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Monday, May 29, 2006

A Proper Rifle Assembly

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.

5 comments:

swirly girl said...
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swirly girl said...

Hey, I totally agree with you about smaller venues. I can't count how many times I've actually said: "____ is coming to town? Sweet! Where are they playing at? ... huh. No thanks."

Which is sad, because there are bands I never got to see because of that.

Have a good week.
-sg

Treblephone said...

That WAS a great show. Nice to see you as well. [And, yes, I saw your stint on bells. :)]

I saw Brian Wilson at Starplex [I refuse to call it Smirnoff] in the front row. He looked scared as hell, and for once, I almost wished I hadn't been in the front row.

Many moons ago, I saw Joan Jett and Robert Plant there....and went into an allergy fit. Sneezed the entire show. Another reason not to go there!

jen said...

i have very mixed feelings about large venues like starplex or american airlines center. thw whole concerts vs. shows concept. the bulk of my early concert-going experience consisted of edgefests and lollapaloozas at starplex. and they were fun as hell. some artists are suited for a larger audience like that, and if i like them enough (or just feel a desire to see them like the fleetwood mac show) then i'm going to go, even if it's a big place. there are pros and cons to the big vs. small venue thing. example:

i've seen the cure several times. as have many people. i saw them at deep ellum live (a very small venue for such a band) and starplex to name two. both times i was located at what would be the equivalent of about the 5th row. and i loved them both equally. BUT, i must say, the complete awe i felt at the starplex show, just seeing the insane amount of people, all there, for the same reason. there's something to be said about sharing in an event with several thousand people who love something as much as you do.

Kev said...

Actually, the Starplex signs are correct on occasion: Whenever the majority of the audience of a specific show is expected to be under the legal drinking age (Aaron Carter, Billy Gilman, [insert name of latest teen idol here]), Smirnoff's licensing agreement with the city requires it to revert to the Starplex name. This was at least the case when the name-change first took place, and I'm pretty sure that's still accurate.

And yeah, I haven't been to the place in years, but I do have one good memory: The only time in my life I ever got to see Miles Davis perform live was at a jazz festival at Starplex when I was in college.