How to Get a Ticket to the Hottest Show in Town

Desperate to see a show? Bring a sign and come alone.

For at least the last three years, Sacramento's entire political structure has been focused on one building: The Golden One Center.

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This dramatic building, set like a gem into the center setting of downtown Sacramento, was a massive $534 million project. It juts into the sky and looks complex, new and amazing.

On October 4th, 2016 the building would open for business, and the very first show would be a rock concert by none other than Sir Paul McCartney.

I wanted to be there.

I had first heard of the Beatles in 1980, when the murder of John Lennon put them on television every night for a month. My first albums had been The Beatles double LP anthology 1962-66 and 1967-1970. I love the Beatles.

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But! This was the hottest ticket in town. Maybe the hottest ticket that had ever been in town. And I didn't have a ticket.

Remember the 1978 movie I Wanna Hold Your Hand, which depicts six friends as they attempt to see the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show, despite not having tickets? I was in a similar jam.

But I did have a plan: The old "Need a Ticket" sign!

For about five years I've been making signs to wrangle a ticket to events. I've had almost 100% success rate getting into shows by showing up with a sign and asking for that one extra ticket that occassionally walks into the show without an owner. With each year, I had become more and more confident in this method.

I usually pay face value, although once I had tried trading for a box of See's Candy. On this night, in the midst of a personal financial quagmire, I had nothing to offer. I just had a sign.

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Everyone in town was excited about this event.

I parked six blocks away, two hours before show time. On the way to the venue, people on the street saw my sign and shouted "Good Luck!". The preciousness of this particular ticket was renouned. But I had the confidence of someone who had walked into some of the hottest shows moments before showtime.

I walked right up the one of the main building entrances, but was asked to move across the street by arena staff. By 6:30 I was standing across the street looking in. Ticket-holders were already streaming in from every direction.

Now, I realize that I might be viewed as a parasite in this situation, trying to get into an expensive event for free. However, while I'm standing outside, I can tell I'm enriching the experience for people walking in. By standing outside, I am letting them know that they are part of a lucky set. They are walking in, and others are locked out, listening to podcasts and wandering into pool halls.

Outside I talked to people:

  • also looking for a ticket, acknowledging the advantage of having a big sign.
  • advising me to try Stubhub for last-minute ticket sales.
  • asking what kind of outrageous price I might be willing to pay for a ticket.
  • selling tickets with a scalper's premium above the face value.
  • Tim, who was out walking his dog.

I don't know why I come to shows like this early, because the tickets are very valuable until the show is just about to start.

At 7:40, showtime was approaching, the crowd was thinning, and I was starting to get the idea that I wasn't going to get into this concert.

"How much were you thinking of paying?" A booming voice came from my over my shoulder.

"Well, to be honest, I didn't bring any money... I could buy you a beer?"

The guy looked, and sounded familiar. "Are you a famous radio personality?"

"Yes I am." It was Big Jim Hall. "I'm with two friends, but one friend couldn't make it, so we have her ticket."

"Awesome! Nice to meet you! Well, I don't want to pay anything, but there are a few people over there by the entrance who are looking for a ticket. I think some of them are more willing to spend some money."

"Ok! Thanks. I'll go ask around", he replied.

In two minutes he motioned me over from across the street! "Come on!"

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I was in! It was as though I had won a radio contest in real life! Jim and his friends were super friendly and super tall! They treated me like a guest in their house. It was great!

We hustled in, because it was almost 8 o'clock, but Jim wasn't worried. "The last time I saw McCartney, he waited until every seat was filled... I think we waited 45 minutes."

I made good on my word to buy him a beer, which was the least I could do to in return for the treasured ticket he handed me.

Paul McCartney Tickets

The tickets were great! We were in the balcony with a great view of the stage. I was smiling like an idiot. "I have the best story of anyone in this place."

Paul McCartney Tickets

The Golden One Center is a great, new events arena. It has a sharp design with extraordinary luxury box seats and state-of-the-art stadium graphics and lighting. The concourse is open, there are food and drink options on every wall and bathrooms around every corner. It is a great-looking addition to the city. I can hardly believe it actually happened.

And I can hardly believe I got inside.