The Summer Concert Isn't Learning Fast Enough

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PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- In the summer of 2010, with the nation still fumbling around for pocket change after being mugged by the recession, The New York Times decided to hit the summer concert circuit.

While visiting the amphitheaters of the New York metropolitan area, it found Maroon 5 and Warped Tour tickets discounted to $10 by lack of demand. It saw Goo Goo Dolls fans who paid $10 to see the show fork over $11 to $13 just for a beer. In that moment, with artists abandoning a Lilith Fair revival tour and fans wondering why they paid parking fees and full ticket prices to sit on a lawn, that should have been it. That should have been the moment that the amphitheater circuit began its steep decline and the dream of the great outdoor suburban concert died.

It didn't, but it didn't exactly keep its nostalgia tour and mall-teen concert fest lineup, either.

While wonderful, pre-World War II amphitheaters such as The Hollywood Bowl, Red Rocks and Ravinia and Tanglewood still dot the landscape and recall a time the summer concert season gave even the performers a little getaway from the city, the summer concert "sheds" as America knows them owe much of their existence to one man: New York metro area planner Robert Moses. After creating Jones Beach State Park on Long Island to help showcase his newly built Meadowbrook, Ocean and Wantagh parkways, Moses designed the Jones Beach Marine Theater as a means of bringing more visitors to the area.

Each summer, the theater staged musicals and band leader Guy Lombardo and his orchestra would play along. Though concerts wouldn't be held there until the early 1990s, it set the template for other, similar venues that began with a focus on the fine arts but later yielded to broader tastes. The Garden State Arts Center, now known as the PNC Bank Arts Center, took a similar turn in the early 1990s when it kicked out classical music for the bigger moneymakers. While occasionally a venue such as the Gorge Amphitheater along the Columbia River in George, Wash., would try something a bit more inspired, the standard became the utilitarian shed-and-lawn combination that marks outdoor venues from Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, Va., to the MIDFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater (formerly the 1-800-ASK-GARY Amphitheater) in Tampa.