Having just seen KISS at the Sommet center and with Styx/REO Speedwagon/Night Ranger coming up in a couple of weeks, I have been thinking about concerts and how they have changed over the years.
My first concert was my sophomore year in high school - Eddie Money played Vanderbilt Memorial Gym. My friend Joe and I got us some dates and off we went. Having heard all the stories about concerts and the debauchery that occurs there, we were pumped. That evening I proved that a bottle of ice cold Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill could be drunk in the time it takes to get from 31st & West End to Memorial Gym. It can be drunk, but keeping it down is another story. I can’t remember the cost of the ticket, but it couldn’t have been more than $10. Well, it wasn’t the drunken orgy that we imagined, but I was hooked on live shows.
Most of the concerts I saw in the ‘80’s – 90’s were at the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville. My first show there was Charlie Daniels’ Volunteer Jam. The Municipal is a round venue which held probably about 9,000. In the 90’s, most shows moved to Starwood amphitheater in Nashville, which was a completely different perspective. Being able to lounge on the ground under the stars was cool – unless it was August and raining. An added benefit of Starwood was the fact that it sold BEER. Wow, you could drink at a concert without having smuggled a bottle into the venue in your shoe, crotch, or wherever. They even had an area where corporations could buy box seats and have servers bring you drinks, food, etc. Maybe this is when the transition started. What transition, you may ask? Let’s compare yesteryear to today:
Yesteryear – My buddy Joe & I decide to go see Journey on the Escape tour. We drive to Nashville & find a Sound Seventy ticket outlet. We shell out our money for the exorbitant amount of $10/ticket. The tickets have raised lettering with cool designs custom-made for the particular show. We roll to Nashville, probably sneak a bottle of Jack (bought underage) by the searching Metro police at the Municipal, and we are ready to rock. (Side-note – wonder if a Metro policeman on Municipal duty ever bought liquor?) We arrive about an hour and a half early so we can get good spots standing in the general admission area in front of the stage. We park on the side of James Robertson in front of the Capital and walk to the auditorium. The opening act, Loverboy, comes out after the house lights go out. Occasionally during the show, I glance up towards the ceiling. There, through the haze of smoke, cigarette and other, I make out a faint glow – NO SMOKING. This warning can be seen hanging from the ceiling. For encores and power ballads alike, the crowd (even non-smokers) holds their lighters aloft begging for more. Before Journey comes out, the question is “what will they open with?” or “wonder if they will play Lights?” After the show, Joe & I make a most difficult decision – which shirt do we buy to wear to school the next day? While either will smell like the interior of a Cheech & Chong van, we have to choose between the $5 t-shirt or splurge and get the $7.50 jersey.
Today – You decide to attend a Sommet Center concert. You sit at your computer and log on to the Ticketmaster website. You hope your 45 yr old eyes can read the random letters and numbers that allow you to proceed with selecting tickets without having to resort to the Dick Tracy decoder glasses. Once you make it past scalper security, you select your ticket with prices starting around $40 (top row, back of arena) and ending at $1000 (backstage 5 minute photo op with the band). You can either print a bar code or have the generic looking tickets mailed to your house. The night of the show, you pay another $10-$20 to park and then walk about 4 blocks to the arena. The menu choices have changed, but so have the prices. You can get a $4 hot dog or even more expensive burgers, BBQ, etc. Wait, what is that – BEER & LIQUOR!!!! With no crotches or socks involved. Yes, you pay for it, but it is available. You can see clearly because smokers have to go over the river & through the woods & hang about 3 blocks to reach the smoking area outside. You already know what the band is playing because you have checked the band’s website, clicked on the tour button, and saw the set list for all the stops prior to your city. You also notice something else – there are kids. I mean middle and elementary school kids. This is ROCK & ROLL, not Yanni @ TPAC!! You admit to yourself that probably the folks on stage may be getting Medicare currently or within 5 years.
Anyway, you get the picture. Yes, it is different, more expensive, and in some aspects, not as fun. But as Billy Joel says “It’s still rock and roll to me.” Also, don’t forget that if it’s too loud, you are too old.
Zach, a rock & rolling Tennessee Squire
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