Sunday, July 5, 2009

The summer concert season

If you're seeking a great summer concert at an outdoor suburban arena, look no further than Chicago's South Side.

Although Bridgeview and Tinley Park aren't thought of as the city's typical suburbs (like Rosemont, home of the indoor Allstate Arena), they shouldn't be forgotten. Chicago itself may be known for its small and intimate venues, but big experiences are to be had in the aforementioned neighborhoods, which house Toyota Park and First Midwest Bank Ampitheatre, respectively.

Toyota Park is the Chicago Fire's soccer field, transforming into a 28,000-seat venue for concerts and other events. I recently joined a crowd of Top-40 kiddies there at the B96 Pepsi Summerbash, and previously got my jam band on with Dave Matthews Band last summer. Both were fun (if completely different) experiences.

The park recently celebrated its third birthday and you can tell -- one of the best things about it was its cleanliness. Others include the great view from every seat in the house (plus, in case you're sitting a little far back, a huge big screen behind the stage clearly depicts all the action).

Word to the wise: Don't buy into the neon wristband crowd for floor seats. The stadium seating actually provides a bit of a better view because it's raised, and you won't feel any closer to the performer by fighting to stand taller than the drunken idiots in front of you.

Upcoming shows: Windy City Wrestling Presents "Legends Under the Stars" - July 10; Miller Lite Presents Bridgeview Music Fest: Country - July 24; Korn - July 31; Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band - Aug. 8 and 15; Phish - Aug. 11.

Here's a rundown of all other pertinent information, on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the worst:

Parking: 3
Traffic flow to and from event: 3
Seating/view: 5
Audio/video system: 5
Concessions: 4
Restrooms: 4

Overall: 4

Meanwhile, First Midwest Bank Ampitheatre (formerly known as Tweeter Center and World Music Theater), is a bit larger of an arena, popular for its cheap lawn seats and "rain or shine" status for events. I recently saw The Fray here with Jack's Mannequin, and it was a pleasing fan-filled time.

For the best seats, pay close attention to the "obstructed view" areas on the seating chart and plop yourself down at least a few feet away. I'd suggest the 200-level seats, which are usually mid-price and provide a happy medium between being up close to the stage action to being up high on the lawn. Try for tickets closer to section 205 as well -- the sun likes to set right in your eyes if you're more stage left.

Word to the wise: Tinley Park is a bit of a hike, whether it be from the 'burbs or the city. So if you're planning on attending a show here, make sure you give plenty of time for when parking opens as you'll want to get there early. The pre-teens directing traffic actually do know what they're doing.

Upcoming shows: No Doubt with Paramore - July 11; Def Leppard with Poison and Cheap Trick - July 17; Vans Warped Tour - Aug. 1; Brad Paisley with Dierks Bentley and Jimmy Wayne - Aug. 7; Blink-182 with Fall Out Boy - Aug. 15.

Again, the rundown:

Parking: 4
Traffic flow to and from event: 4
Seating/view: 3
Audio/video system: 4
Concessions: 3
Restrooms: 3

Overall: 3.5

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