VIP seating

The VIP seating area, which provided assigned seats to fans who paid extra to get in. Ticket packages for this area ranged from $600 to $1200 for all three nights.

SHAKOPEE — Some Twin Cities Summer Jam concertgoers are requesting refunds for their VIP tickets, which ran from $600 to $1,200 for all three nights, after organizers said they opened up the VIP area to general admission ticket-holders to appease Steven Tyler of Aerosmith.

Summer Jam co-founder Jerry Braam said he wasn’t aware of any refunds being given but next year could bring changes in how the event runs. Most of the feedback he’s received has been overwhelmingly positive, he added.

“The proof is in the pudding with the amount of emails for requests for ticket renewals,” Braam said. “It’s way outweighing a few that are upset.”

In Monday’s KFAN radio show, Chris Hawkey, who was the emcee of the event, said the issue happened because Tyler threatened to leave unless the stage was surrounded with fans. Because Aerosmith set this precedent, the same happened when Pitbull and Tim McGraw took the stage the next day.

The combination of Friday’s heat index, which rose above 100 degrees, jumbotron technical difficulties and the ticket changes led to a flurry of online complaints.

Mary Bonneville said she doesn’t normally splurge on concerts, but Aerosmith was a “bucket list band.” So she bought VIP tickets and a pit pass to see Aerosmith up-close-and-personal Friday night for around $2,400. Her friend flew in from Nevada to join her.

Bonneville said the concert was more than disappointing after she had saved up for months and didn’t get to see the band up close. And the seats she and her friend paid for were taken to accommodate for general admission ticket-holders who paid $100.

“They grabbed the folding chairs people paid for and took them out, and they said everybody, come on in,” Bonneville said, adding she won’t buy tickets next year. “This was not a smart call.”

Bonneville also mentioned that the scorching heat and crowd brought the risk of serious injuries.

“You can’t have an artist control things at the last minute,” she said.

Braam said he was frustrated with the difficult position Tyler put the organizers in.

A few weeks before the concert, he said, Aerosmith requested the festival add to its setup, which cost an additional $500,000. Letting Tyler leave would have meant wasting the money and the excitement of 20,000 fans.

“I told them we’re not going to be bullied again like this next year,” Braam said.

Braam said next year he’d like to move the general admission closer to the stage and add two jumbotrons and get rid of the jumbotron in the middle of the field. He said he’s already working with an unnamed major country artist and rock headliner. Tickets should come out mid-September.

Steve Pitoscia, who attended Summer Jam on general admission tickets all three days with friends, was one of a few fans on social media who said he couldn’t complain about anything.

“Everything went pretty smooth for me,” he said. “As far as organization in terms of ticketing, I didn’t have any problems.”

Pitoscia said he also chose not to file into the VIP area when organizers opened it up to general admission because he didn’t want to “get caught up in the madness.”

On the other hand, Shirley Skaets from Chaska called it her worst concert experience ever. She attended the festival Friday night on a general admission ticket — a gift from her sister.

She said they opted to stay in the general admission area when the gates opened up but couldn’t see the stage because of a large screen she said wasn’t working the entire time the Chris Hawkey Band was on stage.

“I think they could have had better access to the stage and not so many VIP seats,” Skates said.

Hawkey said he was mostly frustrated that Tyler apparently made his ultimatum an hour before Aerosmith was supposed to hit the stage. He gave Aerosmith credit for “putting on a great show” and said he didn’t blame Tyler for wanting a crowd surrounding the stage that’s “conducive to a rock band concert,” but he didn’t know if he would emcee next year.

“It almost killed me,” Hawkey said.

Maddie DeBilzan graduated with a journalism degree from Bethel University. She’s interned at Salon Media and the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Outside of work, she sifts through Goodwill clothing racks, listens to Ben Rector's music and goes on long runs.


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