15 tips for attending a concert at the Les Schwab Amphitheater
I’m lucky enough to attend nearly every concert booked at the Les Schwab Amphitheater, which I realize is pretty much the coolest job perk on the planet.
Last week, a guest at the Bend Visitor Center peppered me with questions about an upcoming concert, wondering what to bring, when to arrive, and which bra to throw at Lyle Lovett. It occurred to me that not everyone knows the ins and outs of the amphitheater named by Travel + Leisure as one of America’s coolest music venues.
Though we’re mid-way through what is arguably the best season of concerts ever booked in Bend, here are a few dos and don’ts to keep in mind anytime you’re hitting a show at the Les Schwab Amphitheater.
DO buy tickets in advance. Several concerts have sold out in 2015 including the Willie Nelson/Alison Krauss show and both Phish performances. If there’s a show you really want to see, check the concert lineup here and follow the links to buy tickets in advance. You can also buy them in person at the Ticket Mill in the Old Mill District, which is open daily during the summer months.
Many of the 2015 shows still have tickets available as of today (Thursday, July 16, 2015) including Pink Martini, Wilco, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Weird Al Yankovic, and Ben Harper (though I’m typing this reluctantly, since any of those shows could sell out at any time).
If you really want to plan ahead, make sure you’re following Visit Bend’s Facebook page. Each spring when the concert announcements start flying, we’re quick to tell you about upcoming performances and pre-sales.
DON’T buy from scalpers. Seriously, guys—that’s a recipe for getting hosed and losing your money.
DO hit Will Call instead of the Ticket Mill for last-minute tickets. If you decide to risk it and not purchase tickets ahead of time, you’ll score a slight discount if you hit the Will Call booth right outside the venue instead of the Ticket Mill outlet on the day of the event (though they’ll still cost slightly more than they would have if you’d bought in advance). Will Call opens at 4 p.m. just before each concert begins.
DON’T think you can lurk outside the venue and poach the show for free. Back in the early days of the Les Schwab Amphitheater, thrifty folks parked their lawn chairs on the sidewalk outside the venue so they could listen for free. Unsurprisingly, artists who’d busted butt to actually get paid for their talents did not appreciate this. Several complained to the powers-that-be, and the powers-that-be listened and banned the practice (totally do-able, since the Old Mill District is private property).
Despite some initial grumbling, a funny thing happened. The promoter for some super-duper-famous artists (*ahem* Dave Matthews Band and Jack Johnson) got wind of the new policy and called the Les Schwab Amphitheater folks. “So I see you’ve decided to start being a real venue,” he reportedly said. “In that case, we’d like to play there.”
That’s right, folks—all those big-name performers we’ve been seeing lately? Many of ‘em wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the ban on concert poachers. Respect the artists and their crews, pay your ticket fees, and enjoy the show.
DO get yourself a low-backed chair. This comes with the caveat that you first need to check the details page for your specific show, since some like this year’s sold-out Phish concerts don’t allow chairs and blankets.
But for most concerts, blankets, towels, and low-backed chairs are totally cool. Trust me, you want the chair. It’ll not only save your back, but it’ll keep you from getting stuck grumbling on your blankie while some tall guy in a sand chair plunks himself in front of you.
By low-backed chair, I mean no more than eight inches from the ground to the seat, and no more than 33 inches from the top of the chair to the ground. Save yourself the hassle of measuring (or getting turned away at the gate from the attendants who’ll definitely be measuring) and grab one of those Tommy Bahama chairs they sell at Costco. They’re cheap, sturdy, and easily recognizable to the attendants who’ll often wave you through without whipping out the yardstick.
DO expect to have your bag searched. This is part of the process when you enter the venue, along with having your chair measured. Make it easier on everyone by not bringing too much stuff, and by leaving any of the following items at home…
DON’T try to bring this stuff to the concert. Recording devices, drugs, weapons, cigarettes, outside food or drinks, umbrellas, Frisbees, or farm animals. And again, check the listing for your specific concert to find out if it’s one of the shows restricting things like strollers or chairs or blankets. You’ll also see the occasional performer who bans things like disposable water bottles for the sake of the environment. Just know before you go by checking here.
DO bring an empty, refillable water bottle. It can get hot out there, so I always pack my trusty Hydro Flask for any concert. You’ll find the drinking fountain straight ahead of the entrance, which makes it handy to fill up before the show starts. There are also plenty of vendors selling bottled water, or you can get through security with any sealed bottle of H20.
DON’T think Oregon’s new marijuana laws let you toke at a concert. Sorry, guys, but that’s not how it works. You can’t blaze up in public, so don’t even think about smuggling your joint into the venue. For more info on how the law works, go here.
DO check the weather before you go. Temperatures can drop quickly in the high desert, so even if it’s 80 degrees when you head to the venue at 5:30 p.m., it might be bitterly cold at the end of the encore. Bring a sweater, a jacket, or even a blanket.
My fellow four-eyed friends would also be wise to bring prescription sunglasses to wear as the sun arcs brightly over the west side of the stage. Make sure you also have your regular eyeglasses so you can see after the sun goes down.
DON’T eat at home before you go. I used to do this in an effort to save a few bucks, but realized after years of drooling over other people’s food that it’s better to buy dinner at the venue.
Besides that, there are plenty of delicious options that won’t break the bank. Parilla Grill makes these amazing rice bowls packed with veggies, beans, herbs, special sauces, and oodles of slow-roasted meat for only $8. Jumbo Tamales makes amazing, HUMONGOUS $8 tamales packed with veggies and/or meat, and you can cruise through their well-stocked condiment bar to load up on fresh salsas, sour cream, cheese, and more.
Tons of other vendors have tasty treats that will give you a chance to sample the best of Bend’s culinary scene, so show up hungry!
DO bring cash. There are a handful of food vendors that accept credit cards (The Pizza Cart is one of them) but most of the food and beverage booths require cash. There’s an ATM in the venue, but you’ll pay a fee to use it. You’re better off snagging a couple $20s from your own bank’s ATM before you head in.
DON’T drink like a moron. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read this blog post.
Most folks at the concert have paid a lot of money to enjoy the music—not to have drunk jerks spilling beer in their laps and shouting at each other over the music (I know, surprising!)
That said, it’s totally cool to enjoy a drink or two at the show. The beverage tent always has a couple mixed drinks available like lemon drops and on-the-rocks margaritas, plus a few different beer options (I’ve been diggin’ the Joe IPA from 10 Barrel this season!) You can also purchase wine by the glass or by the bottle, and selections from Naked Winery include a surprisingly diverse array of reds and whites. Keep in mind that bottle sales stop at 8 p.m., so plan accordingly and buy early if you want a bottle of vino to share with friends.
DO pay attention to what others are doing. Each concert has its own special setup. Some have roped-off areas of reserved seating surrounded by general admission and dancing areas off to the side, while other setups feature a huge sea of general admission areas and a big free-for-all dancing spot up front.
Watch what other folks are doing and follow suit. If you want to shake your groove thing, join the existing sea of dancers instead of creating your own boogie zone in front of folks who want to sit. If you want to sit, don’t plunk your chair down behind the dancers and snarl at them to sit down.
Which brings me to my final item on your list of things to bring…
DO bring common sense, courtesy, and respect for the artists and each other. Enough said.