Rage Against the Machine: So how ya gonna get what you need ta get?

Posted: August 20, 2010 in Uncategorized

Rage – (n) violent anger, vehement desire for, object of widespread temporary enthusiasm, poetic, prophetic or material eagerness, love or passion,

– a really great time.

It doesn’t seem that long ago I heard Rage Against the Machine had reformed for the Coachella festival in the US. At first it was unbelievable. Once I’d confirmed it was true, I considered whether it was possible to get there. How much would it cost? Was there time, to get a passport, visa, travel? Could I get time off work, postpone my studies? Would my family be understanding? It was ridiculous to even think about it. We didn’t have the money to spare to go to the U.S. just to see a band. But this wasn’t just any band, this wasn’t just any gig. This was RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE and it may be my only chance to see them. A few weeks later I heard they were doing more gigs. Could this mean they had reformed? Would there be another album? Would they tour? The world? After 11 years absence would they return to Australia?!

One of my friends at work was going over to the states for a few months and one day she had news to make me extremely jealous. “Guess what I have tickets to? I have a spare; do you want it? The gig’s in New York”. Do I want to see RATM? Fuck yes. Could I get to New York in the next couple of months? I knew I couldn’t go, but I let myself dream. I told my friend she had to get backstage. “Tell Rage to come to Australia. Promise.” She should have lied and said she’d got backstage and they’d agreed to come. Because a few months later the news came, through a flurry of text messages and emails, that Rage were coming! Again, I didn’t believe it at first. But there were the details on the Ticketmaster web site. For the next few weeks I tried to think of any way possible to ensure I got tickets. I contacted the ticket outlet and they explained there was no allotment of tickets to each outlet; it was first in, first served. They explained it was best to line up, as the net usually crashed when there was high demand for tickets and they had a direct line. Those who had recent experience of getting tickets confirmed the net was  unreliable. It seemed the best idea was to queue overnight outside a Ticketmaster outlet.

The sun disappears only to reappear

I wasn’t sure what time would be early enough to get near the front of the queue, yet involve the least amount of waiting. The night before the tickets went on sale I couldn’t stand it anymore, I had to get to the line. At least then I knew there was nothing else I could do, except wait. I ran through the online ticket system with my partner Sharon and set off. She would be ready at nine the next morning, as soon as the tickets were available. I didn’t really have any hope in getting tickets online and had visions of a long, cold, windy, lonely night, in a dark and desolate car park outside a suburban shopping mall. As I left home it began to rain and I wondered if there was going to be any cover available and whether my jacket would keep me dry.

Now testify

I arrived at about 9pm and it was still drizzling. There were a few cars in the car park and about ten people gathered by the shopping centre door, talking to the security guard. On the footpath were an assortment of cushions, fold out chairs, blankets and bags. Later someone would drop off a lounge for their mates to sit on, adding to the growing assembly of people and supplies.

Juz – was number one in the line. He had got there at about 4.30pm, with his friend Lucas, and greeted every new-comer to the line. Juz had a texta which he used to number people as they arrived, to indicate their line position, so they could then go to the toilet, get food, drink and wander around. Juz didn’t impose the numbers in an authoritarian way. He welcomed all, explained the situation with a smile and a laugh and checked with everyone in the line, especially as he got drunker, that he was allotting the correct number. Juz was so excited he radiated it, counting down every hour as it passed, regularly calling out to the line that this was never meant to happen. Rage had gone; we were never going to see them. But now here we were waiting for tickets to their concert. He loved us all! His eyes were bright and abuzz with expectation. Making eye contact with him, as with many of the other people in line, confirmed that you were thinking about the same thing and feeling the same way. A nervous excitement that stemmed from years of believing you had missed out on seeing the best band in the world. And now, could it be true, was it really happening? Dare you believe you would get to see them? I explained to people in the line that I didn’t expect to get any tickets, because I was going to be so upset if that happened, so I was deliberately trying to lower my expectations. Regardless of this, the excitement was contagious and I began to imagine the concert and picture myself there.

Scottie – number three in the line – could play guitar, including good Rage covers. He backed up his car and blasted us with his stereo, when Juz’s car ran out of power. He had a wide ranging knowledge of music and rock trivia and was keen to learn more, regularly testing us with questions like; “Who did Kick Out the Jams originally?” Or asking for information, such as; “What does ‘a yellow ribbon instead of a swastika’ mean?” Scottie had greeted me to the line with a broad smile, a firm handshake and an offer of rum and coke, which as a non-drinker, I politely declined. “It’s free” he exclaimed. And so it was that the free drink flowed. Initially the shopping centre security explained that drinking wasn’t allowed. But soon they were ignoring the increasing number of cans and bottles. It was clearly a party and everyone was invited.

As the night progressed people continued to join the queue in ones or twos, locals joined the party, and friends turned up to give support, hang out, and have a bit of a rage. Skaters took over the car park and some of those without boards sped around in shopping carts. One young bloke, Alex, probably broke his shoulder after a bad fall from his board. But that didn’t stop him spending the night with us, his arm in a makeshift sling.

Sitting next to me on the footpath all night was Ester – number nine in the line – who said she would kill herself if she couldn’t get tickets. She would break down and cry at the news the tickets had sold out. She spent the night trying to study for her massage course at TAFE, giving massages to all who asked, offering us food, and singing. I really hope she got tickets from somewhere.

So, I was number ten in line and after me came some young lads, who brought their guitars, did acoustic Rage covers, their own songs and attempted any requests. They lent their guitars to anyone keen to have a go, some of whom were also great guitarists, and they had no worries about leaving their guitars with us when one of them had to go home sick.

Sleep now in the fire

By 3am – 4am most people in the line were trying to get some sleep. Occasionally the volume on the car stereo would go down, but not for long. Rage would again erupt from the speakers. But no-one complained. At times, it appeared that nearly everyone was asleep. Then all of a sudden a chorus would ring out across the line. When Guerilla Radio came on the car stereo I looked around and even those who appeared dead to the world were joining in. Most didn’t move, their eyes stayed shut and as if still asleep, they sang together; “It has to start somewhere. It has to start sometime. What better place than here. What better time than now”. I thought about those words as I sat in a dark, cold car park in Wollongong; about how here and now didn’t really seem like a good place, or time, to do anything. While it was uplifting that we all yearned to do something about changing the world, there was obviously little we could do, here, and now. Just a small group of tired people, queuing through the night to purchase our dreams. It wasn’t until later I realised that, for me, these people struggling through the night together, singing, dancing, talking, and sharing, were actually a manifestation of those lyrics. Right there, right then, together, we were resisting and defying the alienation, competition, and loneliness the system imposes. Brought together by the love of a band, who not only rage against the capitalist machine, but who do so because they care about other people; whose rage is not filled with hate, although they hate the machine; whose rage is not just about anger and pain, but is also a celebration of our power, of our ability to resist. This positive spirit permeated us all, and together we raged through the night, in celebration of our commonality and our connection with RATM.

How long – not long

By 5am dawn was starting to break and most people had realised sleep was out of the question. The next few hours were the hardest and as tiredness set in, excitement and apprehension grew. We spent the last hour inside the shopping centre, outside the Ticketmaster outlet. Pretty soon it was 9am, ticket release time. After years of waiting, it was all over so quickly. The tickets sold out in a few minutes. At our outlet only two people got tickets, Juz and Lucas, then the system froze. The ticket machine had failed us. Seconds after cheering Juz, as he held his tickets aloft, the mood on the line became desperate. As the woman behind the counter announced it was all over, there would be no more tickets, we looked at each other in disbelief. The shock set in immediately. We wandered off in a daze, occasionally looking at each other with eyes that pleaded for an answer, a way to do something. But we had nothing. Nothing but shock and feelings of powerlessness. Many went to their phones. Family members, friends and contacts were called, in the hope that someone had got tickets. But the line was over. We drifted apart, left to our own devices. Back to work, school, TAFE, uni, home.  I rang Sharon to see if she’d managed to get tickets online. But, she hadn’t. She told me that tickets were already for sale on eBay, for around four hundred dollars. I looked at the time, it wasn’t even ten past nine.

Can’t stop us now

Of course, sometimes they can stop us. They can stop us getting tickets, they can stop us from getting into gigs, they can stop us doing what we want. There are always those at the front of the queue and those at the back. Those with tickets and those without. Those who can afford tickets and those who can’t. Those who have access and those excluded. This is what the machine produces and maintains. Trying to keep us in our place, to separate us, and make us suffer. Of course there are fairer ways of distributing tickets. But when it’s all about money and profit there will always be those who are ticketmasters who consider us their ticket slaves. The people who bought tickets to immediately re-sell them on eBay, for up to a thousand dollars each, would obviously rather be part of the machine, than rage against it. The system has rarely had problems creating and using those who care for no-one but themselves. The machine we rage against is a machine of the selfish, who steal our dreams, and try to sell them back to us for their own benefit. This is why we rage, why we resist, why we are defiant. Many of us know the horrors of the machine and appreciate how important it is that it doesn’t break us. That we don’t end up like heartless machines.

A spectacle monopolised

Undoubtedly I would be angrier about my experience on the line if friends hadn’t offered me a spare ticket they’d managed to get from their friend. But if I hadn’t got to see Rage I wouldn’t have been as disappointed as I thought I would, because my time on the line was much better than many gigs I’ve been too. Those twelve hours were a great party and with the people on the line, strangers at first, I felt at home. It’s experiences like this which keep me going and that would have made missing out on tickets bearable. And isn’t this what our rage against the machine is so often all about. A new and different world can seem so far away and sometimes an impossible dream. It’s the connection to, support, caring, and love of, other people, right here, right now, that makes life worth living and makes the struggle for a better world, without Ticketmasters, eBay, and exclusion for profit, endurable and rewarding.

When I returned to work the next day, I was still unsure whether I would get a ticket. Some of my workmates had got tickets online, but after hearing I had queued for twelve hours and failed to get one, they offered me theirs. They were willing to miss the concert, so I could go. While I was tempted, I couldn’t accept such generous offers. Their offer was a gift more valuable and important to me than any tickets.

They got you thinkin’ that, What you need is what they sellin’, Make you think that buyin’ is rebellin’

Some have criticised Rage for being part of the machine; for making shitloads of money selling rebellion. But I don’t worry about whether they are millionaires or not. I have bought their music because they do rage against the machine and in a way I can feel and share; in a way that helps and encourages me to struggle, to be defiant and rebel, in a way that reminds me that I’m not alone. What’s important about Rage is the message and impact of their music. That’s why I purchased their CD’s and why I wanted to see them live. Although I’ve never met Zac, Tom, Tim and Brad, I know them; I’m connected to them, through their music. All night, as I waited in line, they spoke to me and the others waiting to buy tickets, through the car speakers, guitars, and voices of our new friends. I saw Rage and their message in action that night, in the way we treated each other, in the dreams we shared, in the music we made, in our collective rage.

Nick Southall

  1. […] RATM: So how ya gonna get what you need ta get? […]

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