Last night Timmy and I went to NYE with JD McPherson at The Abbey Pub. I discovered JD McPherson sometime last year when Cammila posted about him on her blog. Timmy and I missed our chance in August to see him at the Bash on Wabash when the concert got stormed out, so, last night was our first time seeing him live. He was even more amazing live, however, we were unable to enjoy it because of how poorly The Abbey ran the event.
The doors were supposed to open at 8 pm, and the concert was to begin at 9 pm. While the doors opened on time, the opening band didn't go on until 10:15. That band only played for half an hour so they finished playing at 10:45. JD McPherson didn't go on until 11:45 pm, and there was no band playing between the two. I don't understand why The Abbey would choose to schedule the concert to start at 9 pm, then not start until 10 pm, and have an hour of inactivity between the two bands (there was less than five minutes involved in switching of the equipment). If this had just been a regular bar performance, it wouldn't have been so weird, but it wasn't. This was a $25 a ticket event in a separate venue off the side of the main bar where another band was playing for free. If The Abbey's intention was to allow people time to mingle between acts, then they shouldn't have sold so many tickets that you couldn't move without shoving people out of the way. It was so packed that the back of the guy standing in front of me was touching my boobs. Concerts are usually packed, especially in Chicago, but this was just a whole other level of ridiculous. Who wants to spend an hour, two separate times, just standing in the middle of a packed room that you can barely escape to go to the bathroom or get another drink?
Also, for $25 a ticket (not counting ticket fees), I was expecting more than 90 minutes of music during a four hour event. I expected a concert. I choose The Abbey for NYE because I was not interested in the overpriced NYE parties thrown at fancier bars, but it turns out The Abbey was just as overpriced for what they provided. Had I not bought a ticket to JD McPherson, I could have stayed in the bar listening to live music for free WITH AN EVEN LONGER PLAY TIME. In the end, Timmy and I left halfway through JD McPherson, as awesome as he was live, because being constantly shoved around by waitresses and people trying to leave, made it hard to enjoy the music. The $55-60 we spent on our tickets was wasted because we only spent about 30 minutes in the actual venue; the rest of the five hours we were in the main bar watching the stage on the TVs in there; as you can imagine, it was a lot of fun staring at an empty stage for four of the five hours.
I understand that The Abbey wanted to make sure JD McPherson was playing at midnight since it was NYE, however, they should have planned the event accordingly from the beginning. Why start the event at 9 pm and only plan for an hour and a half of music if you want the event to last until 1 am? They could have started the event later, or even better, added a third band. The Amazing Heeby Jeebies who played the main bar were great, and would have made for a terrific addition to the lineup in The Abbey's concert venue next door. Another option would be to have had JD play his set before midnight, and have him only do his encore after. This would have also been better because they had a balloon drop at midnight; the constant balloon popping during his performance was distracting, and liquor soaked wood floors + popped balloon remnants = not the safest combination.
The Abbey also offered $70 VIP tickets which included balcony seating, a buffet, and drinks. What The Abbey didn't seem to tell people about the VIP tickets is that you could only get your free drinks at the bar in the balcony. Since there was an hour delay to the start of the concert, and an hour between bands, some people went to the main bar (separated from the venue only by a door), to listen to the Amazing Heeby Jeebies; when VIP people ordered a drink at the bar there, they were told they had to pay for it (after the drink was already made and they were forced to pay for it). While this may seem obvious to some people, on behalf of the VIP ticket holders, I must say that the way they had everything set up, I don't think it was that obvious. So, if you were a VIP ticket holder who didn't want to sit in the balcony for two hours staring at an empty stage, and wanted to actually listen to some live music, you had to go back to the venue, show your stamp to the doorman, push your way through the people, and go up the stairs to the VIP bar every time you wanted another drink.
I heard from someone that the reason The Abbey was waiting so long between bands was because the venue was so packed that they were wanting to see if the event cleared out a bit by people going over to the main bar area to hear the Amazing Heeby Jeebies' free performance. If this is true, it makes the whole situation even more aggravating: their solution for overselling tickets is to make those who bought tickets so frustrated with waiting to hear music that they just give up and leave, and not get what they paid for? I really hope this was not the case, however, I can't think of any legitimate explanation for how the event was ran.