Words & Deeds

How to not have a horrible time at a summer concert

Wow, this looks like an awful time, doesn’t it? A scene from Paul Simon’s sold-out show May 23 at Outlaw Field in Boise.
Wow, this looks like an awful time, doesn’t it? A scene from Paul Simon’s sold-out show May 23 at Outlaw Field in Boise.

Although I did not attend Paul Simon’s recent show at Outlaw Field, I’m what you’d call an expert concertgoer. With hundreds, if not thousands, of live events under my belt, I like to think I’ve seen it all. Except, the truth is, I have not.

A complaint-filled Letter to the Editor afterward enlightened me to the fact that it is possible to emerge from the flowery Idaho Botanical Garden holding your nose. That’s pretty incredible. Especially when you consider that the Garden’s grassy area outside the Old Idaho Penitentiary is voted Best Music Venue every year in the Idaho Statesman’s Best of Treasure Valley readers’ poll.

“My most vivid memories are: lines, lines, lines, lines, lines ...,” Jack Stevens of Boise wrote. “Too bad the ‘planners’ of this fiasco were not incarcerated in the penitentiary for fraud — pretending it was a well-planned event.”

Stevens’ gripes inspired a torch-carrying mob on Facebook. Complaints mounted, including “the disorganization of the event was beyond frustrating,” “the venue was awful,” “they should not let folks stand for the whole concert at the stage,” “there was a ton of random jabbering going on,” “people who should have been directing traffic out of the venue looked like they’d never seen a car moving before” and “sounds like last night at Alive After Five.”

It is clear that some of our music-loving neighbors need helpful advice. With summer concert season here, I’d like to use my vast experience to share a few easy tips to ensure that nobody has a less-than-spectacular time at any outdoor show.

▪  Stay home if you’re old. There’s a correlation between increased age and the inherent suffering caused by an enjoyable public social outing. I don’t know this nice Stevens guy, but I’m betting that he made the classic blunder of thinking he could successfully endure a concert at over 29. I feel for him. This year’s Outlaw Field series flouts the situation with Geritol acts such as Simon, Tony Bennett, Willie Nelson and Steve Miller. But be strong, Grandma. For your own safety. So you don’t get bewildered and angry if security won’t let you bring in your Kindle to read Agatha Christie between sets.

▪  Go see unfamous acts. What is up with this selfish urge to hear familiar songs? If you bought tickets to Simon, you got what you deserved: A slow-moving herd of sheep. Not to mention the evening’s unique challenges. It was the season opener and had sold out months in advance. There was no opening act. Everyone knew there would be 4,000 Boiseans arriving at the same millisecond. Plus, this was the first concert where the Garden sold more than 2,000 member tickets. Go ahead, be “still crazy after all these years” and go see Simon. I’ll be headbanging near an entire row of available Porta-Johns watching Diarrhea Planet at Treefort.

▪  Hop the fence. Ugh. You’re already waiting in line before you’ve even gotten into the concert. Skip the gate formalities. Scissor-kick over a side fence. Too high? (I’m talking about the fence.) See my first tip.

▪  Stay thirsty, my friends. The beer-token system often used at outdoor events obviously was created to prevent you from drinking. So don’t drink. First, you wither in the token line. Then, you suffer in the actual drink line for another four songs. By the time you receive that totally unnecessary, delicious alcoholic beverage, the concert is, like, half over. Stevens estimated that he spent 2 1/2 hours in line, with at least an hour of that on beer. If you go on the wagon at outdoor shows, it has the secondary benefit of helping me get my own beer quicker — which is nice at Outlaw Field, where they sell local brews.

▪  Stand, never sit. You know how there’s always some sloppy fool in front of you attempting a “Solid Gold” dancer imitation? (No, that reference doesn’t make me old.) If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Legs tired from standing? See my first tip.

▪  Never use a restroom. Only the most severe medical emergencies warrant a trip to a Porta-John. This becomes clear immediately after you tug open that plastic door and peer inside. Yet, somehow, lines plague concert toilets everywhere (except, of course, the alluring ones reserved for staffers). Boycotting bathrooms works in conjunction with the don’t-drink rule. “Drink less, pee less,” chirped an against-the-grain Facebook commenter, who acted like the Simon concert was a good time. “It was predictable that the traffic would be congested,” she also explained gleefully, “which is why we rode our bikes. It made a great evening even more enjoyable.”

▪  Walk, don’t drive. Why would you consider driving to a place that you know will be like Eagle Road during rush hour? “The traffic to these events is atrocious,” another Facebooker lamented. “... I drive taxi, and these shows are a real mess for us.” Here’s a compromise: Lug your low-back chair a half mile toward home on foot afterward, then have Uber snag you in somebody’s dark front lawn.

▪  Concert ticket = airline ticket. Embrace a busy outdoor concert’s similarity to air travel, and you will be overwhelmed by a deep sense of calmness. Think about it: You scramble for a place to sit, just like you do on an economy flight. You are shelling out a lot of money to be inconvenienced. Everybody is way too close to you and totally annoying. If you enter a bathroom, nightmares will follow. Still, you WANT to be there, right? Serenity now.

“P.S. Music was wonderful.”

That last line of Stevens’ letter summed up many commenters’ opinion about Simon’s actual musical performance.

And despite the online grumbling, the Garden didn’t actually hear that many complaints, according to amiable executive director Christine Wiersema.

“Once the music started,” she said via email, “it was magic, and most of the people forgot the hiccups of the onset of the show. At the end of the second encore, the entire audience was on their feet.”

Sadly, I have no visual proof of this crowd response. Simon’s handlers rejected the Statesman’s photo-pass request because we didn’t send a reviewer.

Do I sound like sour grapes? Perfect. A fan on Facebook claimed Outlaw Field ran out of wine, too.

Apparently, somebody had a good time.

Michael Deeds’ 2016 column, “12 uncool things about Boise” got a lot of people talking in online comments and on social media. It flew over the heads of some stony-faced Idahoans. Others enjoyed the sarcasm. Michael shares some of the best.


Michael Deeds: 208-377-6407, @michaeldeeds