When you use a wheelchair, scoring a decent seat at a concert can be a bi-polar affair. At some venues you’re treated like royalty, and at others you’re treated like a reason to call pest control. While I’m not complaining about how close I got to M.I.A (saw her sweat glisten) because of my wheelchair, I AM complaining about the numerous times I’ve been jacked, either by a crappy venue, or by Ticketmaster itself, because of my disability.
When a venue tells you you’re a fire hazard, when all you’re trying to do is position yourself so you can see over the standing patrons, the insulting feeling of “Oh no you didn’t,” will regurgitate in the back of your throat almost immediately. It was 2005 and I was seeing my idol, David Bowie, live. We were in Milwaukee, WI at the Milwaukee Theater, and my seat was ground level, aisle seat, about 6 rows back. The moment Bowie graced the stage the entire audience stood - and stood they did (almost impressively) till the end of the show.
With everyone on their feet, I could only see his sparkly jacket and moving hips. While he did have on a hot outfit that night, I *kinda* wanted to see his face. What’s the next logical thing you would do if you found yourself in this situation? Would you ask if there was a seat available above (there was a balcony), or would you move out into the walkway like I did? It was only an angular adjustment, to be honest, but even that proved too “dangerous” for the venue’s security. Within seconds of seeing Bowie’s beautiful lips spew forth “I’m afraid of Americans,” I was tapped on the shoulder by security, and was told to move back into my spot, since I was a fire hazard.
Being the polite Midwestern girl that I am, I was embarrassed and shocked before I got angry. They offered to seat me up in the balcony so I could see, but I had paid damn good money to be only 20 feet from David Bowie, and I was not about to budge. Thankfully, by the grace of God I ended up getting a line-of-sight after a nearby drunk concert-goer checked out 20 minutes into the show, so my Bowie love fest was not ruined afterall, but it was an unfair moment to remember to be sure. Truly.
This experience more than anything taught me one of the most important concert-attending rules you can learn as a wheelchair-user: To never get a ground floor seat if you use a wheelchair, unless its front row, or if you can stand. Just don’t bother. And while arenas can be some of the worst for seating (not all. the accessible seating at the historic Red Rocks Amphitheater is front row), and some small venues can be amazing, I recommend being prepared for anything, and kissing ass when necessary.
Have any tips for getting the best seat in the house?