While painting at home or working in the yard, I typically enjoy the company of the audio nature to keep my mind occupied as I go about my task. To that end, I have noise-canceling headphones which not only keep my ears warm as the weather turns cold but also cancel out any lawn related machines I may be using. I alternate between podcasts and music; it depends on what type of mood I’m in. Anyway, I subscribe to Amazon Prime so there’s a lot of music to choose from. The other day, I stumbled on the band Head East, a mediocre rock band from the 1970s and the first song selected was ‘Raise A Little Hell.’
A quick story about raising a little hell way back when at University in the late 1970s. Being a junior at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, I had heard Head East was going to be performing at the basketball arena on a Friday night in late fall. Being on a limited budget, I didn’t know if it would be a good use of my limited budget to spend $15 on a general admission ticket to see Head East. Just a little perspective, you could purchase a pitcher of beer at the university hangout for just $2.
Then a devious thought came to mind, I realized that all male UWEC lettermen at the time were allowed to freely attend sporting and music events at this venue provided they acted as ushers and security. In other words, you could show up 5 or 30 minutes before the event and the ticket personnel would just wave you on by. No IDs or lettermen registration was necessary; the only ticket needed was your letterman jacket. I phoned my friend, Grant who ran cross country at our university at the time, and asked him if he was going to work this event but he had no interest. I paused a second before I asked him if I could use his letter jacket to get me into the concert for free. He paused for a few seconds and didn’t fully understand my plan. I said, “I would enter the arena about 30 or 45 minutes before fans started to pile in and quickly show my letter jacket and then walked to the farthest bathroom and waited for quite some time in the stall until the music was about to start. Not having a ticket, I had to blend in quickly as the music was about to begin.” Grant liked the plan but wanted me to be extra careful so nothing happened to his prize possession. I told him it’s in good hands.
About 35 minutes before the start, I walked to the ticket counter as they waved me on by seeing my lettermen jacket. I then hung out in the stall for about 35 minutes as customers came and went. The urinals were quite busy just before the concert and the stalls did get filled up from time to time as I just waited with a little guilt in my gut. I guess it wasn’t too much guilt there as it didn’t prompt me to use the facilities while I waited. In the meantime, I removed this valuable jacket and carefully placed it in my backpack.
As I write this from 40 years ago, I’m trying to sort through what was my main motivation for engaging in this deviant act? Was I dying to see Head East in concert? Would this be the ultimate concert experience? Was my motivation to save money mischievous? Perhaps it had something to do with my plan, was this something I simply had to test to ensure my strategy was well executed?
Let’s take each of these questions separately. No, I was not dying to see them in concert, at the time Head East wasn’t generating a lot of buzz around campus. How good could a band be from East Central Illinois? I certainly wanted to hear several of their hits such as, ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ and ‘Never Been Any Reason’, and test the acoustics in such an old brick, basketball gym. In other words, I had a mild interest in seeing them, probably similar to other less-known bands with just a few hits. Now, if the Guess Who or Eric Clapton had been performing, that would have been a different story.
The second question is, did I want to save money by acting in such a mischievous manner? You know, if you have an interesting experience at such an event without any currency exchanged, it’s incredibly satisfying. Who hasn’t had that desire when young and curious to try to ‘beat the system?’ Having said that, I don’t think saving money was my primary motivation.
What about testing my mischievous plan to attend a live concert for free while not getting caught? At the time, I had thought of several different scenarios (some not necessarily successful) that could happen so my plan had to be thoroughly planned well with precise execution. I don’t want to speak for all college students at the time but many may have tried a similar stunt if given the chance. At least that was my rationalization at the time. Besides my plan, this was a chance to ‘beat the system’ and have fun as I executed my plan.
Reflecting, my main worry was not allowing anything to happen to Grant’s letterman jacket. I wasn’t even considering what legal or academic consequences would have occurred to me had I been caught. Being a junior, I was well on my way towards graduation so I may have been expelled for such behavior. In retrospect, I was fortunate to not get caught. Perhaps it was good fortune, or a good plan, or both that came into play. And because this plan was successful, I will never know the ramifications had my strategy not gone as planned.