Monday, February 23, 2015

Sleater-Kinney at The House of Blues Boston, 2/22/15

One of my all-time favorite bands, Sleater-Kinney, got back together (okay, okay, "returned from hiatus") and hit Boston last night at The House of Blues Boston.  Bubba, The Deadly Bishop, Mrs. Snilch Report and I had been looking forward to this show for months.  

So when I say we left early, you'd probably be surprised.  Especially when Mrs. Snilch and I shelled out $75 for our tickets.  And even more so when I tell you that Sleater-Kinney was putting on a great show, from what we could hear.

The problem:  we couldn't actually SEE the show.

Here's the issue:  The House of Blues Boston has three levels -- Floor, 2nd level, and 3rd level.  The Floor was packed, but there were still places you could stand in the back.  The 3rd level (which had seats) had plenty of room for people to stand behind chairs, but none were.  

Unfortunately for us, we were on the 2nd level.  Dead center was four people deep across the entire back, as were each of the front corners.  The back corners were two deep, but given the angle, it was impossible for us to stand together and have more than one of us actually see the show.

Further complicating the situation is that The House of Blues blocks off part of the 2nd level for VIPs/season ticket holders in the front right corner.  There were three to five  people standing in this area the whole night.  Finally, there are walls that come down to about 4 feet off the 2nd level, cutting off 20-30 feet of potential viewing area on each side.  (You can actually bend down under the wall to try and watch the show... but Security would not let people stoop down in this area to do so.  Thanks, HOB!)

So we were stuck watching monitors on the wall near the back corner.  But THAT didn't work because Bubba (who is hard of hearing) couldn't hear the show from back there.  So we had to move up closer to the speakers.  And therefore, here was our view:

This is what $75 got my wife and me.  And the video feed was awful:  the focus was soft (i.e., the images were not sharp) and the image was very dark (as the stage wasn't lit for video).  And there were at least (my best guess) 50-75 people in the same boat as us, with no view of the stage.

Now I've been in situations where I've been uncomfortable and crowded, had my view partially blocked by a mass of humanity, or been at large outdoor festivals where I had to watch video monitors with the band a mile away -- I am well aware that not every concert experience is going to be ideal.  But this is definitely the first time I can say that it was physically impossible to watch the show.  As Mrs. Snilch Report said, "If I wanted to watch a video, I'd just wait for the DVD to come out."

And that is why this situation was unacceptable.  Totally, thoroughly unacceptable.

The ultimate fault lies with HOB Boston.  They oversold the 2nd level, and would not allow overflow into the 3rd level or the Floor.  I find this practice disgusting and, frankly, unconscionable.  The tickets do not say "obstructed view," which these clearly were in our case.  And even if we had gotten there early enough to get on the rail, the problem would just have been transferred to four other people, who would be feeling the same way that my friends and I did this morning.  In other words, like we collectively took $150 and flushed it down the toilet.

I hope that when S-K comes back to town someday, they don't come back to the House of Blues.  In the 15+ years I've been a fan, it's the first time I've walked out on them -- one of my favorite bands and live acts of all time.  And it's not because of performance or material, but strictly because of the venue.  I'm positive that this situation will be news to them.

As for the House of Blues... I enjoyed my experience there watching The Cult, but until you change your ticket policy for the 2nd level, you can count on me and my friends never coming back.  I can't believe someone could take Avalon and screw it up more than previous versions of the venue, but congrats -- you have climbed that mountain!  

Your attitude toward your patrons is unacceptable and callous.  You got me this time, but the next potentially 5 or 10 shows I would have attended are definitely not going to happen.  I think that math is not in your favor.

Readers:  I encourage you to warn your friends about this, so you don't suffer the same disappointment we did.  And please let the House of Blues in Boston know that this is not acceptable to you either.

- Snilch


Salt said...

I've had a bad experience similiar to this at Strand in Providence. My wife and I went to see Avett Bros.. She LOVES them so I suffered through it. I felt so bad for her. Upper level has zero view of stage from about halfway back and also NO speakers up there. Sounded like it was coming from a block away under a blanket. Providence is run by Goombas, so the "cash only" at bar is expected, but I will never be going back there.
Caught Citizen Cope ( another huge fav of Wifey and I) at HOB last year. View was ok but he totally phoned it in. Bad show, performance-wise. He lost us. Prob never pay to see him again.
In today's age you have to DELIVER! Both artist and venue. I was raised in the day of Van Halen and Rush concerts literally blowing my mind! Visually etc..This has fallen to a deep low unless it's Gaga etc.., for $300 a tix.
We had David Lee Roth!!!! and the Yolos have some trust fund kid in horned rimmed glasses with a beard standing there and phoning it in. LAME!
P.S. Springsteen!!!

Dana said...

I had the same experience when I went to HOB to see the "Always Sunny" live show. They over sold the second level and we were asked to crouch down and watch the show through the railing because they over sold.

I have to really, really LOVE the artist coming to HOB and I always will get GA or I won't bother going.

Sinclair is the best venue in town. By far.

Anonymous said...

We had the same problem at the SK show. My wife and I were beyond irritated. They wanted another $20 to watch it on their shitty small screen. All the merch was on the main floor, so being told we would have to wait until after the show to buy anything put us over the edge and on a mission to get to the floor. We managed to get ahold of a couple floor tickets from a couple who took pity our situation and watched the show from the floor. I will definitely think twice before seeing another band at HOB Boston. That system is total bullshit considering every ticket is the same price. It felt like a cattle corral, not to mention pretty fucking elitist.

Bitcher said...

Just a totally dispiriting experience. I walked out after song #5. I could have gotten more out of my $40 by pulling the cash out of my wallet and wiping my @$$ with it.

At least I got to hang with great friends for the preceding two hours. Maybe next time a band we like plays HOB, we just go out for dinner, walk by HOB, flip it off and go home?

Anonymous said...

I was the deaf guy (Bubba) at the show with Snilch, Mrs. Snilch and Bitcher. I stuck around for the entire show and have never quite experience such a quiet, subdued crowd in the aftermath of a concert. No jumping and screaming or folks singing verses of songs...just bleh. I put this general apathy squarely on HOB's shoulders. HOB needs to fix their policy for tickets sales (limit SRO on Mezz level) and also think about reconfiguring the layout to be more concert-goer friendly.

Concur with Bitcher about great two hours hanging out a bar before the show with great friends!