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There are few things better than seeing a great band put on a terrific show. But traffic, congestion, parking hassles, crowds,
high ticket prices, hipsters, long bathroom lines, funky smells, tall people standing in front of you... these are things I can do
Once upon a time, however, there was a music venue in Nashville that gave us an alternative to being crammed into these tiny
sweat boxes... a venue where you could breathe fresh air... a venue where the stars reigned supreme.
Yep, on more than one occasion at Starwood Amphitheatre, I took a break from the music and gazed up at the heavens, trying
to identify constellations. Sure beats gazing at the walls of a club and trying to identify the bodily fluids.
Starwood wasn't perfect. There were traffic issues, high concession prices, fisticuffs now and then, vehicles stuck in mud... but
at least it was outside. Don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise: everything is better outside.
I can't remember the first concert I saw at Starwood. It might have been the Monkees reunion show. I dunno, it doesn't
matter. The point is, I enjoyed nearly every concert I attended at Starwood -- mainly because I was outside. Opening band
suck? No problem. Just go for a stroll. Or do some people-watching. Or roll down the grassy hill. Or walk out back and hang
with friends. Or catch fireflies. Or play in the dirt. Or just simply sprawl out on your blanket and gaze at the stars.
Music under the stars on a warm summer night... back in those days, it didn't get much better.
A few years ago when I was feeling particularly cheap, a friend and I drove over to Starwood during Ozzfest. We parked in the
lot, sat on the hood of my car, and listened to the recently reunited Black Sabbath. We didn't actually see them, we just heard
them -- and they sounded mighty devilish. A cheap (free!) afternoon of musical entertainment from a heavy metal parking lot...
something you could only do at Starwood.
Alice in Chains, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Drive-By Truckers, Rage Against the Machine, Emmylou Harris, Dinosaur Jr.,
Ozzy Osbourne, Fishbone, Radiohead, Steve Miller Band, The Replacements, Primus... just a few of the acts I saw at
Starwood. I even saw a Pink Floyd laser show there. But probably my fondest memory was R.E.M in the summer of '95.
R.E.M. had long been one of my favorite bands, and this was my one opportunity to see the former club band put on a "big"
show outdoors. It was rainy night, but I was under the pavilion for this one. It wouldn't have mattered; I would have happily
gotten soaked, as many in the crowd did. Hearing Peter Buck's ringing guitar and Mike Mills' haunting background vocals
echo through the night air while the thunder rumbled overhead was, somehow, a perfect combination. Heavenly, even. And
when an explosion of lightning lit up the sky during "Man On the Moon", I started wondering if Andy Kaufman himself was in
charge of the proceedings. A night I'll never forget. It would've never happened that way in a Nashville sweat box.
Okay, maybe I'm being too hard on local clubs and other music venues. I have seen some amazing shows at Nashville clubs
and concert halls. The Basement, for instance, is a great live music venue. And I still kinda miss 328 Performance Hall, where
I saw the late great Uncle Tupelo. Granted, there are some bands whose music works much better in an intimate club setting
rather than a vast outdoor space. But my favorite place is the great outdoors, and that's where I prefer to see and hear my
music, too. It's just a personal thing. Perhaps, for me, it just seems like a natural extension of back porch picking -- but
without the screen door.
To this day, every time I drive down Murfreesboro Road and pass the empty lot where Starwood once stood, the memories
come flooding back... Rob Halford riding his Harley onstage during a Judas Priest encore... a rain-drenched crowd singing
along to R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the World As We Know It" ... a local media celebrity dancing with wild abandon during a Steve
Winwood song... Lollapaloozers banging their heads in unison to Alice in Chains... and, last but not least, those stars. Those
bright, beautiful stars. I long to sit on a hillside in Nashville and listen to some tunes and see those shimmering stars once
Starwood Amphitheatre, we're sorry we took you for granted. Please come back soon. Those warm, starry summer nights
haven't been the same without you...
Jason Allen is a motion picture screenwriter and park naturalist living in Nashville, Tennessee
|Music Under The Stars By Jason K. Allen
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