The tears in my asshole had only just begun to heal from the last concert I saw at the Ritz (fuckin’ Motorhead!!) when I had to shell out $32 for two beers and two shots. And we’re not talking primo-beer here either. Good ole PBR was “on special” for $7 apiece, a beer as many of you know will cost you maybe $2 in a normal bar. Naturally, I expect a mark-up on drinks at a concert venue, but seriously, $7 PBRs, $9 whiskeys? What are we in New York all of a sudden? And then they have the audacity to put some poor bastard attendant in the restroom who expects a tip for handing you a paper towel. So naturally my friend and I decided to head to the old Cigar City early and hit up New World Brewery where $7 at least got us a pint of Delirium Tremens, which at 10% alcohol was well worth the cost.
Walking back toward the venue, the line to get in was still quite long, so we hit the pizzeria across the street for a slice and some $3 Yuenglings. This is the good thing about seeing a show in Ybor: there are plenty of bars around to get a cheap beer before going to the venue.
Gov’t Mule was supposed to take the stage at 8:30, so around 8:20 we started back towards the Ritz, only to find literally hundreds of people waiting to get in, forming a line that wrapped around the entire block, past the back end of the Ritz and the band’s buses, all the way to the railroad tracks, and damn near reaching the parking garage on 6th Ave. On asking the man at the door if that was the line to purchase tickets or just the line to get in, he answered, “both” and gestured for us to get in back of the line. It was now apparent that because of the slowness of the staff getting people in, and not allowing those who already had tickets to have their own line, that there was no way the band would take the stage on time, and since we easily had half an hour ahead of us waiting in that line, we ran back across the street and grabbed a couple more Yuenglings for our wait.
Around 8:40, someone in management thought it would be a good idea to allow ticket holders to go to the front of the line for immediate entry. Gee, ya think? There’s nothing like common sense to get things running smoothly. Of course, anyone with even the slightest bit of experience in running a concert venue would have done this to begin with. So we chugged our beers and in we went, finding our friends in front of the stage. It was about 8:50 at this point and the crowd was already growing impatient for the Mule’s appearance, screaming and cheering every time a song ended on the house speakers. Little did they know that there were hundreds of people still waiting outside.
Finally, at 9:15, a full forty-five minutes late, the idiot staff got enough people inside for the band to take the stage. The Mule’s set was killer, the heavy sound of their new bassist allowing them to play songs off their earlier albums that I’ve never heard live before, at least not since the Allen Woody days of old. I’ll post a more thorough review of the concert later, but for now, the staff of the Ritz was not done making everyone’s lives miserable. At the end of the concert, instead of letting the masses exit down the large main hallway and out the wide double doors, we were rerouted and bottle-necked through the bar and the merchandise area, as if we had been in some kind of kitsch Florida museum and now had to be tempted to buy cheap trinkets, lest we forget that we were ever there. (No offense to Gov’t Mule’s merchandising, whose trinkets are definitely cool, if not necessarily cheap, though admittedly they have been very generous over the years in giving out free stuff to fans like myself. I still sport my Mule coolie that I got for free at the Tampa Theater show in 2006). In any case, it took everyone a lot longer than it should have to shuffle out of the venue. The Ritz were hoping people would hang around for their after-party, just in case they still wanted to shell out exorbitant amounts of money for drinks.
So, yeah, thank god the Mule rocks. It was worth the hassle to see them again, and I for one am looking forward to seeing them at Wanee Fest this year. Unfortunately, all the good shows are being booked at the Ritz, so I’m sure you all will find yourselves there at some point and will have ass-rapings of your own. Will someone please reopen Jannus Landing?