Into every life, a little rain must fall. As I checked the forecast for the next 10 days, a sense of gloom slipped over me. The forecast suggested a little sun on only two days. The rest? Rain.
First thing Monday morning I intended to write an overview of the Sounds of Summer music series at the Museum of Nebraska Art. With the first performance scheduled for Thursday, I decided to wait a day because the weather prediction left no wiggle room, declaring the chance of rain at 100 percent. If only my odds at winning the lottery were filled with that much “chance.”
I spoke with Gina Garden, marketing coordinator at MONA, about the music series and the weather. Because of the size of the audience — and the demands of the exhibits at the museum — she said they had no place to move the performance in case of rain.
I began looking around at upcoming events such as the Concerts in the Park, presented by the Kearney Area Arts Council, Sunday evenings starting June 9 and continuing through Aug. 9. A day of rain could wash away months of planning for these shows, not to mention thousands of dollars in expenses.
Fortunately, we live in a semi-arid climate, or at least on the edge of such a thing, so that it might rain all day or it might not rain for a month. Promoters bet on just that kind of situation when scheduling an outdoor performance. So why do it? When the weather cooperates, when the mosquitoes look somewhere else to feed and the sound system overcomes other ambient noises, listening outside to music can transform the event from merely enjoyable to mystical.
I remember one concert in North Carolina on a perfect evening at a little roadhouse in the mountains. I had some longtime friends in a band playing old timey and bluegrass music in a reunion of sorts. They knew each other so well and they knew the music even better. I listened to the music outside on a little patio in June with the weather so mild it felt intoxicating.
Another time at Chicago’s Millennium Park, I looked forward to a free performance by members of the Chicago Symphony. Just before the scheduled start time, the heavens opened up and the bottom dropped out. Rain sent audience members scurrying with their arms still clutching their picnic baskets and wine bottles. After 10 minutes it stopped, but by then it was too late.
And then I remember Woodstock in 1969, how audience members grooved through the rain and slithered around in the primordial mud, oblivious to the elements. Jimi Hendrix closed the festival with one of his most memorable performances featuring a psychedelic version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” segueing into “Purple Haze” at 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning. The rain delayed the show and 90 percent of the hippies had already left.
I tend to look for outdoor concerts between those two extremes, still willing to take a chance on the rain but not exactly willing to sit through Noah’s flood.
As for my advice for the season’s first Sounds of Summer performance at the Museum of Nebraska Art, Gina informed me that the staff will decide at 2 p.m. Thursday. If it’s a go, the music begins at 7 p.m. Either way, get ready for rain and music all summer long.
Rick Brown is a Hub staff writer.