Up holler in Virginia visiting my brother John, last night, he, his wife Amy and I journeyed to the Charlottesville Pavilion for an evening with local guitar wunderkind, Jamal Millner and Comrades. Hence, I missed the opening night at the Raleigh Amphitheater/Connells’ show. This is to provide some comparisons with here versus the current “there” of Raleigh.
With regard to our new amphitheater, I have been watching the venue’s progress through the filter of a decade or so of stagehand, theater and audiovisual/film/video production work.
I must admit to certain dismay when the term “finished” became associated with what looked to me to be no more than a sloped, treeless parking lot. I let that roll until this morning upon learning at the inaugural show Budweiser sweetened the pot in their goal of attaining naming rights by charging 4 bucks for a water. Along with irritation and disbelief, the parallel that unbidden sprang to mind was some mystic connection between Raleigh and the guy in Cedarville, Georgia who managed to shoot himself in the foot three times while cleaning three handguns … déjà vu over and over (apologies to Yogi Berra).
In comparison to the mixed reports filtering out of Raleigh, my night at the pavilion was a delight. Millner took the stage with a bass player, keyboard, drummer and a gal vocalist in possession of a voice a force of nature, playing to a mid-sized crowd that tarried, many out under the trees surrounding the venue — kids skipping rope, couples nuzzling in the cooling early evening air. Five bucks bought a Bud draft or good range of draft microbrews dispensed from a Bud truck. You see, although Bud Light has the franchise for a concert series, the Pavilion is simply known as the Charlottesville Pavilion. But the primary details distinguishing the Raleigh venue is that it resembles something NCSU would set up for a one day rock concert. By comparison, the Virginia example has necessary, integrated features one would expect in a first rate, permanent venue: an administration, green room, restroom facility, light-colored textured concrete floor and a permanent brick and concrete stage. But the most important detail that Raleigh’s outside venue lacks is a permanent cover, something perhaps akin to Charlottesville’s soaring, steel, tensile fabric canopy that gives everyone a covered seat.
Ok, it is a pricey item but one that separates a credible location for outdoor concerts from one that feels temporary and uninviting. I wrote this not to so much to point out the amphitheater’s obvious weaknesses but to try to elicit public interest in capital additions/improvements that will enable it (1) actually succeed and (2) live up to Raleigh’s status as a capital city. What we have is destined to become an also-ran when touring acts make their tour lists.