The 500 Club

oliver-woodAdmittedly, we’d had a couple of cocktails.

After a gathering of friends for a neighborhood Christmas parade last night, G-Rob, T and I went out for a bite of sushi and a few drinks. By the time we cloistered ourselves away in the back of a downtown Irish pub, we were talking music. G-Rob, as is his wont, began a series of Either/Or Proposition games (sort of a less bawdy version of Who’d You Rather). Eventually we stumbled onto a conversation we dubbed The 500 Club.

Here’s how it works.

You’re sitting in the back of a bar with some friends and you have all had a few cocktails. A ticket scalper comes in through the back door and says “I’ve got some tickets to the _____________ show playing across the street in 20 minutes.” The scalper tells you that the tickets are a startling $500 apiece. The show is being held in an intimate club that can only hold 500 people. As it happens, you have $500 in your pocket.

What artist or band has to be in the blank for you to buy the ticket?


  • These are the only tickets available and you have to make a decision immediately.
  • The artist or band must be an active band today. No dead people or bands that have broken up. The artist or band will be the same age and at the same point in their career as they are today (so, you can’t say Bob Dylan 1967).
  • Your friends will also buy a ticket if you do.
  • I actually ended up taking notes on people the three of us could all agree we’d spend the money on. I was going to post them here, but I figured why ruin your fun. So, leave your personal 500 Club in the comments or, if you’re a blogger and feel so inclined, post your list at your own little ethereal home. I’ll post our answers later. [The answers have now been posted HERE].

    Photo is one I took of Oliver Wood playing at Langerado this year. The Wood Brothers are not part of our 500 Club, but they are close.

    Brad Willis

    Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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    19 Responses

    1. Adam Landrum says:


      I’m going with:

      -Paul Simon
      -James Taylor
      -Van Morrison

      $500 bucks to hear in any of them in intimate setting? Easy decision. I do realize, that Paul and Van may not qualify for being at the top of their game, but nonetheless.

      To completely complicate matters from an eclectic standpoint, I’d also bone up $500 for:

      -The White Stripes
      -Alan Jackson

    2. Jon Katkin says:

      Jackson Browne
      Marc Cohn

    3. Daddy says:

      Zeppelin, Clapton, Dylan, Neil Young, The Who, Elton John, Allman Bros., Levon Helm, Earl Scruggs, & Phish.

      Probably forgot a few, and could be talked into a few others.

      It’s just money.

    4. Absinthe says:

      Er, nobody? Max occupancy = 500 isn’t really that small of a club to me, and $500 is a little high.

      If it were more like 200, or $500 buys guaranteed primo seats, then… hmm.

      Tom Waits. New Order. I think those are the only people still “working” who return a positive result for tour infrequency + longstanding desire – buyer’s remorse.

      The list expands considerably if you add “… and if you pass now, you’ll never get a chance to see them again.”

    5. Aaron says:

      Going purely on who has put on the best show over the last few years I would have to say:
      The Asylum Street Spankers
      The Meat Purveyors
      Bobby Bare Jr.
      Man Man
      Blue Mountain
      Jim White
      Neko Case
      Richard Buckner
      Of course I have spent a faction of $500 to see each of these bands for crowds much less than 500 people, so it doesn’t really fit the question I guess. Most of the music I truly enjoy is not played by people making that much money or playing for that many people in a night.

    6. Kym says:

      1. Leonard Cohen
      2. Bob Dylan
      3. Joan Baez
      4. Neil Young
      5. Bruce Springsteen

      # 5 is iffy, but I’m tired and not thinking clearly. #s 1-4 are solid.

    7. Tammie says:

      Man, where to start!! Of course I would want front row seats.

      Moody Blues
      Led Zeppelin
      Eric Clapton
      Crosby Stills & Nash (and Young)
      Fleetwood Mac
      Rob Thomas (or Matchbox 20)

      and I might even shell out $500 for The Ozark Mountain Daredevils and maybe Andrea Bocelli

    8. Pauly says:

      My Morning Jacket

    9. KenP says:

      I find Absinthe’s answer interesting. My era didn’t have venues and the paraphernalia you need for a concert. In my 19th year, I’d take a date downtown Chicago to see the people who’d only appear in big venues with ticket wars today. For $20 I could take a date to Mr. Kelly’s to see Lenny Bruce or Ela — even Frank. Small cover, a two drink minimum and no carding — usually sat within 5′ of the performer with the ‘bad’ seat maybe 25′. Crosby-Stills… were just down Rush Street and we caught them from the bar to avoid the cover. It was several blocks over to the Gate of Horn where you could check the folk groups.

      Mr Kelly’s was the size of 2 decent bedrooms. The London House was the ‘big’ place maybe 1200 sq feet. I had offices on Michigan Av that I’d visit Fridays. One evening snow was heavy and rather than hit the traffic I had dinner and then wandered over to the London House and caught George Shearing Quartet. There were maybe 10 people and we gathered close to the stage and chatted with the band between songs.

      We were a primitive lot and your ticket money exceeded my paycheck.

      We really didn’t think any of that was special or something to turn into a drinking game.

    10. T says:

      I might pay $500 to not be hung over the following morning while I snapped head shots of all the Sunday morning volunteer staff–during all three services.

      Oh, and I’m adding Keb’ Mo’ to my list.

    11. AgSweep says:

      This is harder than it appears. My first thought was Mick and the Boys. But in an intimate club, perhaps not. In the last few years I have been lucky to see many artists in smaller venues. One of the most memorable is Zevon in March of 2000.

      The five hundred dollar price tag kinda limits it to people who normally play the big arena venues, making it mainstream folks, anybody else you can see in a smaller venue anyway….

      Well here goes…

      Josh Groban
      Van Morrison
      Eric Clapton
      Bruce Springsteen
      Jimmy Buffet

    12. flopped da joint says:

      1. radiohead
      2. interpol
      3.tribe called quest order
      5. the police

    13. Dr. Chako says:

      Damn – I didn’t want to become this introspective this soon after Vegas. My head still hurts, dammit!

      I’m forced to admit that there is no one I’d pay $500 to see. I’m just not that into music, which I guess puts me in the minority amongst bloggers. Now, if I could pick the friends… that becomes interesting. I would go back to my college days and pay for my ticket and Jean’s to go see the Indigo Girls again, just because I know it was a life-changing experience for her when we went in 1989.

      If forced, I’d probably choose The Police, CSN (sans Y), Fleetwood Mac, Van Halen (with DLR), Yoyo Ma, Simon and Garfunkle, Tuck Andress, Eric Johnson, Steve Martin (an average banjo player, but the comedy bits would be worth it), and Tommy Emmanuel.

      I’m going back to my hangover now.


    14. emme says:

      First of all, I really can’t think of anyone I’d pay $500 to see, even if I could afford it. For me can we make it $200? That would be my limit I think.
      In no particular order:
      1. John Hiatt
      2. Richard Thompson
      3. Aretha Franklin
      4. Van Morrison
      5. Allen Toussaint

      Now if we could have magic:
      !. Zappa
      2. Bob Marley
      3. Elvis

      I’ve already seen 5 out of the 8 I mentioned.
      Guess which 5.


    15. Da Goddess says:

      Every club I go to then qualifies as “intimate” if the limit is 500. Seriously. And I’d never pay $500 to see anyone, even if I had it. Unless of course it was to have someone play at a private party and then, of course, the budget would have to be more than $500. So I’m screwed there

    16. muhctim says:

      1. The Rolling Stones–I worked as a barback when I was in HS. One of the bartender told me he saw Mick Jagger in Myrtle Beach (mid 70’s) in a place so small that during the act Mick threw a bucket of water out into the audience and no one in the first three rows got wet.

      2. JJ Cale– His kind of venue

      3. Clapton

    17. Drizztdj says:

      Metallica – still the best times I’ve ever had at a concert and they’ve never disappointed (maybe because I went while they were still doing mainly speed metal)


      Blackhawk – seen them in a big stadium setting, and the small 300 person setting. Would do it again, no doubts

      Def Leppard – I’ll go hide in shame now.

    18. StB says:

      I’d have to go with bands that are a rarity to see, especially in the U.S.

      Led Zeppelin
      the Who

    1. December 17, 2008

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