"Dollar water! Dollar water! We've been told this is by far the best water here!"
So shouted the two budding capitalists who strolled the thousand-deep line on a residential street in the Miracle Mile district, hawking beverages for those plonked on the lawn in the sudden morning commotion. The line snaked from 6th Street up to the front door of the El Rey Theatre. Inside were tickets to see the biggest band in the world play an Echo Park rock club Saturday night.
Most of L.A. music-land woke up to a social media maelstrom, suggesting that the Rolling Stones had booked a secret show at the Echoplex, and tickets for the show were going on sale for $20 at the El Rey Theatre. By 11 a.m., when this reporter arrived to try his hand at scoring one, the line was around 400 deep and bubbling with flash-mob optimism.
At the very front, some seasoned Stones-watchers had been camped there since the day before. One woman, Nyoro, was in the first dozen spots and certainly earned her place in line - she'd flown from Osaka, Japan, two days ago just based on a rumor that the Stones would play a secret L.A. club show. She was right. "I'm kind of cuckoo for them," she said.
In our spot in the middle of the line around noon the crowd was a mix of Echo Park regulars making up for lost Stones-at-Coachella wishes, KROQ bros and a few hearty middle-aged Stones fans comparing eras of Stones tours (Consensus? The return of Mick Taylor makes this round a must-see). One young fan said that upon hearing the news around 10:30 a.m., he jumped into his car and drove from the far Valley alone in the carpool lane. The risk was worth it.
As noon passed with no word of the plan - how many tickets were open, who would get them, were they now $40? - the rumor mill churned. One very polite and very beleaguered young man walked around with a trash bag collecting water bottles and swearing he had no secrets to impart. Finally, a rep walked the line handing out six-digit blue raffle tickets, saying there would be a lottery and that the system would be "very clear" once it got started, but everyone should stay put.
A few folks scampered off to feed the parking meter one last time - they might still be here a while. Overhead, an LAPD chopper turned circles above the crowd. I wondered if Nyoro was having a heart attack up there from the news that her place in line wouldn't matter at all.
Finally, a slow but gathering stream of dejected fans slunk from the front towards 6th Sreet. "Only people with 312 numbers can get in," they said. Our small line-buddy-posse looked down - all our tickets read "311." We held out hope - no word was official yet, and it seemed fishy that a random lottery would have bypassed our whole swath of the street.
Then a megaphone-wielding venue rep confimed the grim news - anybody under a certain number should pack it up and go home. That number began with a 312. Nearly four hours in line and we only had a nice hangover and the beginnings of a sunburn to show for it.
Oh well, the Stones giveth, the Stones taketh away. On the walk back down Wilshire, however the crowd's mood darkened. Some said they spoke with friends who arrived at the last minute at the end of the line - and that seemed to be where most of the winning "312" numbers wound up.
The venue reps on site swore the lottery was entirely random. But after we got back home to sulk, one of our line-waiting-friends called to say he'd gone back, just one last time, just in case he still had a shot. He said the venue, after having sent everyone in line home, was again selling tickets and weren't even checking lottery numbers anymore. He got a ticket and could barely speak from the emotional roller-coaster of it all.
What did we learn from our thwarted day in the Stones line? That secret shows of this caliber are like taking home a date that's way, way out of your league. Don't expect it to happen for you, but if it does, just enjoy it and don't get your hopes up for the future.
Pop & Hiss will have a review of the show later (such are the perks of being Randall Roberts), but for us, it'll be "Exile on Main St." on vinyl and three fingers of bourbon on our couch.