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This week I went out to Ravinia to see Alison Krauss and Robert Plant.

I was SO excited, as I adore these two artists and had heard great things about Ravinia as a venue. I am sorry to report however that is was quite a miserable experience and I would not, if drug kicking and screaming, patronize Ravinia again.

The show was on a Wednesday night, so T and I took the first train out of the city (which was packed with people who seemed determined to pump as much alcohol into themselves as possible before even arriving at the park). We arrived with well over two hours to spare before the show and tried to weather the rather harsh crowds with grace.

It was much harder to be graceful however, when we realized that despite our early arrival, there was no space on the lawn for us even though Ravinia had gladly taken my money for lawn seats. We walked about for a long time looking for any tiny bit of space to claim. It was hard not to notice the groups that were already there; small groups taking up huge amounts of space on 25 square foot Persian rugs that they had set out in recreations of elaborate dining halls. While they lounged in elegance, we continued to scout and were told condescendingly that we could not share any of their area.

Finally we ended up sitting in a flower bed. I kid you not...IN the flower bed. Normally I enjoy an opportunity to get close to plants and green friends, but I was more than bitter about being smashed up against a chain link fence, with no comfortable space to sit or lie and with my legs lying in dirt and gravel.

We made the most of it and had a nice picnic and conversation. We could not see the stage at all, but I contented myself with the knowledge that I would soon be able to let the music wash over me while gazing at the stars, and that would be enough.

That was until I realize that we could not HEAR the music either. Since our spot was not on the lawn proper, there were no speakers aimed at it - and so the music was barely more than ambient noise behind the conversations of the crowd. I could not make out lyrics, I could not pick out the details of the instrumentation...nada.

What could we do? We stayed for most of the show (though we skipped the encores, I mean what was the point?) and proceeded to the train. Again, due to Ravinia over-booking the show, this too was a harrowing experience and I'm honestly surprised someone did not get killed or seriously harmed in the crush.

I was so disappointed, and I really felt that Ravinia had cheated me out of $50. So I decided to write them a note the next day to let them know about our experience.

I received a very glossy, PR response that condescendingly let me know that Ravinia has a capacity policy (so the show could not possibly have been over-sold), and that had I sat on the lawn like I was supposed to, then I would have been able to hear the music fine. I was also told that had I gotten to the park earlier, then I would have had space on the lawn. To be fair, they did offer me free tickets for my inconvenience.

Instead of taking the tickets, I responded and brought up what I felt were valid points about seating capacity. How can you determine seating capacity by ticket sales when you allow parties of 6 to take up 30 square feet of space? How can you have a show on a week night and not let patrons know that they need to skip their day jobs and arrive at the park more than 3 hours early?

It gets harder and harder for me to enjoy these types of events. The sheer mass of garbage they produce alone turns my stomach (you should have seen the piles of plastic bottles and other waste that were everywhere). The prices, the over-consumption, the "get so drunk you puke on your neighbor" mentality - they don't work for me and I wonder if I've become a freaky, extremist, stick-in-the-mud. But when I looked around, I couldn't help be see atrocious classism. In those hundreds of people, I did not see one person who was not white - and the level of affluence displayed by most seemed more than gratuitous. I didn't feel, as a working person on a budget, that Ravinia valued or even welcomed me or people like me and I really don't want to give companies like that my money, time or energy.

Now I've already been told by 10 folks that seeing classical music out there is a totally different experience and I hear you. And yes, I love live music and yes, I love classical music. But I don't think I can do it...I don't think I can patronize a company that so obviously caters only to the elite and does not care at all about the quality of their product or the well being of their customers.

I believe that art should transcend issues of class, not reinforce them, and I'll just keep on slumming with other real folks at more conscientious venues like Old Town.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 20th, 2008 09:23 pm (UTC)
Ew. Gods, that sounds positively awful, and what a disappointment. Good for you for taking it up with the venue.

I hear what you say about class issues, too. It seems like most forms of "big-name" entertainment (concerts, Broadway-type theatre, etc) have become priced so high into the stratosphere that it naturally segments by class. Wait a minute...if you have a huge venue instead of a tiny club, shouldn't you be able to charge *less* for tickets?? (economy of scale and all)

The Bank of America Pavilion venue in Boston was much more pleasant, but I have to admit that I, too, cringed when I saw the amount of garbage, with no recycling containers in sight. I tend to take stuff home in those circumstances and recycle there, but of course that's a drop in the (non-recycled plastic) bucket.

I also note that the AK/RP concert was only the second time in five years that we've gone into Boston for a concert -- especially given the fuel involved, etc, I'd most often rather go right nearby. The Lebanon Opera House has a full slate of talented artists (Natalie MacMaster just played, for instance), and I'd usually rather give my $$ to a local group - localvores for local art! :)

But anyway, wow, that sucks. Your reaction sounds perfectly understandable to me, I'd probably feel the very same way.
Jun. 20th, 2008 09:47 pm (UTC)
Yeah, seeing Aretha Franklin at Ravinia was awful. Most of the other experiences I've had were very pleasant, though, with plent of space to stretch out. Usually they were classical or otherwise "unsexy" things--Phillip Glass and such.

I know my old company was planning on sending a huge contingent there, and I know they're drunken assholes, so I can just cringe on your behalf.
Jun. 20th, 2008 10:00 pm (UTC)
I'm very sorry to hear that you had such a bad experience. My history with Ravinia has been very different. The outdoor concerts I went to were a few years ago, one to see Bette Midler and one to see the Indigo Girls, and although I sat on the lawn both times, I could hear the performers easily and my nearest neighbors were pleasant people. And I've enjoyed the indoor concerts there even more, but those were performances of classical a capella music, rather than a soloist or a band. Completely different experiences.

I know that I haven't addressed the issue of class at all, but I wanted to put in my two cents as someone who has been to outdoor concerts at Ravinia and had a good time. And I hope that you might give them another try some day, if an artist who you really enjoy chooses them as their Chicago venue.
Jun. 21st, 2008 11:26 am (UTC)
The only time I've been to Ravinia was to see John Williams. I went with my Chicago Star Wars fan club. We found a spot on the lawn, but we were definitely the odd ducks out. We had blankets, but no Persian carpets with candelabra and full china table service. We had a cake with a lightsaber duel. We were also constantly told to move in and take up less space, when our Persian carpet neighbors weren't disturbed, and we had probably 5 times as many people per square foot as they did. Ah, but we didn't have silver table service, only a star wars cake, so we were fair game.

The way I feel about recycling these days, if I'd had my van there I would have packed it full of recyclables to drop off at a center :p

Actually, I did that at the recent pagan picnic thing I went to last weekend--people had mixed recyclables into the trash, so I found myself digging through the trash to separate them out, and take away the recycling. I tell you, I am one sexy trash-digging pagan chick. Makes all the pagan boys hot to see me rooting through the trash.
Jun. 23rd, 2008 04:48 am (UTC)
Makes all the pagan boys hot to see me rooting through the trash.

*lol* Lovin' the earth makes ya hot. Rock on with your bad reclyclin' self.
Jul. 4th, 2008 05:00 am (UTC)
Preach it, Sister! Your comments mirror my thoughts exactly. My husband and I took our 18 and 19 year old daughters to this event. It was a truly harrowing experience! Not at all what I had anticipated based on previous experience at Ravinia. There is no way they can say they did not over sell this event. Their response to your complaint makes this so much worse. I kept telling my husband we would go back there for a less popular event this summer and do it right this time...arrive early...bring our own food/beverages but you know what? eff them! I know they will not miss my working class family and friends but at least I feel better.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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