My lovely wife and I enjoy Aurora’s halcyon outdoor entertainment venue to the point where we went to three separate August concerts – Stayin’ Alive, Get the Led Out, and Rick Springfield and Friends. But as much as we enjoy seeing stellar acts under the stars, sadly, the RiverEdge Park experience is getting progressively worse.
I’m not saying we won’t partake next summer, but unless things improve, we’re going to be a lot more circumspect about how we spend our hard-earned money.
The issues involved included poor planning, strange decisions, overly late weeknight concerts, and abundantly overserved patrons, all of which evidenced themselves at the August 18 Get the Led Out concert.
To be clear, there was no issue with the band itself. The members of that Led Zeppelin cover (not tribute) band are incredible musicians in their own right and they pay an earnest homage to one of the premier rock and roll bands of all time. At a mere 15 bucks a pop, we’ll certainly be 2024 “repeat offenders,” as the band likes to refer to their returning fans.
The problems started with the general admission seating. The RiverEdge setup and their older fans don’t lend themselves to the potential crush that led to 11 concertgoers’ deaths at the 1979 Cincinnati Who concert, but haven’t we finally figured out that General Admission is a really bad idea?
I understand the point is to get as many people in the park to spend as much on concessions for as long as possible, but having to arrive two hours early so you won’t have to resort to the James Web space telescope to see the performers is more than a bit annoying. Yes, RiverEdge has semi-large video screens, but they’re the worst I’ve ever seen and if I wanted to watch a video of a band I can do that at home.
There’s absolutely no reason they can’t apply the reserved seating strategy in the pavilion area as they once did. Now they simply put thin white lines on the concrete in the vain hope that the portable chair armed rabble will adhere to some sense of seating order which never happens. People set their chairs up in a haphazard manner, including right in the middle of the purported aisles, to the point where the folks nearest the stage wouldn’t nearly be able to exit in the case of an emergency.
And instead of ensuring everyone’s safety, the venue security and Aurora Police simply sit back and watch the chaos ensue.
Though it’s a minor annoyance, having to endure the late arrivals’ overzealous attempts to insert their chairs into the smallest of the remaining pavilion spaces makes one wish they wore a lot more padding.
The same thing goes for the lawn “seats” where fans block the sidewalks with the exception of the one along the river, which you can’t get to because all of the other sidewalks are blocked. This regular development makes a trip to the “facilities” somewhat akin to King Ithaca’s ten-year journey home from the Trojan War.
By the time the show starts at the needlessly late 8 p.m. hour, the “guests” once reasonable behavior has rapidly deteriorated in an inverse proportion to the amount of booze they’ve consumed. You’d think having to take out a second mortgage just to buy two cans of wine would act as a deterrent to the inebriation rush, but trust me, it doesn’t.
I realize how difficult it is to effectively deal with the overserving issue with thousands of attendees and folks buying rounds for their entire party, but those difficulties don’t begin to mitigate RiverEdge’s legal responsibility to monitor and cut off patrons who’ve had one too many.
And sure enough! There was a medical emergency at the Get the Led Out concert during the 20-minute intermission, which made the situation exponentially worse because the crowd was already swarming over the already congested sidewalks in an effort to get to the bathrooms to make room for more beer.
Picture this! A 5-foot, 3-inch female security guard trying to push her way through the ardent throng while shouting “medical emergency, please clear the way,” a maneuver rendered utterly ineffective by her lack of height and the Travelling Wilburys blasting through the park’s sound system.
Unable to see or hear her, she nearly took me out as I attempted to cross the sidewalk to said restroom. Of course, had I known it would be a full-contact event, I might’ve paid a little more for it. I also happened to see the affected patron being wheeled out of the venue on my return trip, and though I’m simply surmising here, it certainly seemed like he had too much of something.
We still enjoyed the show, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. So, are my 2024 recommendation for those fine RiverEdge folks
- Respect your neighbors who were there before you. Concert start times should be 7:30 p.m. on weekends and 7 p.m. on weekdays.
- Dump the general admission because it’s annoying and it doesn’t work.
- If you’re not willing to dump the GA, then make the pavilion seating arrangement much clearer and enforce it.
- Your security staff and the police should do their best to keep the sidewalks and aisles clear for all the obvious reasons.
- Figure out a way to prevent overserving your guests because, as it stands now, it’s not going to end well.
- Please come up with a far better plan to deal with medical emergencies.
- There’s no need to pipe in music every single second of an event. We’ll hear plenty of it from the artists.
- Hire taller security guards.
The way things are now, if there is a rapidly developing weather emergency, or, god forbid, someone smuggles a gun into the park (it would be very easy), with no clear way out, the ensuing stampede will cause a far greater loss of life that either of those prospects ever could.