Tonawanda News

May 5, 2013

MUSICAL NOTES: Inside, outside concerts on the brain

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — It seems like spring has finally sprung and before you know it the outdoor concert season will begin. One of the things it has made me contemplate is whether I prefer outdoor concerts or indoor concerts. I think each has their own plusses and minuses, and maybe before I complete this column I will decide which I like better.

The advantage of an indoor concert is that indoor venues are climate controlled, and thus weather isn’t a factor. Outdoor shows rarely “rain out” and because of the huge costs involved in rescheduling an event, if it rains at an outdoor show, you are usually stuck getting soaked.

Weather has affected a few shows I have attended. When I saw The Tubes and Utopia at Darien Lake in the 1980s — well before they had put up the cover over the expensive seats — there was a torrential downpour. It was the kind of rain that physically hurt when it hit you.

Two years ago at an Eric Church/Toby Keith show, the rain was so bad the concrete flooded and water poured in through a hole in the tarp. If you went to the bathroom you had to walk under a waterfall, and the trek to the parking lot could only be described a tough mudder.

Anyone that attended Sarstock in Toronto remembers how ridiculously hot it was that day. After eight or so hours in the blazing sun, we welcomed the hoses getting turned on us and having water bottles chucked at our heads — though I bet Justin Timberlake didn’t appreciate someone chucking a bottle at him. The advantage to that show was you got to see the Rolling Stones for less than $20, which is a far cry from the $600 seats to see them this year in Toronto indoors.

Of course there really is nothing better than a cool moonlit night under the stars listening to great music. I’ll never forget sitting on the lawn at what is now called CMAC in Canandaigua, drinking wine and watching Eric Clapton put on a stellar show in the early 1980s. I also have had some great nights in Lockport, North Tonawanda, Buffalo and Lewiston seeing acts like Flogging Molly, Dennis DeYoung, Rik Emmett, Rusted Root and Alice Cooper. In addition, there was a time when it rained during “Love Reign O’er Me” during a Who concert at Rich Stadium.

Nonetheless, I do miss the arena rock era, with the smoke-filled venue. I loved seeing the spotlight cut through the smoke and watching people hold up their lighters. When the arena went black and the band appeared onstage, it was a magical moment, something that just doesn’t work as well at an outdoor show.

The sound quality depends on the venue. I despise the sound at The Dome Arena in Rochester, but I love the acoustics at The Seneca casinos. Outdoors, things can get tough if the wind whips the sound around or it gets too loud and bounces off the buildings.

There is only one artist I can honestly say that I had a preference whether I saw them indoors or out, that was The Grateful Dead. For some reason I enjoyed them a lot more when they played an arena and not so much when they played outdoor stadiums.

So which do I prefer? Strange enough, it doesn’t necessarily depend on the band, it depends on the weather.

Thom Jennings writes a weekly column on the music scene for Sunday Lifestyle. Email him at