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David Byrne & St. Vincent at the Greek

Greek Theatre

Waiting for the show to start.

The other day, my bride and co-conspirator at this site informed me that she had won concert tickets; we were to see David Byrne and St. Vincent at the Greek Theatre (the venue where Neil Diamond’s “Hot August Night” and Harry Chapin’s “Greatest Stories Live” albums were recorded) on Saturday night, thanks to local radio station The Sound LA (100.3 on your FM dial).

The show was great. David Byrne was his usual entertaining and engaging self, singing, dancing, looking dapper in white suit and black shirt, and generally being the arty rock star he’s been for the past three decades. For me, the unknown quantity was St. Vincent, an artist I had never heard of. It turns out this is the stage name of a young Texan named Annie Clark, who had previously earned a measure of fame as a member of The Polyphonic Spree before joining Sufjan Stevens‘ band for a while. She has a great voice, plays a number of instruments (including theremin, which is instant cool points), and has a dark-eyed sultry look that complements her voice. The two have collaborated on a new album, Love This Giant, the songs from which made up the bulk of the evening, except for a few well-chosen Talking Heads classics, rearranged for the 8-piece brass band that backed up the duo along with a drummer and keyboardist, while both Byrne and Clark played guitar at various times.

This was just one of many shows we’ve seen for free thanks to radio stations and other contests, and we’ve also scored a few other giveaways over the years:

* Way back in 1987, we saw Bruce Springsteen on his Tunnel of Love tour thanks to my efficient dialing; I was caller number nine and answered the question correctly (“what are the last three Springsteen songs we played?”).

* A few months back we attended an intimate show inside a recording studio with indie star M. Ward, the quiet half of She & Him, from a Facebook contest on his page.

* Terri also won tickets to see Bob Dylan from The Sound, which we passed on to our son and daughter.

* Several years ago, I won tickets to see Steve Tyrell at a local club from a now-defunct station that played standards from the Great American Songbook. That station (the Fabulous 570, later The Lounge 690) is now online at Martini In The Morning.

* Even longer ago, I won a boxed set of great rock performances from the Ed Sullivan Show.

If you look around, there are lots of contests and giveaways you can sign up for, but be careful and read the fine print. Getting passes to your local comedy club because they want to “paper the house” for a midweek show is fine, provided you understand you’re still going to get dinged for the two-drink minimum, it’s only the cover charge that’s waived. On the other hand, you really don’t want to sit through an endless time-share pitch and face down the hard-sell tactics the “closer” will bring to bear to get you to sign up for the absurdly expensive resort package, just to get a tote bag.

If you can get the prize by clicking a Facebook “like” button, sending a tweet, or joining your favorite station’s listener club, go for it. If they ask for a lot of personal information, or there’s any indication that it’s tied to a time-share, health club, or other big-ticket purchase, skip it.

Another clever idea is to go to your local office supply store, buy a package of perforated business cards you can print on, invent a business name, and carry these cards with you to drop in the fishbowl that seems to be on every restaurant counter. Free lunches are good. Use a formal version or your name, or maybe use your middle name, on the cards; that way when you get junk email or phone calls, you’ll know that it’s junk from the get-go.

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Jim

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