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Navigating the White River Amphitheatre
With origins murkier than a malfunctioning stage fog machine at a progressive rock show, ConcertGuy is an enigma.
Some claim he entered the world 45 years ago, having escaped his mother's womb on a muddy field in Woodstock, N.Y. even as Jimi Hendrix was closing out that infamous rock festival with his blistering take on "The Star-Spangled Banner".
No way, others argue, he is older, blinking into existence at a Mississippi Delta crossroads in the 1930s, spawned by the unholy joining of the blues, Appalachian country and jazz.
And still others claim ConcertGuy is just some middle-aged dude from North Dakota.
All we know is we call him (pause for dramatic effect here) ... ConcertGuy. And he knows his stuff.
Whatever his origins, one thing is certain — ConcertGuy knows his stuff.
His first concert outings were in the early 1980s, when his parents introduced him to live music at shows by Roy Orbison, The Mamas & the Papas and The Beach Boys. As soon as he was old enough he began to hit shows, starting with Rush's "Singles" tour in 1983 at the San Diego Sports Arena.
Now with attendance at nearly 1,000 concerts of all genres under his belt, ConcertGuy knows the ins and outs of venues large and small, as well as a list of dos-and-don'ts to keep you rocking and rolling without a hitch in your headbang.
On July 19, Journey and The Steve Miller Band hit the White River Amphitheatre, selling out the 20,000-seat venue and clogging traffic in and out of the area. For some attendees, multi-hour waits in concert traffic on the two-lane State Route 164 resulted in late arrivals, with many missing the Steve Miller Band and some arriving just in time to listen as Journey finished its set. The situation repeated itself this past Sunday at the Mötley Crüe and Alice Cooper shows.
Many blamed the Amphitheatre for poor management and wretched organization in the venue's parking lot. Open spots were scarce by the time the doors opened, and several people claimed they had bought VIP parking only to find the lot full. They even blamed the City of Auburn and the Washington State Department of Transportation for allowing the Muckleshoot Tribe to open the Amphitheatre without upgrading SR 164.
The reality is that proper planning before a show can negate a lot of disorganization.
ConcertGuy recommends not being just another sheep in the herd but finding another way besides SR 164 to get to the venue.
For instance, if you're coming from the south, try SR 410 through Buckley and Enumclaw instead. The route to the Amphitheatre is clearly marked, with a left-handed run off the highway just after the White River Bridge putting you on track to catch SR 164 going west.
A quick entrance via Gate 3, and in no time you'll be watching your favorite band.
If you're coming from the north, try bypassing SR 164 by taking SR 169 through Renton, Maple Valley, Black Diamond and Enumclaw, where it meets SR 164. It's a bit farther in miles but should save you time. And hey, it's a pretty drive.
But above all, leave early. Give yourself some time. If you're like ConcertGuy, you rush around all week trying to finish work for the day job, then rush to get to a venue to relax and watch a show. You don't need that stress.
And when you get to the venue, just remember to be nice. Members of the parking staff aren't professional car parkers. The bulk of them are young adults just earning a few extra bucks during the summer to help guide traffic. Don't expect them to work miracles.
A little empathy and understanding will make them more receptive to go out of the way to help you.
Hopefully, when the show is over and it's time to leave, you'll be so relaxed by your musical experience that you have an extra reservoir of patience. You'll need it.
Getting in out of the parking lot is a chore, and there is simply no way to move 10,000 cars out of the lot through a mere three exits and down a two-lane highway efficiently. Should there be more exits and a wider highway? Yes. Are there? No, and there likely won't be anytime soon, no matter how loud you squawk.
ConcertGuy recommends doing what he does, and that's packing a few goodies and getting your tailgate done after the show. Sure, you could be there awhile, but hey, you're still basking in the glow of seeing (insert your favorite band name here) live, right?
That covers coming and going, the two most stressful phases of attending a show at the White River Amphitheatre.
Among the other complaints most often heard are the high cost of food and beverages, and the wait time for the aforementioned.
ConcertGuy recommends eating before the show. It's cheaper and less time consuming to grab a burger in Bonney Lake or Auburn and scarf it down before coming into the venue.
If you're the type who insists that quaffing a $9 beer is crucial to the concert experience, just remember to bring your ID and check if you need a wristband. Some shows require you to wait in line for a wristband then wait in a line for your drink. If you mix these up and waste precious time waiting for a drink before you've waited for the wrist band, you may be a little upset.
Hopefully, these few tips will enhance your experience at the Amphitheatre. It's not perfect, but hey, neither are you. And having a world-class music venue just miles away, rather than halfway across the state, like the Gorge Amphitheatre, is a good thing right?
ConcertGuy is actually Auburn Reporter photographer/journalist Shawn Skager, who is fortunate enough to get the opportunity to shoot rock stars for his paper ... when Mötley Crüe's management says it's OK.