Inside D.C. entertainment

Fillmore Silver Spring stuns patrons with its beauty, ticket prices

September 16, 2011 - 11:30 AM
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The Fillmore Silver Spring, on opening night. (Photo: Josh Yospyn/TBD)

The Fillmore Silver Spring, the long-awaited, controversial Live Nation concert venue, opened last night. Mary J. Blige, the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul, sang. Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett smashed a guitar. People ate apples.

Patrons who showed up on opening night remarked on the building's beauty (chandeliers!), and the great sound. Many even said that getting to downtown Silver Spring during rush hour, from locations around the region, had been bad, but not nearly as bad as they expected. But, they also had gripes.

The well-dressed folks who showed up to see MJB didn't expect to have to wait outside in the cold and rain for an hour or more before getting inside—even ESPN analyst Michael Wilbon complained about the line. But the length of time that it took ticketholders to get inside last night can be chalked up to an opening-night kink. The number-one complaint from patrons last night isn't something that can be easily ironed out: People thought the ticket prices were way too high for a standing, general admission show. Many didn't even realize, until they got to the venue, that they'd paid $89.50 to stand through Mary's set.

In an excellent piece in this week's Washington City Paper, Tom Anderson takes a look at the Fillmore's ticket prices, and the possibility that its relatively pricey ticket costs could force other venues in the area to follow suit. Last night, patrons didn't seem upset by the $90 ticket cost itself, but the fact that their money bought them just a spot at the show, rather than a seat.

"I think it sucks," says a woman named BJ, who didn't know it was a standing show when she bought her tickets. "It didn't say on the website that 'general admission' means standing room only. I mean, what the hell?"

"We didn't know we had to stand until today," says Blige fan Shaunté, who drove to the Fillmore from Tysons Corner, Va.

"I called her today like, 'I hope you have some flat shoes,'" says Shaunté's friend Ronesshia.

"We probably won't be back unless there's a comedy show, like Kevin Hart—I've heard that they have seats for the comedy shows," Shaunté says.

Also in line before the show: Carl, Albert, Ralph and Greg, a group of friends from Hyattsville. The men said that paying more than $50 for a standing GA show was a lot, but they did it because "it's Mary." Then they ticked off a list of other artists they'd pay $89.50 to see at the Fillmore: Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, and Lil Kim.

Should people have known that general admission means standing room only? Should they have known that Fillmore venues are always standing room only? Not necessarily. The general admission standing venues in the region (Black Cat, 9:30 Club, Rams Head Live, if we go all the way to Baltimore) don't typically, if ever, sell $90 tickets, so it's not exactly crazy to assume $89.50 would buy one a seat.

Also, it's extremely rare for a big R&B star like Blige to do a GA indoor show, at least in this area. Locally, MJB has played both Constitution Hall and Verizon Center in the past: Tickets for those shows were comparable to last night's Fillmore Silver Spring concert, but those were seated shows. Blige has also played local outdoor amphitheaters like Jiffy Lube Live (back when it was Nissan Pavilion), but the priciest tickets at those shows are seated, and it's easy to see, just by visiting the website, that the general admission there involves sitting on grass. Also, that venue has been around for more than 15 years, so people know what to expect. With the Fillmore, not so much—not yet.

So, should the Fillmore be doing more to let people know that they might not wanna wear 5-inch stilettos to events at the venue? Yes, says a woman named Tammy, standing in line with her friend Mary Jane. Tammy says she was confused because her ticket had a row and seat number. She pulled it out, and while the ticket was marked "GA," it did indeed have a row and seat assignment as well. "It's confusing," she says.

One man, who didn't give his name, said that while he didn't know much about the Fillmore, he tried to find out if it was a standing show before he bought tickets, but to no avail. "I'd heard this club was like the 9:30 Club, so I thought it might be [standing], but I went on the website and couldn't find out for sure. Then, I called here several times, and never got an answer."

But now that he knows, would he pay the same price to stand again? "Yeah, probably so," he says.

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