Arts

The Volume of an Amphitheater

Syracuse’s Lakeview Amphitheater has been met with mixed reviews. How did it hold up for its first sold-out show?

The sun sets during the Dave Matthews Band concert. Photo by Christopher Malone

On June 22, Syracuse’s Lakeview Amphitheater welcomed its first sold-out show on its premises. Dave Matthews Band, a Virginia-based group, which came to fruition in the early ’90s, made its mark on central New York’s newest outdoor venue. Matthews made note of this himself, which enticed cheering from the crowd.

Aside the lead singer’s subtle ties to the state (Westchester, specifically), the prog rockers do favorite the upstate amphitheaters. Based off consistent region-wide sold-out shows, the adoration is definitely reciprocated.

However, similar to any concert and life in general: Nothing is perfect. Through word of mouth, media and guidelines set by Onondaga County what has resulted is a fervor of chatter and mixed reviews. For those who rely on social media (but shouldn’t), the venue has only 3 1/2 stars out of five on Facebook.

Being my first time at Lakeview Amphitheater, I’ve taken many of the hot topics into consideration:

Arrival, Departure: Smooth

We arrived early, around 5:30 p.m. Timing is everything, but it’s the luck of the draw at times. In this safe-than-sorry scenario, this benefited the 10 of us well. Having one VIP pass, one car ventured to the special lot. The others had to walk five minutes to meet up with the rest.

The downtown shuttle was met with positive reviews — I’ve heard nothing negative. After speaking with a few people about it, the transportation worked well.

After walking back to the farthest lot, we escaped in 15 minutes. Well done!

Walking Distance: Tolerable

In the words of comedian Steven Wright: “Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.” The distance from the venue. Yes, the distance is and does feel much longer than the walks compared to Saratoga or Canadiagua. However, it’s not a painfully long journey.

Yes, patrons walk through dust and rocks, and this does create a challenge for allergy-affected and wheelchair-bound individuals.

This is the first full season for the venue, so I’m giving Onondaga County the benefit of the doubt: It’s a work in progress. It’s not perfect yet.

On the way back, the feet-dragging crowd and dust-covered cars made life appear as a post-apocalyptic scene.

Tailgating: Allowed

All upstate amphitheaters have signage stating tailgating is not allowed. However, people do it anyway. In regard to Lakeview, this is to cover the county’s behind. No one gave us any hell, but this is because our group did not raise any hell. We sat in our chairs, ate, drank a couple beers and cleaned up after ourselves.

Other people ruin things: leave their trash around or dispose of it in the toilets.

Toilets: Okay

The quality of the port-o-johns were fine. They’re typical toilets, and smelled fine for the most part. However, they lacked in number, and the locations could have been better. Considering this sold-out show, over-prepared would have been better than under-prepared.

[Addendum: I did not opt for the bathroom facility due to location. A friend of mine constructively let me know I chose poorly. The facilities are convenient, clean and the best route to go.]

Lines are great spots to make conversation. I met a young fellow with an excitement for The Grateful Dead and Phish. Our music conversation was interrupted by a not-so-subtle duo of millennial females saying all men should just use the trees. (Where this may work at Saratoga, it won’t in the nearly tree-less Syracuse.) Coaxing the two of us to leave the line would have only moved them up two spaces to another long segment of women.

On the way into the venue, police and security walked through a field in a search for public pissers. With their yellow shirts and method, they were lions in the Serengeti looking for an opportunity to pounce.

Food and Beverages: Embarrassing

My recommendation: Fill your belly before entering, get a craft beer and milk it most of the evening. New York State Fair food: enjoy it if you love it; items will run you more than fair price. The two 20-ounce Empire brews — they gave me Saranac instead — cost me $33. My one beer lasted me the majority of the 2 1/2-hour show. (Aside Phish, expect no other act should play as long.)

I picked up two huge bottles of name brand water from a gas station, and they totaled $2.26 for both. Charging $4 or $5 for water is asinine. It would have been preferred to prevent any beverage from entering the gate and charging a buck or two for a bottle of water.

Aesthetic: Gorgeous

Being at the venue doesn’t feel like Syracuse. Looking out over the water and watching the sun set while a favorite band is playing adds up to a wonderful experience. It’s calming. It takes your mind off of the fact toxins may be entering your body or you may be sinking into the ground.

Sound (from the lawn): Meh.

I don’t want my eardrums blown out; however, I don’t want to be able to have a coherent conversation. Nor do I want hear neighboring conversations overpowering the music. At times the music sounded muffled, which left a lot of people scratching their heads. This was similar to people talking during a movie or comedy show.

When compared to SPAC, the lawn seat sound may not be as great, but a minor muffle does not deter me from attending again.

Dave Matthews Band: A-

The venue’s sound affected the score of the show, so let that be known. When it comes to a concert, the band and venue have to be held accountable.

The set list incorporated a variety of songs throughout their expansive catalog. None of the songs came from Stand Up, and only groove-heavy “When the World Ends” came from Everyday — both albums are lackluster.

New, unreleased tracks were incorporated into the mix — “Sugar Will,” Samaurai Cop” and “Break Free” to mix things up among a list including opener “Warehouse,” poignant “#41″ and a Boyd Tinsley violin takeover in”Lie in Our Graves.”

After ending the main set with a rightful homage to Prince with “Sexy M.F.,” the band provided a two-song encore with Remember Two Things favorites “The Song That Jane Likes” and “Tripping Billies.”

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