Reveling at Ravinia 2016

Five years ago this week, I saw Duran Duran in Chicago. It was at Ravinia, which is a special venue for the Chicagoland area. The venue is part expansive park-like lawn with trees sprinkled throughout, and part outdoors (but covered) amphitheater, open during the summer for concerts and concert picnicking. While one may decide to purchase a ticket to sit in the actual amphitheater for shows, it is also possible to simply buy lawn tickets so that one can sit outside, enjoy the concert on strategically placed screens throughout the venue, and revel with friends on chairs and blankets.

Ravinia is special because people go all out for these picnics. I find that it has very little to do with whom is onstage – unless of course you are actually sitting in the amphitheater – and more to do with the picnic itself. There are some who come with a blanket, buy food and wine from the venue, and call it a day. Others have it down to a science, showing up with everything from wagons, ice chests, chairs and even small tables, to prepared gourmet meals, candelabras (not kidding), wine (you betcha!) and citronella scented what-have-you.

People show up at the gate, armed and ready with a plan as the gates open. There is a mad dash (but no running) for pre-planned, pre-designated, and targeted (by each individual group of concert goers) areas for set up. It is amazing to watch. The organization is outstanding as wagons are purposefully pulled as thousands flow through the gates, pouring out onto the grassy green grounds. Tables are unfolded, blankets laid out, centerpieces placed in the middle of tables, and food carefully unloaded from artfully packed chests and bags. It all happens in a matter of moments after the gates are opened, and if you aren’t there almost immediately, there will not be a spot to spare.

Ravinia goers have a culture of themselves. These are not your typical Duran Duran concert-goers, these are people who, not completely unlike those on the guest lists for Diner en Blanc all over the world, are looking for more than just the band to play “Rio” or “Hungry Like the Wolf”. They’re looking for a delightful, if not warm, evening out with friends over great food and wine. It is honestly the type of thing I would be doing here at home with my closest friends and husband, if I weren’t seeing Duran Duran, anyway.

However, I *was* seeing Duran Duran for those two nights. Even so, Amanda and I had arranged to do a meet-up right at Ravinia, although I think she would agree that we were woefully ill prepared. With only a couple of Duran Duran beach towels and a couple of posters that we had no way to post to mark a spot, it was a miracle that anyone found us either night. We tried our best to tweet where we were and how to find us – and those that did were kind enough not to mention the lack of hospitality. I can guarantee there were no candelabras or centerpieces, or even a table to put them on. What we lacked in decor (or decorum, I suppose), we more than made up for in jubilance. Oh, and wine. (Yes, there’s always that.) Enthusiastically, we squealed in delight over seeing friends we hadn’t in several years, and the memory will be forever lined in gold by a long-haired angel from North Carolina – it was one of the last times (if not the last time) I saw my dear friend Alana before she passed a few years later. My memories had better last me.

I’m sure some of you are wondering about the show itself. I know I regularly fail many of you out there – if not the band itself – because there isn’t a lot I actually REMEMBER about the shows, except for a couple of weird details. The nights at Ravinia were no exception. It is rare that I can recall specific musical details about the band’s set. It is usually the weird details that come to mind.

First of all, I can remember Amanda and I knowing Chic’s entire set, and by the time we got down to our seats – after more than one bottle of wine shared between us – we were ready to dance in the (very) humid air. We knew all of the songs, and all of the dance moves his backup dancers performed too, and had no problem following along. I’m sure it was a sight to behold, which is one reason of many we refrained from attempting to get up ON the stage with Chic at the end of their set. We were pretty set right where we were, thanks. You are welcome.

Then, there was the little matter of my glasses. Those were new that summer. I’d only gotten them the day before I’d left for Chicago. They were progressive bifocals (hello old age), and I was still getting used to them. I was not, and *am* not, fond of them; but, at this point, now six years later, I’m well-beyond having the choice of taking them off. I can’t see without them. In any case, I can remember the moment the band took the stage and turned around to see us. I realized I still had them on, and quickly yanked them off. After twenty years of perfect, LASIK-restored, vision, yes, I really was (am) THAT vain about having to wear them again. Additionally, though admittedly not the real problem, the lights combined with the lenses did nothing to help the headache I developed from adjusting to my glasses anyway.

May there be many more hot, humid, and danceable shows ahead!!! -R

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