I don't go to that many of them every year, but I would have to say that last night's Waterfest concert at the Leach Amphitheater in Oshkosh was the best one ever. I don't say that because Huey Lewis and the News is one of my favorite groups and that they played all of their hits in fine form. I don't say that because the rain stayed away--and it was the warm and muggy weather conditions that I love. I say it was the best Waterfest show ever because it was done at 9:15 pm. With the possibility of severe weather looming, organizers shortened up the sets for the opening acts and started Huey at 7:45pm.
Admittedly, I'm a bit different than your usual live music fan. I'm on the job at 3:00 AM on weekdays--and I usually have something going on very early on weekends--while most everyone else is still sound asleep. But is there really a good reason to hold so many events so late at night?
The average Waterfest show runs until 10:30 or so--with headliners not hitting the stage until around 9:00. You add on the half hour it takes to get out of the Leach and back to your car--and the time to drive home on the crowded, one-way downtown streets and there is little chance of getting to bed before 11:30. Last night, I was sleeping before ten.
One of the biggest complaints I hear from people that stopped going to Country USA is that the headliners don't get on until 11:00 every night. And with the traffic nightmare getting out of Ford Festival Park afterwards, it usually turns into an all-night affair. Who needs that hassle, even if you don't have to be to work until 9:00 the next morning?
Whenever you hear about a new study that finds Americans don't get enough sleep, remember that we do that to ourselves. Nights haven't become any shorter since the advent of time--we just insist on scheduling everything as late as possible.
And it's not just concerts. Sports is another late night offender. Playoff games in all leagues and the college ranks start at 8:00 Central Time--9:00 on the East Coast--and go until around midnight. There's no reason to start that late other than to make sure the entire game takes place during "prime time hours" in all time zones. I'm sure the players themselves would be just fine with a 6:00 kickoff or tipoff.
So if I could make a suggestion to Mike Dempsey and the rest of the crew at Waterfest: Consider more "Early Bird Specials" and let us enjoy our beer and our music--while still getting to bed at a reasonable hour.