The weather on Sunday was anything but good. Actually, that's being generous. It was a monsoon. But that didn't stop scads of adoring Radiohead fans from making the trek to the Nissan Pavilion in Bristow, Virginia on Sunday.
I swore years ago that I would never return to Nissan Pavilion. I can say, without hyperbole, that it's the worst venue in the entire country. I have never been anywhere that created an overall less pleasant experience. Just about everything is wrong:
- It's at least 40 miles from downtown DC.
- There is absolutely no chance of getting there by public transportation.
- It involves driving on I-66, usually during rush hour, which ranks slightly above being waterboarded, and slightly below watching C-SPAN, in my list of least favorite forms of torture
- The last several miles into the venue are on tiny, local roads which inevitably are a mess.
- It has never taken me less than 2 hours to get out of the parking lot after a show, because of the previous point and awful traffic management.
- The sound sucks
- Security are assholes
Basically, there's nothing good about it. I would rather see a show at the Tweeter Center in Camden, New Jersey. Actually, overall driving time is probably less, and it's a much nicer venue, with a great view of Philadelphia. Once you get over the fact that the only businesses in Camden are bail-bonds shops and you will be parked outside a maximum security prison, it's a far better experience than Nissan.
So, Radiohead has in recent times begun using their awesome uber-star power to do whatever the fuck they want. The first we saw of this was giving away their last album, Rainbows, for free or whatever you felt like paying for it. I thought this was pretty cool, actually, because I despise the old guard music industry and their desperate tactics to extort money from the very people who are their best customers. So when Radiohead made a gazillion dollars without even printing a single CD, I was impressed.
This time, they claim to be touring in some kind of eco-friendly fashion. On their web site Radiohead attempts to martyr themselves before their fans by claiming to have selected the venues based on a list of practical criteria that would result in the least carbon impact from their tour.
Richard, the Tour Production Manager says on May 1: The main issue is how the audience moves to and from the show. With the location and public transport links now a more significant factor when choosing venues, fans are being encouraged to think about alternative ways of travelling.
Take a look at the map to your left. This shows the relative locations of Washington DC, Baltimore, and the Nissan Pavilion. In Washington, DC are two perfectly acceptable venues for concerts - RFK Stadium and the MCI Center. MCI center has a capacity similar to Nissan Pavilion, and RFK Stadium can hold much more. Given Radiohead's ridiculous popularity, you'd think RFK would have been a perfect choice. Please note also the relative proximity of Baltimore, which you actually CAN get to by train.
Oh wait - but Live Nation is promoting the Radiohead tour, and of the three, Nissan Pavilion happens to be the only venue that is run by Live Nation!! Oh, crap. It looks like they left one thing off their list of "selection criteria" for identifying the venue that would result in the least environmental impact: Must be run by Live Nation.
But back to the actual disaster, er, show on Sunday. As it happened, it rained. A lot. Now that's hardly their fault, but it underscores just how crappy Nissan Pavilion is. From all over the blogosphere we see reports of wretched experiences:
mistiwalters (dcist): After thousands of cars waited in traffic for four hours, they were turned away because the concert was over by the time they got there. How's that for a carbon footprint?
IMGoph (dcist): 6-hour burger king run. that's what the trip to nissan turned into for me, my roommate, and his girlfriend.
pellucidity (dcist): We spent 3 hours in traffic... Arrived in Bristow at 7:30 and were turned away by the police at about 10:30... I'm not going back to Bristow.
headhot (consumerist): Because of the absolute clusterfuck that is Nissan Pavilion, we almost never go. If it were not Radiohead, and the fact that there were no other shows scheduled in 300 miles, we would have never considered going. After this mess, I don't think there is any band that could get us out there under any condition. Fuck the Pavilion.
Bottom line: Nissan Pavilion, you suck. Radiohead, you suck. And you're full of shit. If you gave even one tiny llama turd about environmental impact, you would never have scheduled a show at a venue 40 miles away from downtown DC, nowhere near public transportation of any kind, and also well known to take hours to exit the parking lot post-show (think: thousands of idling cars). See: here (dcist, pre-show), here (wapo - 4/15/05), here (random forum post from 2007). Finding gripes about Nissan Pavilion is about as hard as finding a lobbyist on Capitol Hill.
And, the ultimate insult, as Radiohead whines, "please carpool!!": There's a $6.00 parking fee charged on every ticket! Thanks a lot, assholes. We carpool, but we pay to park anyway.
I didn't go. I never even gave it a thought, even though I really like Radiohead's music and have wanted to see them for years. I feel bad for those who wasted their entire crappy Sunday in a car in the sticks in Virginia, but you should have known better. And Radiohead, you should have too.