This entry is dreadfully overdue. I put it on the back burner almost four months ago until I could get some graphics together to help illustrate our odyssey. Here goes…
I got to see one of the most memorable concerts of my life back on 14-Aug-2014. It was the last show ever at Candlestick Park, and it was Sir Paul McCartney. It was Beatles songs played by a Beatle and, for most part, the Beatle that wrote them. It was glorious. It was long — nearly 3 hours with no opening act. It was a once in a lifetime event.
It also took forever to get there. We got the tickets from Auntie M. back in June as a wedding anniversary present. So, the Missus and I piled into the car for a bit of a road trip. The plan was to meet Auntie M. and a friend of hers for dinner about 15 miles south of Candlestick at about 5:30pm, and then carpool to the stadium to save on parking. We had dinner paid for by 6:30pm. Sir Paul was supposed to start at 8pm. We had 90 minutes to go a little over 15 miles. That couldn’t be a problem, right?
It was a monumental problem. Everything went according to plan until we got about four miles away from the stadium, just past the Oyster Point exit on Route 101. This diagram documents our approximate progress:
Traffic on the highway began to back up in the far right lane of 101 about four miles from the Candlestick exit. We got in line around 6:45pm… and inched along almost literally at a snail’s pace for nearly 2.5 hours. At one point around 7:30pm, I joked that it would be faster to get out and walk. Shortly after that, we saw people walking down the shoulder of the road past our car. The line was so slow that we saw one person get out of the passenger side of a car, run into the bushes along the shore of the Bay to respond to the call of nature, and eventually climb back into the car (near the red dot.)
As time went on, we discovered that walking had its own problems. We inched off the highway onto the exit and saw a woman with a small child in a stroller on the side of the road yelling into a cell phone. She was yelling at someone… a husband, presumably… that she was running out of road to walk, and where was he with the tickets, and the child was getting tired and impatient.
We eventually inched our past the Candlestick main parking lot, which only appeared to be about 95% full. The sight of being so close to the promised land with empty parking spaces here and there just on the other side of a chain link fence was infuriating… because we were directed away from the main lot to an unknown overflow location. The one good thing about being so close to the stadium was that we could open the car windows and hear that the show hadn’t started… until about 8:45pm. Sir Paul held the start of the show for 45 minutes to let the house fill… and thank goodness.
The heartbreaking thing about being so close to the stadium was that you could look back along the shore of the Bay and see the line of headlights extending along Route 101 back toward Oyster Point. There were people 2 hours away from the Candlestick parking lot when the show started. To paraphrase a line from Ken Burn’s Baseball, never were there so many people out to see a show who didn’t see it.
We eventually found our way to an empty lot about half a mile from the Stadium. After quickly parking the car, we began the hike back to the stadium. You couldn’t pay me enough to be directing traffic that night based on what we saw as we walked. Nerves on the part of many of the concert goers were noticeably frayed. The people directing traffic took the brunt of it. When someone pointed out that the parking situation was a total disaster, one security worker said “yeah, I haven’t already heard that tonight”.
Honestly, why blame the men and women in the trenches? This was a strategic screw up at the top. The local media never did get a clear picture of why things went so badly in the next few days. Someone supposedly attached to the concert promoter said it was McCartney’s people who handled parking. I don’t know if I believe that or not. This was nobody’s first rodeo (or should not have been): not at a stadium that’s hosted sellout sporting events over several decades, not for Sir Paul who has likely played bigger shows, and not anyone in between. Were we the naive ones? The people in close to the stadium seemed to have the best plan: they were ready to tailgate all day and all night.
As it was, we got to our seats around 9:25pm. That turned out to be about nine songs into the set list. Fortunately, there were many more to come after that.
It was a high energy show. Sir Paul played until nearly 11:45pm, with only a few breaks (primarily before encores.) The man is 72 years old. I guess vegetarian living agrees with him. I always remember hearing about these great 3 hour stadium shows that played the night away but had never been to one, until now. A little research shows that this was pretty much Sir Paul’s standard tour set, with two additions: San Francisco Bay Blues and Long Tall Sally (last song played by the Beatles at Candlestick at their last concert gig.)
We were in the stands off stage right. In addition to the screens flanking either side of the stage, there was a smaller screen on the side of the stage scaffold so we could still see the action.
I haven’t been to an arena or stadium concert in a good many years. Where people used to hold up lighters during the power ballads or anthems, now they hold up smart phones.
I believe that this was during Hey Jude.
It all seemed to be over a little too soon. After the show, we got a couple souvenirs and made the hike back to overflow parking. Parking so far away turned out to have one significant advantage: we were able to take some back streets into San Francisco and get out on the highway in about 20 minutes. We heard the next morning that some people in the regular stadium lot were still waiting to leave at 2:30am.