Last week the guys and gals of Etix invited Dave to Raleigh to attend Blast, their annual user conference held during Hopscotch Festival. Blast is a great opportunity to see what’s new with the Etix platform, meet club owners and event producers from around the U.S. and see some great bands. Below are my favorite moments from the weekend.

6. Festival-Style Badge Pickup

Registration for Etix Blast felt more like South by Southwest than your typical conference. Badges and wristbands were available for pickup at the Raleigh Convention Center, alongside the will call for Hopscotch Fest. It was a nice touch — there’s a great energy around festival ticketing areas, lots of fans excited to see their bands and volunteers getting ready for the weekend ahead. It was also a chance for me to meet John Moss, who handles marketing for Etix. He helped me make an important decision — right hand or left hand? I’d be wearing my Hopscotch Festival pass for the next three days and I needed to choose wisely. I went with the right hand — I always do.

5. Night of 1,000 Empanadas

A huge storm poured down on Raleigh during the first night of my visit. I’m an LA guy — an inch and a half of rain shuts the city down. Thankfully I found a dry spot at Etix’s “Night of 1,000 Empanadas” party. We met up in the fun little restaurant called Cala Vela that serves these savory pastries filled with smoked Carolina pulled pork and chimichurri carne asada. It was my first chance to catch up with longtime friend Ben Wingrove, Etix’s executive VP. I’ve know Ben since 2006 — almost as long another great industry friend, Marshall Pred, who’s been with Etix since March 2013 but has decades of experience in ticketing. I can’t remember if shots of Don Julio 1942 were Ben’s idea or mine — but damn, they went down smooth.

4. Catching The War on Drugs with Headliners crew

Photo Courtesy of Triangle Music

Photo Courtesy of Triangle Music

Hopscotch is a citywide festival with 11 showcasing venues wrapped around a downtown main stage area for headliners like Mastodon, Death and Valient Thorr. For a venue reporter, it’s a great chance to see a bunch of rooms in one trip and hang with promoters from clubs around the Southeast. One club that’s always impressed me is Headliners Music Hall in Lexington, Ky., and this year I got to meet owners Billy Hardison and Joe Argabrite. They tipped me off to the band The War on Drugs and we headed over the Lincoln Theatre to see their midnight showcase. The band played a haunting set, reminiscent of 90s greats like Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine, with raspy vocals a la Bob Dylan. It was a packed showcase and people were lined up around the block, in the rain, trying to get in.

3. Party at the Etix offices

Etix HQ is just outside of Raleigh in nearby Morrisville, and all the attendees from Blast caravanned out that way for a tour of Etix’s digs. It’s a nice big office and CEO Joe Kustelski led a tour of their development and sales departments and their collaboration room, where they hack out new ideas and strategies. They have a great timeline showing how Etix has evolved since it was founded in 2000 — including hiring Joe as CEO in 2012 following the company’s acquisition of full-service marketing agency Rockhouse Partners.

2. Spoon with friends from PNC Arena

Two bands everyone should see live are St. Vincent and Spoon. St. Vincent is fronted by Annie Clark and has a huge range; Spoon is an indie band from Austin that’s been making raw rock since 2000. I got to catch Spoon’s set with two local friends, couple Crystal Pace and Doug Warf from PNC Arena. Both gave me the rundown on Raleigh and played late-night tour guide around Raleigh’s venues. Shots of Fireball whiskey may or may not have helped convince me I should return to Raleigh to catch Avett Brother’s NYE show at the arena.

1. On Stage at Red Hat Amphitheater

On my last morning in Raleigh, I wanted to make sure to catch up with new buddy Brian Bauer, director of sales and marketing at Rockhouse. I met Brian a few months back for a story on Etix’s deal with Uber — it’s always fun to hear what he’s working on. On the last day of Blast, Etix organized a Bloody Mary mixer on the stage of Red Hat Amphitheater, a 5,500-capacity shed within view of the North Carolina capitol building. You meet so many people at these events, and it’s nice to have a place to get together in the morning and share notes on the bands from prior night. Plus I enjoyed sitting down with Etix Founder and Chairman Travis Janovich to hear about new initiatives at the company.

End of an Era Big