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Best Outdoor Venue in Columbus

July 27, 2010

Mr. Karen and I always try to catch Kansas when they come to town, because, like I said in 2002, “How many more years they’ll be coming, I don’t know.” (At least eight, I know now.) This year we skipped their appearance at the venue formerly known as Pine Knob, though. They weren’t headlining but instead were coming with Styx and Foreigner, which meant they’d do a shorter set so we’d get less Kansas for our money (there’s an ordinance that means bands can’t just play as late as they want). We might still have gone if pavilion seats were less expensive and/or there weren’t so much road construction between us and the venue and/or it were on a Saturday night instead of a work night, but everything added up to “let’s not go”. Where we went instead was Columbus, Ohio, this past Saturday, to see Kansas with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra at (on?) the Chemical Abstracts lawn (voted the Best Outdoor Concert Venue by Columbus residents in 2006, according to coolspotters.com, so it must be true). It isn’t a permanent venue (if you scroll through the historical shots on Google Earth, the band shell appears and disappears) and buying seats was a bit confusing (if you don’t want to sit on the lawn, you buy a table, not individual seats, but the online form wasn’t clear about whether the amount shown was per seat or for the whole table, so Mr. Karen had to go old school and order over the phone), but it’s good to try new things.

Chemical Abstracts LawnThe weather forecast was not Karen-friendly, calling for temperatures in the low-90s well into the evening, but since the venue allows concert goers to bring their own food and drink and coolers and such, we arrived well prepared with my cooling crystals neckerchief and a misting bottle and water and watermelon and other refreshing fruits and plenty of ice. I was still warm, yes, but it turned out to be quite a pleasant evening. Parking was free, there was plenty of space around the table, so I could kick my shoes off and wiggle my toes in the grass and move around, and I don’t know how they managed it, but the even with the heat, the porta-potties were tolerable, and there weren’t even any lines for them to speak of. I’d definitely go back there. (I might feel differently if it had rained, but fortunately the thunderstorms that came through Ohio that night stayed to the north of us.) The first half of the concert was just the symphony, doing an “Italian Fiesta” of orchestral pops, then after intermission Kansas joined them (with their own conductor) and did their classics as well as a mashup of two of their later songs that we couldn’t recall ever seeing them do live before. After the show ended, we hung out at the table a while longer, so by the time we left, getting out of the parking lot was no problem. All in all, it was a very nice evening.

SpiresSince it seemed like a shame to drive all that way just for a concert, the next morning we went to the Franklin Park Conservatory, which I’d visited with my mom in 2008. (We talked about going to the science museum to see the Titanic exhibit, but they didn’t open until noon and we had to be out of the hotel at 11, so the conservatory got our tourist dollars because they opened earlier.) I hadn’t realized how much more there was to see than Mom and I had gotten to, and of course some things were changed in the meantime. There were plenty of plants and flowers, of course, but also lots of art by Dale Chihuly and a special exhibit (including art by other people) on carnivorous plants and a glass blowing demonstration. We had a tasty lunch at the café in the conservatory and then walked around the park grounds before heading home.

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