The two girls didn’t have tickets to see Ziggy Marley on the first Friday of May at the Crossroads Amphitheater, so they did the next best thing. They climbed to the roof of a nearby building in order to look down on the reggae show. Unfortunately, they chose an abandoned building lacking in structural soundness. Spotting them, Stretch, the venue’s Napoleonic landlord, called his security guards to haul them down.
“I can’t tell you which building it was,” he tells the Pitch, with more than a little annoyance coloring his tone, “because it’s completely illegal. Yeah, they were up on the roof. They’re lucky they didn’t fall through.”
With seven more nights of outdoor concerts at the Crossroads scheduled for the summer, the opportunities are ripe for scamming free sneak peeks at acts such as Lucinda Williams (July 14) or G Love and Special Sauce (August 18) from the vantage point of a well-placed rooftop. When the elements are right — a landlord’s permission, some solid footing, a clear view and good weather — this version of concert-attending brings new meaning to the phrase cheap seats.
A few weeks after the Marley show, an estimated 8,500 people poured into the River Market to see the Killers. It was a gorgeous spring night, and the streets were alive with happy voices and puddles of spilled cocktails. It’s not an exaggeration to guess that another 1,000 people, too cheap to pay $30 or too late to get into the sold-out show, enjoyed the view from alternative locations.
I joined a party of about 70 to listen to the Killers from the roof of the lofts at 509 Delaware. There wasn’t much watching going on because the musicians appeared as four specks on the brilliantly lighted stage, but the lyrics of each song wafted up, crystal clear. People sang along fearlessly and chatted with one another between trips to friends’ lofts on lower floors when cups needed refilling. And if there wasn’t much to look at as far as the performance went, the city skyline to the south was breathtaking all on its own.
E. Alan Waterman, the project manager for DE Lofts LLC, says the rooftops at his developments could be turned into official concert-watching spots in the future, if landlords or owners are willing. “DE Lofts has plated the rooftops of 309 and 509 Delaware so they can be sold to a condominium owner or be converted to a deck later on,” he says.
Pitch writer Justin Kendall watched the Killers show from another angle and had a similar experience. From the three-story Pacific House building at 401 Delaware, Kendall had a straight shot of the Steamboat Arabia Museum and the backs of concertgoers’ heads. At first, he says, the party people jockeyed for a place to stand — 20 or 30 of them crowding the fire escape — before realizing that they would be unable to see the stage and settling in to chat and drink. Nobody seemed to mind the conversation, especially in light of the free beer.
One can almost imagine a future in which the roofs surrounding outdoor venues are lined with chairs, and landlords serve brews and food to paying customers — kind of like the rooftops surrounding Wrigley Field in Chicago.
But that future is a long way off. For now, adventurous climbers must dodge Stretch.
He doesn’t fault building owners for allowing people to roof it, but he’d rather see music fans buy tickets and support the bands and the venue.
“If people in the neighborhood climb onto rooftops, great. If they do it without the owners’ permission, well, there’s consequences involved,” Stretch says.