Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Pavilion

Going to see the Allman Brothers Band is a rare treat, and it’s one you should probably try to get each summer. Seeing the Allman Brothers Band and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on the same night is an opportunity that might not present itself again for quite some time. The two bands recently finished their summer run together on August 18 at the Tweeter Center in Camden, N.J., but not before playing the Post-Gazette Pavilion in Burgettstown, Pa.

Radio announcements informed fans that the $35 lawn tickets had completely sold out a few days before the August 16 show. Pavilion seat tickets were still available the night of the show, and the box office service fees brought the total price to about $90. Tickets were extremely hard to come by, and in fact were selling for well over their face value.

It was easy to make friends in the parking lot before the concert. It turned out that many of the night’s concertgoers had failed to find tickets, and decided to just tailgate instead. Parking was a good bit cheaper than buying a ticket, and the parking lot was loaded with cheap food, beer pong, and other fun things to do. During the intermission, I contemplated buying a $7 beer inside the pavilion, but after a fruitless search for a water fountain, I settled for a $3.50 bottle of water instead. The tailgate seems like a good alternative and a good way to save money in comparison.

The Allman Brothers Band played an incredible set. As I found my way into the large amphitheater, the Allman Brothers were in the midst of a screaming rendition of “Don’t Want You No More,” and as I got to my seat under the pavilion roof, they had started directly into “Not My Cross to Bear.” Derek Trucks was making his guitar sing and wail, as usual.
Post-Gazette Pavilion is a curious place. The lawn was hopping and dancing during the first set, particularly for the band’s covers of “Into the Mystic” and “The Weight.” The place really lit up for renditions of “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” and the closer, “Southbound.” I had a strong desire to get a little closer for the encore, and because I had a ticket for a seat in the pavilion, I expected no trouble going in. But as the band began “Midnight Rider,” I couldn’t help but to just dance right up the aisle and find some empty seats on the end of the row.

To my shock and amazement, I found I was disturbing some concertgoers behind me by standing and dancing. It seemed the woman behind me couldn’t see, and I got the impression she expected me to forfeit my right to dance. What I couldn’t understand was how anyone could manage to stay in their seat during the explosions of sound taking place on stage — I couldn’t keep myself still! Not long later, I was accosted by an usher and dragged from the pavilion. It seemed he was in agreement with the older lady behind me. At Post-Gazette Pavilion, the right to view the band while remaining in your seat overpowers your right to dance and move about.

What was still worse was the usher who removed me. He was getting really angry at this point, grabbing my arms and dragging me away as I tried to continue dancing. The supervisor, who we were happy to have the opportunity to speak with, explained to me in a hostile tone that we were dancing in the wrong place.

By the time Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers took the stage, I was pretty worn out and frustrated. I couldn’t believe that the employees of the venue would be so strict about the rules as to actually stop fans from dancing. All in all, I’d say that the rules of the venue, and the way I was treated by its employees, were a major detractor from the concert itself. I went from the extreme of joyful, uncontrollable dancing during the Allman Brothers Band to sitting dejectedly during Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

During his set, Tom Petty announced, “Someone backstage just told me that this is the most people that’s ever been in this place.” It comes as no surprise to me that Post-Gazette Pavilion had never managed to sell out the venue in the past. If it had not been for the phenomenal lineup of two popular and talented bands playing in the same night, it seems they would have continued in that failure. The venue reminds me of a theme park: Like Six Flags, Post-Gazette Pavilion is outrageously overpriced; everything from parking and admission down to beer, food, and bottles of water deals a major blow to the pocketbook. Furthermore, the regulations at the venue seem to protect stuffy old folks who just want to sit around from fans who want to dance and cut loose.

This year’s Allman Brothers show at Post-Gazette Pavilion was one of the best I’ve ever seen, and getting a dose of the Heartbreakers was just the icing on the cake. However, Post-Gazette Pavilion is not one of my favorite places to see a show in Pittsburgh. I don’t think I’ll be returning until I’m a boring old fart who’s tired of dancing and prefers sitting on his big fat wallet all night instead.