
To discourage overnight camping, a lottery system randomly assigns places in line, and Cummings snags the lead spot just an hour after he arrives.
Chris Wenderoth, a 19-year-old second-year UVA student, may be the youngest person in this largely gray-haired crowd of just over 100. Even though he joined about 1,000 fellow students invited for a shot at special discounted seats a day earlier, he's back for a second try.
"I'm looking for better tickets," Wenderoth explains. When a ticket clerk asks if row B in the $95 pile of floor tickets will suffice, he exclaims, "Second row? That's awesome."
Dee Desarmeaux, 52, from Somerset, places her order a moment later. "I only found out about it last night," she says. "I read about it in the Hook."
Managing all this is Larry Wilson, at 36, another veritable whippersnapper in today's crowd. Is he surprised by the skimpy turnout? After all, the DMB sale four years ago drew about 4,400 people to Scott Stadium. He is surprised, he says, but it's actually because 100 is more than he expected: "I thought we'd have 40 or 50 people.
"The biggest misconception is that buying a ticket here gets you a better seat," says Wilson. "It's all coming out of the same pool. Seventy percent of this show will be sold on the Internet."
However, there's one benefit from buying at the stadium: price. The five selling stalls don't add shipping costs and Ticketmaster's "convenience fee."
As the general manager of the 12,000-seat Richmond Coliseum, Wilson is part of a national company called Stadium Management Group that recently inked a deal with UVA to book the under-construction John Paul Jones arena.
"If we see an opportunity," he says, "we bring it to the University."
UVA's arena/stadium expansion binge is creating two of the biggest venues in the state. Still, as far as the Stones are concerned, this is their smallest city– by far.
"Look at their itinerary," says Wilson. "New York, Boston, Calgary, Charlottesville."
Someone asks if he minds that tiny Charlottesville bested Richmond. "Not enough seats," answers Wilson. "The ticket would have had to be $800 to $900 to make the kind of money the Stones want to make."
Computer engineer Lynn Walker just wanted to get some Stones tickets when the clock struck 10. While sitting at her desk in UVA's Cabell Hall, Walker made numerous unsuccessful attempts to log in to ticketmaster.com. So she walked over to Scott Stadium to join the quickly moving line, and by 10:40am, she had eight tickets.
Two UVA "pre-sales" earlier in the week, combined with an even earlier offer to members of the fansite RollingStones.com, pre-empted many of the choicest seats before the public sale.
Chief UVA operating officer Leonard Sandridge heralded the first offering with an unannounced May 16 email to UVA faculty and staff. That pre-sale began the following day. By 5pm Wednesday, many tickets, including some $350 "gold circle"– or stage-area– seats were still available. But by May 18, that allotment appeared to have been exhausted.
The day of the public sale, Hook staffers were able to buy upper-deck (read: nosebleed) tickets until a few minutes before noon. If the show sold out at noon, that means over 50,000 tickets were claimed in under two hours. Fast, but not quite DMB speed. In the run-up to that band's 2001 "Homecoming" concert, organizers claimed that the tickets– at about half the price the Stones charged– sold out in 35 minutes.
"I'd like to be on stage," says longtime Stones fan Pat Gage, vexed that no "gold circle" tickets were available by the time he reached the Scott Stadium window. Later that day, an online seller was asking $775 each for gold circle tickets.
"Those tickets are gonna be $2,000 on eBay in a couple of months," Gage says.
So why didn't he join RollingStones.com, which had very first dibs? "Ignorance," answers Gage. "I'm 53– I've got a lot of dead brain cells up there."
Gage recalls his first Stones show– Detroit's 1969 "Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!" tour. He says he can't remember the total number of Stones shows he's seen.
"And some of them," his friend Richard Rike chimes in, "you really don't remember!"
Rike doubts the rumors that this yet-unnamed tour will be the last for the band whose front man, Mick Jagger, will be 62 by the time he struts into Charlottesville. "There's too much money to be made," Rike says.
If the average ticket at Scott Stadium is $100, 50,000 tickets would mean a gross of $5 million. But Gage has another theory.
"Jagger is the consummate showman," says Gage, who learned from his wife, a former ballerina, why this tour probably isn't– despite all the conjecture– the band's last: "When you've stood on a stage and held an audience in the palm of your hand, you never get over that feeling."
And there's reason to doubt all the mortality jokes the band's detractors like to make.
"Jagger's always at the gym," explains Gage. "Even Keith [Richards] got sober, I think."
Just over 100 fans get tix at Scott Stadium.
Madison Cummings won first place– without camping!
Dee Desarmeaux rushed in from Somerset.
Pat Gage saw the Stones in 1969.
"Second row?" asks second-year Chris Wenderoth. "That's awesome."
SMG's Wilson points out that 50,000 Stones fans is about 10,000 fewer than come to a football game.
PHOTOSBY JEN FARIELLO
This is a version of a story originally published in the May 26, 2005, issue of the Hook.