Asphalt Cowboys and Tailgate Blues:
An Open Letter
Dear Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean
I would like to report that your concert tonight at Pittsburgh’s First Niagara Pavilion (located near the West Virginia border, 40 miles or so away from downtown) was AWESOME. I expect it still is, because as I write, it’s ten o’clock and Jason’s still on stage.
Sadly, I am not there. I fully intended to be. I bought a ticket, paid the babysitter, got in my car and hit the highway a full three hours before the show was due to begin. Two hours later I hadn’t even left downtown.
Things did not improve. Four miles from the venue, the two-lane rural highway — the only road leading to it — was again filled, bumper to bumper, with cars, trucks and things that were not going anywhere. I know I was four miles out because a large sign saying Burgettstown 4 miles was where the traffic began. I can also attest that it was moving at the strolling pace of 4 miles an hour. I know this because it took another whole hour to reach the exit.
By this time, I had been driving for four and a half hours. It was nine, and starting to get dark. Folks put their headlights on. Some had pulled over. Other folks had gotten out and were leaning against their vehicles, drinking beers and chatting. Dark storm clouds rolled in.
Being a veteran of the First Niagara Pavilion’s parking lots, I knew that even once you reached the entrance, you could reasonably expect to spend another hour snaking slowly around to find a parking spot. I knew that by this time, this spot would be at the very far reaches of the muddy fields surrounding the venue, and that with all this traffic, lining up to actually get in would take some time too. It was starting to rain, and no umbrellas are allowed. Last year, there were so many people that organizers had to open overflow parking a mile away in somebody’s field. That was incredible fun to hike back to in the pitch dark after the show.
Not having eaten since breakfast, and having exhausted the lone snack size Peppermint Patty I found in my car for emergencies, I also realized that the possibility of food was a long way off.
So I am afraid to say I cut my losses. I took advantage of the Emergency Vehicles Only turnaround, and turned around. As I gained speed going in the opposite direction, I passed another four miles of backed-up traffic which had been behind me.
So, dear Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean: if you were puzzled by the strangely thin audience that lined the hillside tonight despite sold-out sales, it was because we were all still outside. You may have passed many of them in your tour busses as you exited, their headlights making a long, long line in the Pennsylvania night.