Thursday, June 10, 2010

Signs of Summer: Outdoor Concerts

Despite the agonizing fact that the official start date of summer isn’t until June 23, we’ve already had a few waves of summer-like weather in my neck of the woods. Its days like these that energize and invigorate the lion’s share of us who live in areas with over 225 days a year of “gray” weather, and these nice days deserve their due.

With that said, every Tuesday and Thursday until the official start of summer we’ll bring you an ode to the signs of summer, one marvelous item at a time. And PS - we would love it if you would pepper in your thoughts as well.

Today we pay homage to outdoor concerts.

Namely Tom Petty… bring it on, haters.

My wife and I have seen TP three times so far, once with the better half of this here blog in fact, and honest to God, I’m not sure if there’s a more fulfilling summer experience from start to finish. Granted, it’s a little more expensive than cooking on the grill, and it requires more planning than getting in a round of golf, but the whole event just screams summer.

Highlights from past Petty experiences run the gamut of awesomeness. We (whatever group is assembled) typically try to arrive at the venue three to four hours before show time to ensure that we get our tailgate on properly. We tend to keep it simple with a little propane grill, hamburgers, hot dogs, chips & dip and plenty of booze. Once the food and drink have been appropriately taken care of, we make our final pilgrimage to pay homage to one of rock’s best performers.

And Tom never lets us down, knocking out hit after hit, sprinkled with a dash of instrumental jam sessions, all brought together seamlessly with a spattering of stories that can only be told by someone with a pedigree such as his.

True story: Last time we went we got a late start on the day thanks to work commitments. Consequently, thanks to that late start, we hit one of the most nightmarish traffic jams in concert-going history. Anywhere, anytime, ever. No exaggeration whatsoever, it took us over four hours to navigate what Mapquest said was 31 miles/41 minutes.

At this point we’ll be lucky to make it in time for Petty’s opening song. So we’re trudging along in the stop-start turmoil that was, when I, the driver, get hit with the most vicious feeling in the world: I gotta go.

I think you know what I’m saying.

At this point we can see the venue entrance about half a mile up ahead. I tell my wife to take the drivers seat, I throw the car in park and I take off down the road - running more and faster than I had in years prior to that. I practically throw myself into the first patch of woods I see and as Forrest Gump would say, “I went.” Then I hear the snickers and shuffling up ahead of a group of people doing the only other thing one does in the solace of the forest at an outdoor concert… you can fill in the blank.

By the time I made it back to the car, we were at the entrance and could hear Petty’s soundcheck. Luckily, we made it in by the skin of our teeth… and chugged like three beers a piece during our wait to get to the front of the line. Coincidentally, my better half (blog-wise, not marriage-wise) ended up breaking his foot that evening but didn’t know it until the effects of said evening wore off a day later. Good times.

So let’s do it: your summer concert list, past or present. And no judgments here - we’ll get you started.

Vans Warped Tour
Dave Matthews Band
Jack Johnson
Ben Harper
Family Values Tour
Lillith Fair
Bamboozle Fest
Counting Crows
Radio Festivals
Community Festivals
Town Fair Tours (reuniting some of the best/worst bands ever)

Your turn.

Come back and Ride with us at 4 p.m.


  1. I saw Tom Petty a few years ago, and I have to say it was probably one of my favorite concert experiences ever. It even topped David Bowie and NIN, which is a very bold statement given my immense infatuation with both Bowie and pre-rehab Reznor. I've always wanted to see DMB because it seems like such a perfect summer show. But I just can't fathom being surrounded by a million dirty hippies.

  2. Dude I totally hear you about DMB, although the other half of this blog would argue heavily that everyone MUST see him... and he's not even a hippie. Dirty? Yes. Hippie? Not so much.

    I'll bet NIN would be an experience for sure, even if you're not into industrial music.

  3. I was confounded when I saw NIN. I was fully expecting scrawny, heroine-chic Reznor, but when he took the stage I mistook him for Henry Rollins he was so ripped. They did put on an amazing show. Crazy lights, visuals and pyrotechnics galore. Meeting the band, sans Reznor, afterwards might be swaying my opinion though.