House of Blows

pickpocketTuesday night, we strolled into House of Blues–one of my favorite music venues in Chicago. The incense-laden air. The crazy shit on the walls. The soaring balconies. The intimate space. And, of course, the acoustics. We got there a little early to enjoy it all, and to get a good spot.

As I handed over my ticket, I grumbled about the “convenience” charge. Nine dollars–50 cents under half of the cost of the ticket itself. Not really “convenient” for me. We walked in and the crowd was sparse, and there was plenty of seating around the main floor. That’s convenient. We ordered $7 beers. Not so convenient. We picked a good spot, stage right, and found a couple of stools where we could perch for the evening. But there’s a sign taped to these stools. “See Security.”

“Hi. So what’s the story with these stools?”

“Oh hello. Tonight, we’re offering these seats for $20. Or, $30 for two seats.”

“You’re kidding.”


“That’s for every seat in the building?”


What the fuck?

To recap: I paid $18.50 per ticket. Plus, a $9 “convenience” charge for each ticket. For two tickets, that’s $55–$18 of which goes toward my convenience. But you know what’s not convenient? Paying more than the cost of the ticket… to sit down. In the venue you just paid to enter. Where, I’m buying one beer for the cost of a six-pack at the store. Now really, whose convenience am I paying for, exactly?

This is like paying to enter Wrigley field, only to discover that if you want to sit in your seat–the seat you just paid for–it’s going to cost you about the same amount as what’s printed on the ticket. Otherwise, you’re required to stand next to your seat for the next three hours.

I’ve always enjoyed you, House of Blues. I’ve always respected you, and I’ve never much minded your high-priced tickets and libations because you’ve always taken care of me. You’ve always made me feel welcome, and I’ve always left satisfied, sometimes even elated. I’ve always looked forward to coming to visit.


I feel nickel-and-dimed. I feel duped. You feel cheap. And you’ve cast a toxic black cloud that stinks up the place. Once, you were special. Now, you’re conniving. Greedy. And an all-around asshole.

You blew it.

10 Replies to “House of Blows”

  1. Ya I believe getting a seat or stool there has always been shady. If you got some dinner deal at the restaurant, you could pay an extra $$ to get a seat and enter early.

    So how was Band of Skulls and We R Augstines?

  2. Band of Skulls was great. Really impressed.
    Augustines … not so good. They need to tighten it up. Lots of screaming and uncontrolled thrashing.

  3. I was done with that venue about 6 years ago when I went to a concert and was put through a security check like I was getting on a plane. Patted down, metal detector wand, etc. It is not like I was going to some hardcore metal or whatever other stereotype that the powers there feel warrants something short of a strip search. The place isn’t that great in my opinion, and no music venue should ever make it’s customers feel like convicted murderers just to enjoy live music.

  4. Mike, you are dead on about HOB. On top of the outragious fees they charge and over-selling they do for some events, their staff absolutely sucks. I’ve waited for beers while at the bar for over 10 minutes at times. It’s such a beautiful venue; acousticaly sound for concerts. What makes it suck so much is their bad apples in security and ticket practices (overselling/overcrowding). I think they get away with it because they have a transient crowd that goes there so their practices are not broadcast at the local level. Their overagressive security practices are a whole ‘nother issue: . They have meathead animals working security at the door. I’m with you, the experience of going there sucks.

  5. You paid for a GA ticket; the fees were split between the promoter and artist.

    If you want the luxury of having a seat, you need to pay a premium. Period.

    If you don’t like the fact that you can’t sit down at a concert (I didn’t know people actually sat at shows), then you can either choose to pay for the seat or stay home.

  6. @Mike The “luxury” of having a seat used to be standard with the price of admission, if you got there early enough. HOB set the expectations, and now they’ve pulled it away. Of course, they are entitled to do whatever they want. But, overall, it just feels like they are trying to milk people for more money, and it creates a negative atmosphere, for me at least. Believe it or not, some people enjoy sitting. Which, I guess, is why seats are there in the first place.

  7. @Mike some people can’t stand all night long but might like to see a concert. For people with mobility impairments and other conditions who absolutely need to know about these kinds of policies, this article is a big help.

    It would NEVER occur to me in a million years that I might have to pay the cost of my ticket to get a seat at the venue where I just paid for admission!! If I get there early, I’m already ‘paying’ by taking the time to arrive early to make sure I get a seat. I can handle the somewhat steep online ticketing fees, but this really takes the cake!

    I always go to Martyr’s to see PechaKucha, and if I ever walked in there and was told I’d have to pay the cost of admission to get a seat, I’d be livid. I sure hope this nasty, greedy policy doesn’t spread to other venues.

  8. @Melissa

    If that’s the case, that person should contact the venue prior to attending the show. What if seating was free but extremely limited? A physical handicap is much different than someone who wants to sit during a concert.

  9. I’ve never been to the house of blues, thought about it. now I know to cross it off as a viable venue to go to. I can’t stand the entire 3 hours of a concert. after a car accidents and several falls – I just can’t.

    To look at me – I ‘seem’ fine. no one understands what I go through in trying to attend a concert now.

  10. I’m amazed that people go to the House of Blues. My beloved Camper Van Beethoven played there recently, but I still wouldn’t have gone even if the venue payed ME fifty bucks.

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