The ten greatest jam-band meccas
For many jam band fans, traveling and seeing concerts goes hand in hand. Often when a favorite band announces its tour, folks will scan the tour dates and choose which dates to go to depending on which venue they are booked at. From giant outdoor summer sheds to intimate houses, here are the ten greatest places that hold special moments of jam band history.
10. Bethel Woods Center for the Arts - Bethel, New York
Located on the 1969 site of the original Woodstock festival, this idyllic venue gets people to travel to upstate New York regularly in the summer for music, camping and the arts. The area, which seems delightfully stuck in a simpler era, is absolutely worth the gas money. An on-site museum has exhibits highlighting the significance and impact of Woodstock on society and popular culture. The outdoor venue holds 15,000 with the lawn, and Phish, Furthur and Dave Matthews Band have all played here. Hard to believe there was once over 400,000 people here at once.
9. Oak Mountain Amphitheatre - Pelham, Alabama
The largest outdoor venue in Alabama, Oak Mountain Amphitheatre is a must in the summer, especially for Widespread Panic fans. The band has been playing there since 1990, and although it had a rough year in 2002 when local law enforcement went after people in "Operation Don't Panic," overall, there has always been a very together and communal vibe here. The layout of the stage is such that the band feels like they are right there with you in the bowl, and bands tend to play high energy scorchers year after year here.
8. Klipsch Music Center - Noblesville, Indiana
Formerly known as Deer Creek Music Center, this large outdoor theater has seen some major summer heaters played under its pavilion, the most famous being when the Grateful Dead played here in 1995. The sleepy cornfield Indiana town was inundated with Deadheads, far more than predicted, and some fans took the liberty of storming the back fence during "Desolation Row," causing the next night's show to be canceled. Regardless of that bit of negative history, bands play really, really well here; claustrophobic summer heat and sporadic Midwest storms just add to the experience.
7. Gathering of the Vibes - Bridgeport, Connecticut
In 1996, a memorial party for Jerry Garcia was thrown, and it proved to be so successful that the next year, it was organized as a festival. Named Gathering of the Vibes, the event has been thrown annually, getting larger through the years. Various Grateful Dead members have played the festival, and Wavy Gravy has been the master of ceremonies since 2002. So you know you are in the right place if you're a Deadhead. Set in various beautiful New England locations -- with this year edition being held at Seaside Park in Bridgeport, Connecticut -- this is as close as you can get to a what life would be like in a world inhabited by Deadheads.
6. Beacon Theater - New York, New York
The Beacon Theater has perfect acoustics and a gorgeous but worn interior. The Allman Brothers played a run here every spring called "The Beacon Run." Showing up every year from 1989-2010 to play multiple night throw downs to adoring sold out crowds, the band even released a movie that was filmed here, Live at the Beacon Theater, in 2003. For its fortieth anniversary in 2009, the band lengthened the run and played for three weeks, with Eric Clapton joining on stage to play some Derek and the Dominos tunes.
5. Shoreline Amphitheatre - Mountain View, California
Shoreline Amphitheatre was built in 1986 on a former landfill. Legendary promoter Bill Graham designed the venue to resemble the Grateful Dead "Steal Your face" logo, and the rows were set up to have ample room for dancing. The Grateful Dead's View from the Vault, Volume Three live album was recorded here, and Neil Young's Bridge School Benefit is hosted here every October, featuring acoustic performances from music legends like Bob Dylan and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. In its opening season, Shoreline reportedly had many small fires due to the mix of people lighting their cigarettes and the methane leaking from an underground waste pocket in the soil. The problem was quickly fixed and just adds to an interesting history.
4. The Gorge - George, Washington
It takes a bit of traveling to get out to the Gorge, but once you do, majestic vistas lay before you, and it's pretty much a total free for all. The giant Shakedown Street builds a trade-friendly community here with every concert or festival, and the place also attracts the cream of the crop of Shakedown food vendors. Days spent swimming and taking in the view can lead to emotions that run stronger than just "Hell yeah, I'm having a blast at a concert." Things get intensified.
3. Red Rocks Amphitheatre - Morrison, Colorado
This natural open-air amphitheatre is built into huge Red Rocks that are said to be the possible former spiritual center of the Ute tribe. The pre-show parking lot scenes at Red Rocks are vibrant, rock and roll tailgating at its finest. The legendary venue has been a favorite of countless jam bands over the years, including the Grateful Dead and Widespread Panic, who holds the record for most sold-out shows here with 42.
2. Hampton Coliseum - Hampton, Virgina
Nicknamed "The Mothership" because of its unique exterior, this venue is a favorite among jam band fans for its all general admission seating. If there is one thing many jam band fans like, it's the freedom to move around a venue, thus creating a very flowing and community like energy. Many live albums have been recorded here, and parts of Elvis's 1972 concerts here were used in the Elvis on Tour documentary. Phish played its reunion shows here in 2009 to an insanely excited crowd. The video is goosebump-inducing; just listen to the excitement and fanaticism.
1. The Fillmore, San Francisco
The Fillmore in San Francisco is a legendary house that saw the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Santana and pretty much anyone else you can think of that was influential in the mid and late '60s psychedelic scene, all under the careful and meticulous watch of impresario Bill Graham. In 1968, he moved to a new venue and named it Fillmore West, keeping the same vibe going in the new address. Swirling light projections, a bouncy dance floor, mind-blowingly well crafted concert posters and free apples make this place the cream of the crop, and is still a must visit venue for any live concert fan.
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