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Tickets gone prestissimo

Seats for Dudamel's free concert at the Bowl get snapped up.

August 02, 2009|Diane Haithman

Nearly 1,000 people spent a hot morning in line Saturday at the Hollywood Bowl, some arriving as early as 5 a.m., with the hope of getting free tickets to "?Bienvenido Gustavo!," the first concert of Gustavo Dudamel's inaugural season as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Starting at noon, the first 246 or 247 received up to four tickets for the Oct. 3 concert. The rest went home empty-handed as demand outstripped the supply. The majority of tickets to the 18,000-seat Bowl were given out to those who made their requests by phone and online, though countless people failed at such efforts as well. No matter the method, tickets were gone in an hour and 20 minutes.

By the afternoon, scalpers were already posting tickets for online resale. "There is going to be a resale market for this, which is unfortunate," said Arvind Manocha, chief operating officer of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Assn. "It's out of our control, other than to be saddened by it."

The Bowl has long been known for bringing classical music to ordinary people in a casual arena far from the sometimes intimidating confines of the traditional concert hall. But Dudamel and the Philharmonic had taken the populist appeal of the Bowl to a new level with "?Bienvenido Gustavo!," a free five-hour festival of gospel, pop, classical and jazz music that will conclude with Dudamel conducting first the Youth Orchestra L.A. and then the Philharmonic.

The box office, online registration and phone lines opened at noon -- but hopefuls began arriving at the Bowl early, waiting for the parking lots to open at 8 a.m. Philharmonic officials said 800 to 1,000 people showed up altogether. Tickets were gone by 1:20. Orders by phone were filled before 1 p.m.

Almost 12% of the tickets were reserved for production staff, VIPs and educational partners of the Phil, Manocha said.

First in line was a Los Angeles woman who did not want to give her name but who said she came to the Bowl at the crack of dawn because "we have a new conductor."

Right behind her was Dezi Koster, a "transplanted Aussie" living in Westchester, who made her first visit to the Bowl to get her free tickets.

"This is amazing; I've been here a month and it's my first time visiting the Bowl," she exulted. Said her friend Clyde Baumgardner, also of Westchester: "It will be an incredible performance. . . . The warm-up acts are headliners . . . and there's fireworks!"

The line snaked down the hill all the way past the Hollywood Bowl Museum and into the lower parking lots.

There was some confusion and disgruntlement among patrons who did not understand the first-come, first-served ticketing process. Some did not like the fact that the Philharmonic did not place an age limit on who could get four tickets; some under 18 -- indeed, some under 10 -- got wristbands.

One of the many who left disappointed was Frank Higginbotham of Glendale, among the next in line after the 250 wristbands were distributed (Bowl officials later reported that the tickets ran out at 246 or 247). Bouncing his 3-year-old son, Gianni, on his shoulder, he said he came because his other son, Frankie, 4, was a Dudamel fan.

"I'm doing this for my son; he watched the '60 Minutes' TV show about Dudamel about a year ago," Higginbotham said. "And then a couple of weeks later he saw your story, in the Calendar section, and started saying : 'Gustavo!' I took him to a kids' show at Disney Hall, but he wasn't really happy with that. He has curly hair and everything, like Gustavo."

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diane.haithman@latimes.com

Karen Wada and Juliette Funes contributed to this report.

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