Almost every time I drive on I-30 through the Fair Park area, I see signs for the Starplex. The deal is, the Starplex was renamed the Smirnoff Music Centre a few years ago. So, why are the Starplex signs still up? I don't know. I've only been to the place once, but I believe Starplex signs are still up all the way to the venue. Despite putting up all sorts of new highway signs for better visibility in the last year, the old brown Starplex signs remain.
In my time as a Dallas resident, I have never ventured out to the place. Big acts, from Rascal Flatts to Def Leppard, play there and I have no desire to go out to see acts like this. The venue itself is open air with a grassy lawn area in the back, thus making it a full blown shed. Though I've only been there once in my life, I remember the Smirnoff as being almost exactly like the Woodlands Pavilion in Houston (a place I went to many times in high school and college). Some of the most memorable ones I saw at the Pavilion were Radiohead opening for R.E.M. in '95, the Foo Fighters in '97 and Radiohead in '01. Good shows, but not as powerful as when I've seen shows in much smaller venues.
The biggest beef I have with open-air venues like this is the echo factor. If you're on the lawn, what you're seeing live is out of sync with what you're hearing. Watching the video screen above, the experience isn't that much different than watching a concert on DVD. Adding more insult is the price just to go. Nevermind the outrageous prices for parking, but add on the service charge and the cost of the actual ticket, I might as well buy an Xbox 360 with the amount I'd spend on two shows.
I can't say this enough, but small shows are way more fun for me. Last night's show at the Meridian Room with the Happy Bullets and the Tah-Dahs was a nice reminder of the many reasons why. Standing in breathing distance from the band members, this reminded me of how the level between performer and audience is the same. These people are people I see at parties, the kickball field and at bars. Last night I realized that the kind of community found in hardcore and punk isn't just in hardcore and punk circles.
Singing along with the Bullets' "A Proper Rifle Assembly" line of "We all get hurt/and we all get up/and we all move on" rang even more with me given what's been going through my mind as of late. With the Tah-Dahs set, seeing Roy go through four guitars because he kept breaking strings was awesome. On top of that, seeing them play a song I yelled out ("Alcoholic") and getting to play on it (the Happy Bullets' bells were still set up, so I played the brief bell accompaniment) was even better.
The Meridian Room is a mere ten minutes away from the Smirnoff Centre. I don't see any signs pointing in the direction of the Centre around there, but maybe I just haven't seen them. While people claim to not mind about dropping $60-80 to see some pop group at the Smirnoff, last night's show was a reminder of how even a free show could make more of an impact on me.