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by Jason Gross

5 Feb 2009

After Bruce Springsteen complained that Ticketmaster was reselling tix to his shows for inflated prices, the company issued an apology to the Boss and took off links on their website to resellers, which had been authorized by TM itself.  But if you look in the fine print of their apology, you’ll notice that it’s kinda limited.  According to a Billboard article, TM says “Specifically, we will not present an option to go to TicketsNow from Ticketmaster without the consent of the artist and the venue, both of whom work together to bring the joy of live entertainment to millions of fans.” 

What does it mean?  It’s still open season for TM to gouge fans if the artist in question doesn’t (publicly) complain about this practice.

And how does this work?  Let’s take an example of the Dead, which is essentially the long-standing core of the Grateful Dead minus the late Jerry Garcia.  They’re touring again, which is big news since they haven’t performed together too much since Garcia’s death.  Their management booked a show at Madison Square Garden for April 25th with tickets going on sale on January 24th in two price ranges: $54.50 and $99.50.  Not surprisingly, the show sold out in just over a half-hour. 

If you looked for tix at Ticketmaster after that, you were told that you weren’t necessarily out of luck- you just couldn’t buy them for the regular price.  Through two TM services, Tickets Now and TicketExchange, you could still get tickets.  The catch was that if you wanted to go to show now, the lower level seats were not $99 anymore.  They were dozens of these tickets now being sold legally for $500 to $1000.  Just to be clear, these resold tickets were being offered up only minutes after the show sold out.  (Craigslist already had listings for tickets to the show too but they were much more reasonably priced)

Here’s what they say about one of the services: “TicketsNow provides secure and convenient access to event tickets that are supplied by professional resellers and fans. Tickets are listed at market price, which is often above face value. All tickets sold through TicketsNow are 100% guaranteed. The artist and/or venue for this event may not be affiliated with TicketsNow.”

So do you really believe that all of these people just happened to suddenly decide that they couldn’t go to the show, moments after they happened to buy those tickets?  Or… do you think that they purposely bought them, knowing how sought-after those tix would be and that they could then resell them for a very large profit?  I would tend to think that the later happened.  I’d also hazard to guess that this also happens hundreds and thousands of times a day.

But remember… since this is done with Ticketmaster’s blessing, it’s all legal.  So why is that these scalper-level prices are legitimate?  States have laws on their books forbidding you to resell tickets for more than a certain (small) percentage above their original value but that doesn’t appear to apply to Ticketmaster.

If you go back to the TM site and look for tickets for the Dead show right now, you’ll find that at TicketExchange, the cheap seats (which were originally $54, minus all the added charges) are now going for $118-$188.  But that’s not bad compared to the lower level seats- before they were $99 and now they go for about $800-$900 and even up to $3,745.  If you go through Tickets Now (which again, is another TM company), the lower level seats will set you back over $1000.  So, they’re able to sell these tickets for 10 times the original amount, or more.

Now in fairness, TM doesn’t pocket all of that money.  Most of it does go to the scalper… I mean, reseller!  However, when they allow you to resell your ticket, they do dip into the sale and take a certain percentage for themselves and add that onto the sale price that you offer up the tickets for.  I tried to find this out myself but couldn’t come up with an answer- I might be wrong (not the first time!) but I seem to remember that the charge that they’d pocket for the resale was about 5-10%.  Not a bad deal considering that they already took the money for the original ticket plus added on the surcharges and fees and now get to stick yet another set of charges for helping to resell the ticket at an insanely inflated price.

But remember, it’s all legal.  At least until the Dead or other artists complain about this.  So, is your favorite band unwittingly part of this scheme?

What I want to know now is if TM merges with Live Nation as it’s rumored to do, how much higher are the ticket prices going to get when they have a monopoly over the business?  As bad as it is now, don’t be surprised if the merger makes things even worse when all of their competition goes out the window.

As a side note, I do have a ticket for that Dead show but I didn’t pay TicketsNow or TicketExchange for it.  I paid the regular price, plus all of the added on charges and ‘conveniences’ that Ticketmaster thought that I should cough up.  I guess I should consider myself lucky.

by Bill Gibron

5 Feb 2009

They say the most important element in a science fiction story is a strong, understandable mythology. Formulate a believable, working, and logistically logical universe where characters and creatures abide by the rules and regulations set before them and you’ve conquered a great deal of the potential problems. As a result, slip ups can be cured with ease and risks rewarded, just as long as the foundation is set and secure. In the new future shock thriller Push, we are introduced to an entirely new (if slightly redundant) race of specialized individuals, people with powers beyond those of mere mortals. Meeting them towards the middle of their real world arc, we gets bits and pieces of how Nazi experiments in psychic warfare led to an X-Men like mutant population capable of great things - and the secret society Hell-bent on controlling them. Regrettably, the aforementioned reference to a certain comic franchise isn’t the only bit of borrowing this film does. Indeed, the whole effort feels lifted from dozens of familiar - and in most cases, superior - offerings.

Nick Gant has been in hiding most of his life. As a young boy, he saw his father killed by a government agency called The Division. Seeking out individuals who are gifted psychically, the cabal hopes to capture and experiment on each and every one. Later, Nick hooks up with tween terror Cassie Holmes. She’s a ‘watcher’, someone able to see into the future, and she needs his assistance in finding “pusher” (someone able to control the minds of others) Kira Hudson who holds the secret for tearing down the Division. Of course, there’s a catch. By taking on this task, both Cassie and Nick will die. But if they fail to fulfill their mission, they run of the risk of destroying all others like them. With Division agent Henry Carver hot on their trail, and a complicated environment of fellow shifters, stitchers, bleeders, and wipers to navigate, it will take all the special skill that they possess to save everyone.

You’ve got to give Push credit for trying. It’s almost impossible to create a complex alternative reality where everyday humans hold exceptional superpowers, where government cabals plot to capture and control these individuals, and a ragtag group of internal rebels try to overthrow…wait. Isn’t this the primer for NBC’s on again/off again phenom Heroes? Or the structure for any number of post-modern graphic novels? Apparently, when challenged for something original, writer David Bourla absconded with any number of sci-fi comics clichés and then tried to turn them into something novel and original. Yet no matter how you categorize them - sniffers, stitchers, pushers, movers - we are still stuck with individuals as gimmicks. Unless you give the holders of such skills real psychological depth, all we can do is sit back and wait for the overloaded F/X light show.

Sadly, Push doesn’t even deliver said spectacle. Instead, this is a ploddingly paced, awkwardly ambitious film that seems lifted from the middle act of a better, more buoyant franchise. UK director Paul McGuigan wants to create something both personal and pyrotechnical, hoping that the many tiny moments between his actors will blossom and grow into a narrative of epic of otherworldly proportion. He even skimps on the action, leaving all the superpowers stuff until a midpoint confrontation between Grant and his Division enemies, and a last act throwdown on a Hong Kong high rise. Maybe he thought the sparing use of these often intriguing abilities would give them more impact. Perhaps the budget dictated their rare depiction. Whatever the case, this is a movie that needs more - more operatic dramatics, more life and death drive…heck, just more action in general.

Struggling to stay afloat inside McGuigan’s brooding, often pointless pretensions are some damn fine performances. Dakota Fanning could be a live action anime heroine what with her whisper thin figure, Hello Kitty fashion sense, and fragile delivery. Even in moments of predetermined import, she’s vulnerable and distressed. She’s matched well by Chris Evans as Grant. Though given little to do except play icon, there are times when he lets down the forced façade to seem very human indeed. While Camille Belle is still lost somewhere in 10,00 B.C. and Djimon Hounsou does menace as if on autopilot, supporting players like Maggie Siff (as an evil healer) Ming-Na, and Cliff Curtis add wonderful atmospheric accents. In fact, had Push totally ignored the histrionics inherent in the genre and went with something more intricate and intimate, it might have worked.

Instead, we get wannabe chest-thumping and lots of lag time in between. Fanning’s Cassie repeats herself endlessly, doddling in her sketch pad and harping on her impending death. There’s also way too much exposition, sequences where we are given the narrative thread and overriding situational specifics over and over again. Speed is important in efforts like this. Had Wanted slowed down to explain itself fully, or Shoot ‘Em Up stop to allow reconsideration, neither film would fly. Instead, they piled on the particulars and just kept going. Push needed this same kind of urgency. This material needs mania, something you envision being better handled with particular aplomb by someone like Ringo Lam, The Wachowski Brothers, or maybe even John Woo. It’s not that McGuigan is out of his league. He’s just not playing in the same ballpark.

Big ideas like the ones posited in Push necessitate a big vision to succeed - or at the very least, characters we can cheer for, care about, and get behind. Instead, what we experience is two hours of brooding among ambient Asian backdrops…and little else. The Hong Kong setting seems odd since the storyline does very little to accentuate the locale. Only a sequence with the Bleeders (individuals with voices that can literally kill) in a fish market makes sense. In addition, recent films with similar themes like Jumper and Babylon A.D. undermine any sense of originality or freshness here. Even with all its idiosyncratic elements, Push feels like something we’ve seen before. Unfortunately, said memory is of something far more fascinating and definitely more engaging. 

by Joseph Kugelmass

5 Feb 2009

It turns out that you don’t have to throw out the old forms; you just have to inhabit them with passion. Here’s a guy (and, so far, one excellent guest poster) who’s just started a new music blog, and he’s doing it sort of the way you’d expect, with a best of 2008 and Nick Hornby style rhapsodies on single songs. The writing, though, just leaps off the page. It makes what you’re hearing sound weird and new again.

Here’s what he said about Deerhunter’s new album:

I can never seem to remember having listened to this album. I think it’s intended to be that way. The tracks blur together in memory, wrapped in a luscious, dream-like haze. The lyrics escape into faint echoes resounding around an absent center. There’s something hiding here, which refuses to stick in the net of the conscious mind. Microcastles is the residue of a trauma. No matter how vehemently Bradford Cox insists that nothing ever happened to him, every song vibrates under the sedimentary weight of an event, a faint pulse that never stops, that resounds with the constant tremor of Deerhunter’s guitars.

The rest is here.

by Sarah Zupko

5 Feb 2009

PopMattersMichael Frauenhofer raved about Bishop Allen’s last album The Broken String, saying it “plays like a greatest hits album, stacked deep with memorable highlights, corralling the gems from a year’s worth of monthly EPs into one 12-song disc.” We gave it a 9. So, expectations are high for the follow-up, Grrr…, releasing March 10th. Initial listens are promising, suggesting yet more infectious, hook-filled pop from these Brooklyn tunesmiths. “Dimmer” is the lead-off song on the record, a catchy, bouncy number.  Not surprisingly, “The Ancient Commonsense of Things” is also bouncy. “Bouncy” may be the very defining essence of these folks.

Bishop Allen
“Dimmer” [MP3]

“The Ancient Commonsense of Things” [MP3]

by PopMatters Staff

5 Feb 2009

As Michael Metivier said last year, “hearing an 80-plus-year-old man sing about disastrous young love, drinkin’ and murder, also adds a different dimension to the experience than hearing it from artists around the same age as the songs’ characters. It’s the wisdom of a life that has seen enough tragedy to understand that it remains both mysterious and inevitable, and worth singing about.” He’s talking about country music veteran and Grand Ole Opry member Charlie Louvin. Here’s a song from 2008’s Sings Murder Ballads & Disaster Songs.

Charlie Louvin
“Darling Corey” [MP3]

//Mixed media

The Hills Are Alive, But Nobody Else Is in 'The Happiness of the Katakuris'

// Short Ends and Leader

"Happiness of the Katakuris is one of Takashi Miike's oddest movies, and that's saying something.

READ the article