It's only rock 'n' roll, but it's worth the wait

Rolling Stones: Fortysomething fans eschew Internet ticketing for the satisfaction of camping out for the show.

August 26, 2005|By Matthew Dolan | Matthew Dolan,SUN STAFF

In an era of speed dialing and high-speed Internet connections, of Ticketmaster and Yahoo, sleeping out to buy rock concert tickets seems so old school. Best to break the news gently to Jim Brumage.

Since Tuesday night, the taxi driver from White Marsh has been doing what any self-respecting rock 'n' roll super-fan is supposed to do: camping outside Baltimore's First Mariner Arena to be first in line for the Feb. 1 Rolling Stones concert tickets that go on sale tomorrow morning.

"You know what I mean? This is chilling for me," said Brumage, 43. "It's better than the beach."

Concert promoters sell most of their tickets online or over the phone, and Brumage admits he's probably too old to be waiting outside. As of yesterday afternoon, only four people had joined him in line. No one he knows sleeps on pavement anymore. They don't worry about rain or paying off the homeless with a few dollars just to get good seats to see Mick Jagger and his motley crew strut their stuff one more time.

"All my friends grew up," Brumage says. "I never did."

He chooses to buy his tickets in person because he remembers when waiting in line was as much of a party as the show itself. He's also convinced that a special promotion being offered - $99 for some front-row seats - will be easier to get at the ticket booth. Prices generally range from $62 to $162, with some as high as $400.

Brumage is not alone. Eileen Davenport arrived from Essex yesterday morning and said she needs a blow-up mattress to last until tomorrow.

"My bones," the 46-year-old says. "They're old."

She first saw the Stones almost 30 years ago. To do it, she went absent without leave from the Army to see the Brit rockers light up the arena in Greensboro, N.C. "I don't remember much other than it was good," she said.

Brumage's hairline has moved back and his stomach has moved out. He has a girlfriend with a plucky 14-year-old son who both came along for the adventure. But yesterday, she got sick, maybe a stomach virus or the flu. He had to rent her a car and send her home. What a drag it is getting old.

Then he looks around, and the megawatt memories of past concerts soothe his soul.

In the beginning, he was unsure. "Donnie Osmond," he says with a smirk, recalling his first live concert. "He waved right from a window over there," he said, pointing to a hotel across the street from the arena. But then he saw Ted Nugent screaming on his Double Live Gonzo tour, and Brumage was hooked.

Since then, it has been a string of more than 400 shows, from Prince (60 times) to Hall and Oates, Springsteen to the Stones. He's something of a first-in-line addict. When the New Orleans-Miami preseason football game tickets went on sale in 1992 at Memorial Stadium, he says he braved temperatures of three degrees below zero to keep his place. The idea of Baltimore's first Stones concert since 1969 keeps him pumped up.

"I'm telling you: It's in my blood," he says.

He looks comfortable, lounging in a fold-up chair with a cup holder filled with 32 ounces of Diet Coke. Brumage leans back in the shade of a mild August afternoon, his sunglasses perched precariously on his forehead, pooka beads around his neck. Businessmen ask him what he's doing. He tells them. They smile and say good luck.

In some ways it's better than the old days, not having to worry about the rats that used to climb his back when he would fall asleep on downtown Baltimore streets. Sure, having a fill-in to take a break for happy hour in the Inner Harbor would be nice. The crowd that brought the beer keg in the trash can for the Bon Jovi show in the '80s sure was a lot of fun.

But Brumage is diabetic and doesn't drink now. He has agreed on this afternoon to watch Davenport's kids, Shane 12, and Paije, 10, while she picks up her husband at work.

"I'm easily amused over them," he says, watching them zoom on their scooters.

In the beginning, he admits, it was kind of hard.

"We were so bored that we threw rocks at each other," Brumage says of the first hours with his girlfriend's son, Andrew Riehl, 14. On the first night, a panhandler woke them up to ask whether he could have some of their leftover pizza.

They take their bathroom breaks at the Days Inn down the street. Crazy Greeks, they say, is the place for subs. Under balmy, clear skies this week, all they have to do to sleep is crawl into their sleeping bags. When the afternoons grow long outside the arena's Gate E5, Brumage is apt to think about all of the money he has spent on tickets.

He has no regrets.

"A friend of mine gave me some good advice," he says. " `When you hit 70 or 80, what are you going to have? All you have are your stories.'

"I'll have stories. And then I'll know: It was all worth it."

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