It's a prediction that could have been made four summers ago. It would have been a riskier bet, but there was something in the air that August day when, instead of driving 148 miles to see Rush in a massive, picturesque amphitheater in George (a trek I wouldn't have made for that band, mind), I piled onto I-5 -- with, like, 20,000 of my closest friends --for a 28-mile trek to a less-than-massive, less-than-picturesque amphitheater in Auburn.
That something in the air whispered gently, "Hey, this isn't so bad."
For years, the Gorge had been the only real name in the Washington state mega-concert game. Now there were two. This newcomer --the White River Amphitheater -- was smaller and uglier, but it was closer -- so much closer -- to the west side's population centers.
Bands like Rush, who'd struggle to fill the Gorge in the best of times, flocked.
As gas prices headed northward, as fewer bands proved capable of drawing Gorge-sized attendance, and as the decade-long novelty of the world's prettiest concert venue wore off, White River became less an alternative than choice No. 1.
For us on the east side, the Gorge remained the only game in the region. That was until last weekend, when Clint Black (OMG YES! Clint Black), Jim Boyd and Sammy Eubanks inaugurated the Two Rivers Amphitheatre in Davenport. The 7,000-ish seat venue is angling to be the White River of the east. Situating itself closer to Spokane than the Gorge, offering a big but not huge venue that will service huge but not monstrous names. It'll be interesting whether the venue diversifies beyond its current country/classic rock lineup as time wears on.
My guess is that it'll have to. Musicians who used to cross their fingers and play the Gorge will play Two Rivers with less fretting. There are fewer bands like the Police in the world and even fewer like Dave Mathews. The smaller their numbers get, the thinner, more atrophied legs the Gorge -- awesome as it may still be -- has to stand on. Now that there are good alternatives on either side, those legs might get swiped out altogether.