Trying to get into a Radiohead show in Los Angeles without a ticket feels like trying to make yourself a stowaway on a shuttle to Mars, or sneaking into the White House (but with fewer snipers). Everybody’s watching, everybody wants to be inside, but those who belong are already there.
Getting into the Shrine Auditorium was all but guaranteed to be an absolute impossibility for Monday night’s RH show. But still, there is no band on Earth that does what these guys can do. Radiohead’s shows at the Greek Theatre in 2000 still stand among the most electrifyingly magical experiences in the band’s history to fans, and they’ve been hitting high marks on their latest tour in support of the majestic A Moon Shaped Pool. The universe was beckoning me to this experience, and though I knew that getting in was against all odds, if Phil Collins taught us anything, it was a chance I’ve gotta take.
So take it I did. I’ve worked enough rabbit’s foot Jedi juice over the ages to finagle my way into the most unlikely of places, the most impenetrable of shows. I had a tentative confidence in blind luck, as well as a longshot outside chance at getting listed. But Radiohead’s team brought an entirely new level of fortification to their process, fully equipped to repel the hordes of sharply coiffed Angelenos insisting that their six-degrees-of-someone-on-Entourage qualified them for entry. Armed for a Godzilla stampede of hanger-ons, screenplay humblebraggers and Hollywood fauxstars, staff made sure all access to the show passed through will call. The moment buyers were handed their tickets, they were ushered through the metal detector and into the venue. No fuckery options whatsoever.
This presented an airtight problem for the greasy-leech reseller faction outside. The scalpers, second only to the likes of StubHub in their status as an unrelenting malignant cancer on the modern concert experience (how great was that one-second Tragically Hip onsale?), all reeked of a new, pungent fragrance: impotent desperation. As evidenced by their increasingly despondent eyes constantly scanning for any opportunity to play the vampiric middleman, there was no way around this brilliant counter-fuckery. Despite the tandem guarantee of my own denial of entry, I reveled in watching the process of burning ticks off the host.
I didn’t get in. This story doesn’t have a transcendent come-to-Hubbard conclusion where I danced with 6,300 other iPhone users, and sang along with a setlist which may as well have been written by me, it was so perfectly tuned to my spectrum of appreciation. Seriously, Idioteque into Bodysnatchers? Like Spinning Plates into Bloom, into Identikit? I can hardly process the magic of this experience, let alone the fact that I was right outside the goddamned building for it. Airbag into Reckoner to close the show? Are you fucking kidding me?
While there’s truth to the old adage about missing 100% of the shots you don’t take, that says nothing to the bitter chill of defeat in actually taking that shot and missing. Maybe that was the chill of riding home in a t-shirt, after realizing that my motorcycle jacket was stolen in an insult-to-injury moment. But either way, my Radiohead hopes on Monday were dashed on the rocks of a badly needed scalper-prevention system that may just be the best damn thing to happen to concerts since the first time someone volleyball-spiked an iPad held up in the crowd. I can accept it as a lesson learned.
As for Thom & Co, I’m not giving up on this tour just yet. Looks like I’ve got a new horizon to blaze toward: Austin City Limits, two months from today.
Radiohead setlist, 8.8.16:
1. Burn the Witch
3. Decks Dark
4. Desert Island Disk
5. Full Stop
6. My Iron Lung
7. Morning Mr. Magpie
9. Triangle Ballad
10. Like Spinning Plates
13. The Numbers
14. Everything in its Right Place
1. True Love Waits
2. The Present Tense
3. 2 + 2 = 5
4. Lotus Flower
5. Paranoid Android
Photo: Johnny Firecloud