By Dante DeAmicis
I got a free ticket. How could I pass it up. Hoberg’s coughed and sputtered into action after 40 years of down time with back to back concerts, nostalgically billed as “Woodstock” and “Summer of Love.” My pass was for the shorter “Summer”, trotting out “Its a Beautiful Day”, “Cold Blood”, and “Elvin Bishop.”
Sunday I had breakfast in Kelseyville and bicycled up to the show. Up and over Bottle Rock with time to have a hot chai in Cobb. Then it was up to Hoberg’s ridge top resort where I chained my bike to the parking lot guard.
Lydia Spence from Cold Blood and everyone in Bishops band belted out a show. They were worth every dollar I didn’t pay. “Day” struck me as stiff and grumpy but a “Father Time” looking guy assured me they were like that in the 60’s too.
But this isn’t a music review. Its a venue review. These are tough times and its a tough sell to get people out of their high-tech cocoons. If a venue is going to charge for music they cannot make mistakes. And Hobergs made mistakes.
The outdoor concert space was a shallow trough opening to a mulched field, hugging Highway 175 so close that auto noise was a problem for the North side of the space.
The main deal killer was the location of the stage. I could see only one reason for wedging all the action in an armpit of the Highway and the tip of the trough – sideways no less. They wanted to be able to pack the entire open area with ticket buyers even if it meant sacrificing acoustics and comfort.
It turned out there was no reason for this trade off. The thin crowd was distributed in several “camps” on the sides where the shade was. Most of the VIPers preferred to set up lawn chairs on the shady upland side of the stage rather than cook in the sun on hard benches in front of the bands. Two thirds of the cheap seaters were dug in under an oasis of seven trees at the end of the trough. Several small clusters were clinging to the shade from the highway trees, engine noise and exhaust fumes be damned.
Outdoor concerts are supposed to have a solid audience in the center of the venue. Video of the performers from a distance would show a hard core three rows of VIP fans on benches against the stage and two rows of sun resistant cheap seaters huddled behind crime scene tape. The orange shirted security patrolling the vast empty field looked like the loneliest people in the world.
Since there was plenty of extra space, management needs to relocate the stage, sacrificing some of the unused wasteland. When I told Father Time, a veteran of countless outdoor shows, that the stage was in the wrong place he already knew where it should go – backed up against the bamboo fencing on the side of the wasteland. This would turn the area between the current stage and the VIP upland into a natural amphitheater. The oasis and the highway shade strip would be retained. Lose the principal-office-bad-boy benches in front of the stage. This is dance area. Keep them on the sides if you must.
The other visual blight is the cheap orange stanchions and yellow tape separating the ticket classes. Sorry, the center of the audience should not look like a construction project or a crime scene. I recommend a line of low sawhorses that band and event posters can be slapped on. Then, before the end of the first band, have staff and security grab a sawhorse and move the class barriers forward into the unused VIP void.
Other gripes are opening day nit picking with two exceptions. I’m assuming management has been told by many people that charging full ticket price for infants is Dickensian and won’t happen again. Right?
Finally, for some reason the organizers felt that having people drop over from dehydration would add to the excitement of the day. If they want to charge $2 for a bottle of water, fine. But let people bring water in or point them to a hose. Its against the law to deny a dog access to water.