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If you thought it was too cold to camp out for the Sufjan Stevens ticket giveaway at the Kennedy Center, you are too old. By 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, the line extended at least a few hundred, maybe a thousand, deep. The first couple of dozen stood with their sleeping bags, tents, and old pizza boxes. They had camped out for a chance to see the folkie’s free set on Feb. 9. They guaranteed themselves tickets. The rest of us that showed up at reasonable hours weren’t so lucky. If only Gerald Ford had put out state-themed concept albums.
Church buses weren’t idling in the parking lot ($6 was the flat rate). And I doubt that the Danielson Famile’s impressive spawn came down from New Jersey. These were just kids here for the music, man. And the experience: ordering pizza from outside the Kennedy Center (Papa John’s sent a guy to hype the idea), shaming line cutters (three dudes pulled up in a van, made an attempt at cutting, then bolted), and just beating the cold.
“I love me some Sufjan,” said Alfonso Bravo, 28. “I love a challenge. I’m not about not challenging myself.” About 30th in line, he’d made the Kennedy Center his home for 12 hours wearing eight layers of clothes. “I got the mobility of Stay-Puft.”
Just before 9 a.m., a Kennedy Center rep, an older, somewhat bewildered man, congratulated John Shortino, 21, for the honor of First In Line.
Shortino said he’d been in line for 26 hours and had killed time the following ways: reading Song of Solomon and a book on Italian cinema, eating pizza, and watching shit on his friend’s laptop including The Royal Tenenbaums. “I did not sleep,” he says proudly. His reasons for his self-imposed Sufjanathon: “His arrangements are amazing. His lyrics are very poetic and beautiful and very American—I hate to say that.”
At that point, his friend Michael Finnerty, 20, chimed in. Stevens, he said, is “Like the Band. They did ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.’ Sufjan has like 50 of those.”
Promptly at 9 a.m., the line started moving and kids soon streamed back outside screaming, tickets in hand.
“Sold out!” the first couple kids bellowed.
“We got the last ones!” cracked another.
“Golden ticket!” a boy shouted. “I’m going to the Chocolate Factory, guys!”
After getting her tickets, one woman took two steps outside and fell to her knees in joy. Others farther back started singing Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer.”
By 9:15 a.m., Kennedy Center flacks stopped allowing people to join the line’s ranks. Ten minutes later, the flacks handed out flyers (above). It was a polite way of saying, “Go home.”
Since the flyers were so cordial and the flacks didn’t explicitly insist on people leaving, just about everyone ignored the flyers and stayed. Another 10 minutes and it was official.