pWdumaNjA-6CEEBhRoD5euxNETs When All This Actual Life Played Out: Good-bye, Irvine Meadows

29 October 2016

Good-bye, Irvine Meadows



Cheap Trick from the cheap seats
Irvine Meadows Amphitheater
Irvine, California
29 July 2010

This makes me genuinely sad. The Irvine Company is closing Irvine Meadows Amphitheater. The last shows are this weekend.

(See also: completely enraged, but I'm always mad at the Irvine Company.)

 They're building more houses, which is exactly what bloated, constipated Irvine needs. Cue "Subdivisions." And how they can bring more people in while we're in the midst of the sixth year of drought. But I digress.

I've been trying to remember how many shows I've seen at Irvine Meadows. Rush, many times; REM, at least once; X, back in their heyday in the 1980s; Pacific Symphony, at least a dozen times since we've lived in Orange County. Aerosmith and Cheap Trick. Coldplay. And so on.

(This isn't the first popular concert venue to bite the dust. Universal Amphitheater was demolished to make room for Harry Potter. I saw Linda Ronstadt there. REM, multiple times. Rush. Moody Blues. CSN. And so on. The Sports Arena, where I saw U2 on the Joshua Tree tour, is also half down.)



 The kids' first rock concert
14 July 2004

But back to Irvine Meadows (always Irvine Meadows, even when it was Verizon Wireless. You could tell a noob or out of towner...they didn't know to call it Irvine Meadows).

The first show I saw there--a very, very long time ago--was Jackson Browne. Some friends dragged me along for the ride. We were on the lawn. (The lawn. Oh. My. God. The race for the best spots on said lawn. The steepness of said lawn. The dampness of said lawn. The climb to said lawn. What other people were doing on said lawn. When Coldplay played part of their set on said lawn. Oh, the lawn. I didn't sit there often. Just often enough.)

Honestly, I was pretty bored that first show. Except there were lions. Yes, lions. An attraction called Lion Country Safari was just behind the venue, and you could hear the lions roaring throughout the show. It was epic. Of course, it was also epic when Jackson was singing "Running on Empty," stopped, announced, "I forgot the fucking words," and then after a pause, resumed.

I dragged as many of my friends and fellow concert aficionados to Irvine Meadows as I could. "It's the best venue," I would tell them. The people playing there always seemed to enjoy it, too. With the exception of the pit, which was a pit, and maybe the lawn, because lawn, there really wasn't a bad seat. And when we went to the summer symphony series, you could bring in a picnic. The kids still remember listening to the symphony doing Loony Tunes music while eating homemade chocolate cake, as the spouse and I sipped our coffee in the cooling evening air.

I watched the moon rise many times over that stage. Later, much later, when a mall went up nearby, the brightly lit Ferris wheel illuminated the night too.

My kids learned to drive in Irvine Meadows' parking lot. We picnicked in Irvine Meadows' parking lot. Ran into people we knew in Irvine Meadows' parking lot. Stood around and talked in Irvine Meadows' parking lot until security chased us out.

And the smell of swamp. The swamp. Oh. My. God. I guess it's part of San Diego Creek that runs through the venue, but whatever it is, it is wet. And filled with plants And smelly. I will never forget that smell, which was bad, sort of, but memorable, vegetal and a harbinger of good things yet to come. So, I smell that smell, and I gag, but also think "concert!" And the damp rising up, cool on warm summer nights. I get goose bumps thinking about it. Because there were times, after a hot day, that I had real ones. And I always wanted to dance down that silly, swampy path. Sometimes I did.

I got filmed entering the gates. I got filmed exiting the gates. I was handed samples of soft drinks. I was given CDs. My daughter once got patted down by security in case I'd tried to conceal contraband on her small person. (SERIOUSLY?)

The concrete bunkers that served as restrooms. The old red seats (that I rarely actually sat in, unless it was Pacific Symphony). Remembering to be patient with the nice staff trying to tell me where my seat was because I knew where my seat was, thank you, been there a million times. The weird concessions. The spouse would always stop for a beer, but I eschewed it all. Of course. Especially the symphony box dinners after a really disastrous and inedible set of meals (thank you, Bristol Farms).

The sound. It's a natural amphitheater. The sound was brilliant.


 
Pacific Symphony performing the score to Pirates of the Caribbean
1 September 2012

"Ode to Joy" rising through the air. Pyrotechnics, cannon and fireworks and "The 1812 Overture" played by both the symphony and a rock band. Laughing at the irony of "Subdivisions" and "Los Angeles."

Lions.

I had to leave Los Angeles the day after I saw X, off to pursue my master's degree elsewhere with no plan to return. But return I did. And the only paltry comfort in being exiled behind The Orange Curtain in the late 1990s was that Irvine Meadows was closer. Because I loved going there. And at the start of every season, I would peruse the list of shows, hoping there would be a reason to go there. But not anymore.

For a couple of years, my office was down the street, and I would bicycle past Irvine Meadows on my way home. Before they closed the tree lot next door to the venue, we'd pick out our Christmas tree there every year, and while the kids would dodge in and out of the trees, I'd look up at the banks of empty red seats, letting my eyes sweep across the different sections I'd sat in over the years (and the lawn), a wholly different perspective, thinking about the shows and the people who'd been with me through all those years.

Damn you, Irvine Company, and your greed. Pave paradise...

But I have memories. Oh, do I have memories. And they won't be building any apartments there.

Tech stuff: Taken with a variety of phone cameras.
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