Ariana, Irving Plaza’s Mysterious Queen of Greed

by delarue

This conversation may or may not have happened: three employees at Irving Plaza last night have a quick tete-a-tete about how to deal with a reviewer from this blog who’s waiting to get in.

The reviewer, who was assured a spot on the guest list by a band publicist, apparently isn’t on it. Apparently, that is. From outside the ticket window, the lists are clearly a mess. So the snafu is plausible – but things like this happen once in awhile, and there’s invariably a way to fix them.

As the writer waits in the hallway, the trio quickly forge a plan, in between customers. “Why don’t we just let this guy in?” asks one of the girls at the window. “He seems pretty legit.”

I don’t buy it. He just wants a free ticket,’ the other girl responds.

To this band? Seriously?” the first girl laughs. “Nobody that old listens to this kind of music.” She thinks about it for a second. “Maybe he just wants to pick up on teenage girls!”

You never know,” the second girl responds. She’s been working the window all night and the stress is etched into her face.

You know what, let’s blame Ariana,” chuckles the security guy, whom the first girl called when she figured out that the reviewer was expecting the courtesy of a press ticket, snafu or no snafu.

Yeah, Ariana!” the second girl brightens. “It’s ALWAYS her fault!”

The security guy motions the writer over, explains that it’s Ariana’s decision to refuse entry – and that she refuses to leave her lair to discuss it. “If you want, you’re welcome to buy a ticket if you want to go in.”

The reviewer’s been waiting for about a half an hour now and running out of patience, contemplating how much other work on the blog could have been accomplished in the time it took to make all this not happen. But instead of doing something productive, he’s standing in the entryway to Irving Plaza trying to explain that it makes more sense to cover the show, presumably providing some positive coverage for a venue that badly needs it, rather than going home without a story to file.“So Ariana wants me to pay twenty-eight bucks so I can give her some good press?” the writer asks with a sneer.

That’s right,” the security guy says. He’s the latest of several employees to offer that reponse, strongly, affirmatively, without any prompting.

OK, look for the writeup tomorrow,” the writer says, trudging out, rolling his eyes.

The second girl winks at the first girl, who winks at the security guy, who raises his palms and highfives both of them. “Ariana!” he laughs, points to the exit door and gives it a playful kick. He peers out, making sure the reviewer’s gone. “SUCKA!” he hollers.

All of this, of course, is based on the assumption that Ariana is fictitious. It’s the name the employees came up with, getting stoned together before work one night – an Oz they can blame everything on in the event a customer has been shortchanged. After all, when you google “Ariana” and Irving Plaza, you get back hundreds of pages of content farms and scalper sites referring to an Ariana Grande concert there once.

Or, maybe there really is an Ariana in this faded corporate music Oz who actually did speak with somebody and told them to tell this blog’s writer exactly that: buy a ticket or go to hell, a policy that doesn’t exist at other venues for obvious reasons. For example, it took the intervention of the house manager at both Jazz at Lincoln Center and also at Bowery Ballroom to arrange for last-minute press tickets in the case where somebody messed up and didn’t come through with press list or tickets to shows that were scheduled for review here.

Publicity jobs tend to be a revolving door.  Publicity work is tedious and tough and unrewarding and sometimes gets passed off to interns. And in those cases, when there’s an opportunity to drop the ball, somebody invariably does. That’s old news to people who work at Lincoln Center or Bowery Ballroom – and they know which side their bread is buttered on, and in both instances, hooking up a nonplussed reviewer not only reduced the possibility of a bad review, but actually scored them a rave each time.

But Irving Plaza sure as hell isn’t Jazz at Lincoln Center and it’s not Bowery Ballroom either. One’s a world-famous nonprofit and the other’s a flagship in an independent empire that manages to stay afloat while others are going down fast. Irving Plaza is owned by Live Nation, the McDonald’s of music venues. Being part of a chain, they obviously have an across-the-board policy that the employees either are afraid to deviate from, or they simply don’t give a damn. Ever try bringing something back to the counter at McDonald’s or White Castle if it isn’t up to even their low standards? Good luck with that.

And here’s where you just have to laugh. Maybe it was the publicist’s fault, maybe it wasn’t – the CYA attitude of the Irving Plaza staff doesn’t exactly project competence. But there’s an elephant in the room, and if you’ve read this far you’re undoubtedly wondering why, in a city full of amazing music, someone from this blog would spend a Saturday night not at Barbes, or the Jalopy, or Palisades, but at…Irving Plaza????

Full disclosure: the band that was scheduled for review in this case is actually pretty good, in a funky, psychedelic way, especially if you’re in the mood for that kind of stuff. And if you run a music blog, and you claim to be knowledgeable concerning this city’s dozens of music venues – and you haven’t been to a certain venue in almost a decade – isn’t it being responsible to check out the place to see if it’s changed at all, or if it’s still the same old hellhole?

Maybe Ariana, if she in fact exists, did the right thing: protecting her turf, keeping someone with a big mouth and poison pen outside the gates so as to prevent word getting out about how much the sound, and the booking, and the staff at Irving Plaza all suck…and how gross the bathrooms still are after all these years. After all, at the McDonald’s of music venues, you expect the people who work there to piss on the floor.