With Mother Nature dimming the house lights, we settled in for our evening's entertainment juggling the plates and glasses of our laptop picnic.
Typically, we don't do the Fourth of July in any grander style than a few burgers and a passing remembrance of U.S. history. This was different — Josh Groban was playing the Hollywood Bowl and my wife and I had neither seen him perform nor visited the Bowl.
Well, experienced is more like it. This was a typically beautiful summer twilight punctured with a couple stars (above and on stage), matched perfectly with a Cabernet and a cheese plate we assembled ourselves.
Was it that obvious we were noobs to the SoCal outdoor concert scene? The man sharing the wood plank to my left offered a plastic knife and a plate after watching me comically balance the goat cheese in one hand, the crackers in the other while my wife held the wine glasses.
The plank, it's worth noting, is more comfortable than it should be.
About a month later, we visit another outdoor venue, this time at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, where parking and crowd issues are the same as at any outdoor venue, but no one thinks it's weird that we're engaging in these squabbles with headstones a foot away. Or maybe they do. But no matter where you go in L.A., if you find that perfect parking spot, you're still going to fight for it regardless of the stone angel statue staring from atop someone's grave.
This time we were a little more prepared — smorgasbord and wine in tow, but with more of the essentials like napkins and plastic tableware. In the northeast, they might provide all that and you'd pay through the nose to get it — but forget about bringing in your own beer to enjoy while "The Dark Crystal" unfolds on the mausoleum wall.
Rather than entrust adults to be responsible picnickers, the state would like to sell you its own brand of beverage and take one arm and one leg as payment.
This was the summer we fell in love with picnic theater.
A dusty bomber-jacket blanket I keep in my car's trunk became our theater seats. We stretched out with friends and enjoyed a good hour or two even before the shows began. The main event becomes a cap on the evening rather than the evening itself.
I met one lifelong Burbank resident this summer who lamented the Starlight Bowl's heyday of the 1970s when he saw Genesis play live (before the neighbors complained about noise, he said). These days, the Burbank venue packs mostly cover bands into its summer schedule, although this year Englebert Humperdinck made a special Sunday appearance.
I missed Saturday's final Starlight concert of its six-week season — a seemingly short run, considering that the weather is still great for a couple more months.
For a more "heavenly" nighttime display, I can always join the Burbank Sidewalk Astronomers on Wednesday night on the Chandler Bike Path at Chandler Boulevard and Lima Street — they'll be out again under the stars taking in whatever show the universe has to offer.