Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Free outdoor music around the region

The number of free outdoor concerts offered around the region helps answer the question raised recently by a newcomer of whether there’s enough to do around Charlotte. On a weekend evening in the summertime, you’ve got plenty of options if you like live music.

Of course, some of them involve sitting on a concrete shopping center plaza, which may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but my experience is that most of these settings are pleasant. Here’s the article and list.

For research, I sampled five outdoor concerts in four days. I started at Center City Alive After Five last Thursday; Stonecrest at Piper Glen, near Ballantyne, Friday; Birkdale Village in Huntersville Saturday; Juneteenth Festival of the Carolinas, an annual celebration in Independence Park in Elizabeth, Sunday afternoon; and the Charlotte Symphony Summer Pops concert at SouthPark Sunday evening.

The weather was absolutely gorgeous at every occasion, which was a surprise – often these events have to contend with blazing heat or a rainstorm.

The crowds at Stonecrest and Birkdale were similar, mostly family-dominated. Center City was more of a youngish professional crowd. Juneteenth, which is an annual celebration of the end of slavery, was a predominantly family crowd with African-themed merchandise for sale at many vendors; there was gospel playing at one stage and rap at a second one.

At Pops, the funniest sight was a toddler from the next blanket over who grabbed an umbrella I’d brought and pretended it was a weed-whacker – complete with vigorous sound effects as the symphony played.

A friend, a five-year Charlotte area resident who attended Pops for the first time, shared her impressions:

“My thought was that it is a lovely way to enjoy music and the setting makes it perfect for young kids to come get exposure as well (something that my beloved Hollywood Bowl in L.A. didn’t facilitate). Had a great, festive communal spirit. Great people watching, and I saw some impressive picnic setups.

The tips for newcomers: Don’t sit by the speakers or over too close to the pond where it kind of smells unpleasant. Come early on Sunday – but not before 10 a.m. – to set your blanket out for prime viewing (but don’t use stakes or the gravel from the path to weight it down, as that’s a no-no). Do remember the mosquito candles and your wine bottle opener!”

What’s your best or funniest outdoor concert experience? E-mail me at Ldyer@charlotteobserver.com and I’ll post some of them here.


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