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.