For the past 11 months, Marc Eisenberg has been living a concertgoer’s dream: He’s attended at least 135 shows at the 9:30 Club since January without paying a dime or suffering any noticeable hearing damage.
“I’m an incredibly lucky guy,” he says.
As the winner of the 9:30 Club’s annual holiday raffle, the longtime D.C. resident received a full year’s worth of free tickets (and plus-ones) to the iconic D.C. club. He’s taken full advantage of the opportunity, taking business associates to Mastedon, helping a friend get in to see tUnE-yArDs, and popping in for the Foo Fighters, Broad City live, and Tyler the Creator. He even started a (password-protected) blog dedicated to keeping track of the shows he saw.
According to Eisenberg, the experience has allowed him all of the fun parts of music fandom—-exposure to new acts and artists, a chance to catch up with friends—-and none of the caveats, like pressure to stick around through a bad set just to get his money’s worth on a ticket and a beer.
“The goal was to just have fun. Every second I was in there, it was fun,” says Eisenberg. “If it wasn’t fun, I left.”
Like you’d expect from someone who’s done something 135 times in a year, Eisenberg has made quite a few observations about the club and going to shows. Some takeaways are relatively obvious: Eisenberg confirms what any regular D.C. concertgoer knows—-Bob Boilen goes to a lot of shows. He also notes that the sound at 9:30 is noticeably different than sound at other venues (mostly in a good way). And though he admits he’s not a musician, Eisenberg realized what every good band needs to succeed: a decent drummer.
“A band is only as good as its drummer,” said Eisenberg. “You can have all your shit together, but that’s the most essential person in any band.”
His testimony does contain a few surprises, though. According to Eisenberg, most of the shows he saw were fairly tame; he witnessed very few fights that weren’t dealt with almost immediately by club staff. And while superfans went predictably berserk for musicians like Dave Grohl and Willie Nelson, the audience at Phantogram was actually more enthusiastic. “The crowd was super into it and the applause was huge at the end of the set,” Eisenberg wrote on his blog after the band’s October show.
The 9:30 Club’s raffle, now in its 15th year, will yield a new winner by the end of the month. Eisenberg plans on seeing at least 15 more shows before the year ends and his concert-withdrawal symptoms set in. According to his blog, the longest stretch he went all year without setting foot in the club was a little less than two weeks. “I’m just short of tears already that this thing is ending,” he says. “I’m seeing new shows that are posted, and thinking ‘Ah man, I wanna see that so much,’ but I can’t.”
Eisenberg isn’t planning on staying away once his free ride runs out, though. He’s already bought his first pair of post-giveaway tickets to see Sleater-Kinney in February. And luckily, he says he’s found some alumni kinship and withdrawal support in Todd Savitch, who won the raffle in 2007 and is still a 9:30 Club regular. “I’ve actually become good friends with him because I see him so much there,” Eisenberg says.