Summer Concerts: Outdoor vs. indoor

Photo: Val A. Browning Center for the Perfroming Arts. WSU's Austad Auditorium located within the Val A. Browning Center
Source: Val A. Browning Center for the Performing Arts.
WSU’s Austad Auditorium is located within the Val A. Browning Center.
Photo: Tuacahn Amphitheatre The outdoor Tuacahn Amphitheatre located in Southern Utah.
Source: Tuacahn Amphitheatre
The outdoor Tuacahn Amphitheatre is located in southern Utah.

This summer, Ogden and the surrounding area have lots of opportunities for viewing concerts and performances. Summer offers a vast number of outdoor concerts and events in addition to indoor events.

So what is the difference between an outdoor and indoor concert? What draws audiences out of the comfort of concert halls and into the outdoors?

Ambiance vs. acoustics

An indoor concert space is often shaped to provide the best quality sound possible to the audience. Whether listening to an intricate piano concerto or a rock concert, the shape of the concert hall can affect the tone quality and intonation of the performers.

The danger with an outdoor concert venue is that the sound can bleed out into the empty air. Without proper consideration, the sound of the performer can end up distant and hollow. However, an outdoor concert that has taken this into consideration can have speakers set up to avoid sound bleed or an orchestra shell on stage to magnify and direct the sound in a manner similar to a concert hall.

An outdoor concert also has the added benefit of the location providing ambiance to the event. I have blissful memories of long grass swishing in the breeze, the Mississippi river glinting in the sunset light and fireflies blinking in and out of existence at a classical guitar concert in an Illinois field. If you could ignore the mosquitoes it would have been a veritable paradise.

Weather vs. air conditioning

When outdoor temperatures are soaring, an air-conditioned, indoor venue can be the perfect way to spend a sweltering summer evening. Yet audiences are willing to subject themselves to physical discomfort in order to attend outdoor music festivals, which draw thousands of viewers each year.

As uncomfortable as it sounds, the mass of sweating bodies, repeated application of copious amounts of sunscreen and general discomfort that comes from being in the summer sun are all part of the outdoor concert experience. Outdoor concert-goers suffer together in order to enjoy the thumping music and feel the palpable energy of the crowd and the artists.

Professionalism vs. concessions

While some indoor venues allow snacks and beverages into the performance space, the majority of classical music venues do not. When attending a symphony or ballet performance, it is best to plan to eat and drink anything you need to before arriving at the concert hall. Refraining from bringing food and drink into the performance space helps eliminate background noise, which is ideal for the nuances of classical music.

However, when it is the middle of July and summer inattentiveness has set in, having to sit still in a dark room for several hours without a beer, snow cone or soda can be torturous. The Utah Symphony gets in on the outdoor action by having amphitheater concerts at Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah. Audience members set blankets out on the lawn and relax while being serenaded by popular symphonic music like Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”.

In the end, attending a concert is almost always a good decision. No matter your choice of venue, making performing arts a part of summer is never a bad idea.