A column about Björk

Every time I try to book tickets online, I grit my teeth and remember how ironic it is that the internet was supposed to make our lives more convenient. Because whenever Sydney decides en masse that a certain event is must-see, then good luck getting tickets. It happened for the Ashes Test last summer, to the irritation of those who loyally go every year and couldn’t get in because of the influx of the trendies. And it happened, to my huge irritation, with the Big Day Out this year.

I know, you’d think that the organisers would have been falling over themselves to give me freebies to ensure good coverage in the pages of The Glebe. But no. And when I tried to slum it by booking them online, I couldn’t. And I was furious, especially since I’d probably missed out to a Hilltop Hoods fan. (Yes, apparently they have them – and yes, I’m as shocked as you are.) All I can say is that I was disappointed and angered, and that the only way the BDO can possibly make it up to me is free tickets, and my own hospitality tent.

Even worse was the process for Splendour in the Grass, that hippyish festival they have up in Byron in the middle of winter, which had a little animation of a virtual ticket queue. After an hour, virtual me neared the front, only to find that it had sold out. I was left wishing there was some way I could have taken the easy option and sat out in the freezing cold overnight, like we used to do as teenagers. At least in those days you knew that if you queued for long enough, you’d get a ticket. Now, there are no guarantees. The internet isn’t designed for massive spikes of traffic like when tickets go onsale, and there are tens of thousands of people simultaneously clicking ‘refresh’. It may have originally been designed for the US military in wartime, but no soldiers have the dedication of an army of emaciated Goths trying to get to a music festival.

So I wasn’t confident when I tried to book tickets to Björk’s gig at the Sydney Festival. There were only 5000 tickets for one of the most famous ‘alternative’ performers in the world singing in the forecourt of the Opera House on what will in all probability be a blissful, idyllic summer night, and people have been talking about it for months. Tickets went onsale at 9am on a Friday, and I logged onto Ticketek at what my computer assured me was the dot of 9. No dice. Sure, it said tickets were available, tantalising me, but when it actually went off to have a look, it blithely suggested that the event must have sold out. As at literally 9:01am.

I was astounded. Björk’s last two or three albums have been widely perceived as unlistenable twaddle, and the first few weren’t exactly accessible unless you have a partiality to the sound of Icelandic- accented yowling cats. Which, as it happens, I do.

Still, the Sydney Festival site had said the Opera House had tickets as well, so I tried there. The site was so busy that it wouldn’t even let me in. I kept trying, and trying, and by 9.45, it seemed everyone else had given up and I breezed through the booking in no time. Everyone with any sense had obviously abandoned hope, and my foolish persistence paid off. Finally, a crashing ticket website had actually worked in my favour.

The real problem, though, is this city’s mob mentality when it comes to big summer events. Sure, Tropfest’s fun, even if most of the movies aren’t – but do we all have to go? And as for Field Day, the New Year’s Day dance party, you can’t tell me everyone in the Domain is actually enjoying the music. Half of them are in such a state of chemical bliss that we could bundle them into Parliament House next door and they’d still be grooving along, with idiotic grins on their faces, to the phat beats in their heads. Which would make way for those of us who might actually have a chance of dancing in time with the beat.

I always get the impression that most Sydneysiders spends January rushing from event to event, terrified that they’ll miss the must-see event of the summer. People, you need to relax. Maybe you should try staying home, and having a lovely backyard barbie? Why not put your feet up, eh? Specifically on days when I want to get tickets.