Radiohead Visits D.C., Mother Nature Disapproves

You can't even call it a coincidence anymore. It's a fact -- the weather gods of the D.C. area react in strong and violent ways when Radiohead comes to town. No meteorological training is necessary to predict massive storms when the band visits.

By all accounts (including J. Freedom's in tomorrow's paper), last night's show at Nissan Pavilion was fantastic. But for some ticket holders, those accounts are all they have to go by: Rain, flooding, traffic, filled parking lots and the general hell that is getting to and from Nissan Pavilion caused plenty of people to miss the show.

And they totally played "Fake Plastic Trees," too. Sorry.

At least this show actually happened. A pair of August 2001 shows at Bull Run Park in Centreville, Va., were canceled due to flooding. The band got its set in at the 1998 Tibetan Freedom Concert, but that concert will be remembered for a concertgoer getting struck by lightning.

In fact, the only time in the last decade an area Radiohead show went out without a hitch was in 2003 on the "Hail to the Thief" tour when the band attempted to appease the gods by bringing Stephen Malkmus along as opening act/peace offering.

Do you have a horror story about last night? Shoot an e-mail to style (at) washpost dot com with "Radiohead" in the subject line and speak of your ordeal. Include your name and telephone number and you just might see your name in tomorrow's newspaper. And not in the local crime section, for once! And if you actually saw the show, feel free to share your stories here in the comments section.

By David Malitz |  May 12, 2008; 10:44 AM ET Live Last Night
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I was fortunate to see the entire show. An excellent performance by Radiohead - the band was truly inspired. The new songs sounded great live. The video screens and light-reflecting poles were great visual theater. Yorke dedicated Fake Plastic Trees to the people who couldn't get to the show. But at the time, it felt like the song was a nice gift to those of us who were lucky enough to get there in one piece.

I felt miserable at the end of the night, after getting soaked through and through. But I'm not complaining. The folks who got shut out of the show have every right to be upset. I'm never going back to that venue.

The setlist:
1. All I Need
2. Jigsaw Falling Into Place
3. Lucky
4. 15 Step
5. Nude
6. Pyramid Song
7. Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
8. Myxomatosis
9. Idioteque
10. Faust Arp
11. Videotape
12. Paranoid Android
13. Just
14. Reckoner
15. Everything In Its Right Place
16. Bangers + Mash
17. Body Snatchers

First encore
18. Like Spinning Plates
19. Optimistic
20. Karma Police
21. Go Slowly
22. Planet Telex

Second encore
23. Fake Plastic Trees
24. National Anthem
25. House of Cards

Posted by: SSMD | May 12, 2008 6:18 PM

We left Takoma at 4:30pm, mozied along the Beltway and 66 West, get off at exit 44...still smooth sailing, plenty of time to get some snakcs. Then comes the infamous "detour." Because there were so few cars this early, we were driving and getting cut off from people ahead at traffic lights. At some point, we didn't see anyone that appeared to be going to the show. Then we passed a Best Buy and got onto Rt 29, where two locals said "You need to go back to the highway; lots of roads are closed." In doing this, we added about 2.5 hours to the trip, only to realize we had PASSED the detour entrance; a full circle. This time though, it had a sign. Thanks Mr. Police Officer.

Great seats wasted, as we watched people in front of us turn around after 11 or so. I will never go to Nissan again, the traffic direction was a festival of incompetence, and Radiohead needs to buy about a billion pounds of carbon offsets to make up for all the angry, idling fans that braved a monsoon to get close to seeing them. What a waste of a Sunday.

Posted by: Horrible | May 12, 2008 6:20 PM

Those of us who made it in got an amazing set, they seemed to try very hard to make up for the bad weather. Fake Plastic Trees was dedicated by Thom to those who missed out on the show.

Moral of the story: Get there early, early, early. We left Montgomery County at 3:15 and had no problems getting into the around 4:15.

Posted by: Amazing Set | May 12, 2008 9:20 PM

In '98 when their original set at Tibetan was canceled, they did an impromptu show at the 9:30 Club for ticket holders. From what I could gather, that went off without a hitch. So that kinda counts, even if I was 70 billionth in line and didn't even come close to seeing the show.

Posted by: voteprime | May 12, 2008 9:43 PM

We made it to the show around 6:30, headed in amidst the deluge and found our seats inside. I had a pit ticket so managed to make my way down to about 2 rows from the lip of the stage and proceeded to thoroughly enjoy Radiohead's performance -- me and the rest of the pit crowd happily mirroring Thom Yorke's every dancing twitch and spasm. Yes the mist and the rain and cold made its way in, but those of us in the pit were pretty well happy and safe from the elements. But the rest of the crowd, and especially all those poor folks out on the lawn -- they were done-in. It poured the entire time on them. It must've been a hideous experience for them. After the show let out we all wound up in the muck and rain making our way out to the parking lot. There was no avoiding getting completely drenched, and everyone did. We noticed people out in the lot who just flat-out took off their clothes. Seriously, there were nude people walking around before they climbed into their cars and no-doubt cranked the heat. Clearly they figured they'd dry off quicker in bare skin then in sopping wet clothing. And then we all endured the slow crawl out of the lot, and onto the backroads, and eventually out to 66. It took two hours just to get onto the highway. And thus I too have declared that I will never again patronize Nissan. It's just not reasonable to put ourselves through these expensive ordeals just to see a rock concert. Nissan is a failure for the DC Metro area. The only people who could possibly enjoy it are those who live within a 10-mile radius of it.

Posted by: MNRV | May 13, 2008 12:35 AM

Count us among the many disappointed fans. A pox on the geniuses who designed Nissan Pavillion. Two entrances? Really? One exit? Really??? And a pox on the operators of Nissan Pavillion for apparently not knowing how to handle concert traffic. You'd think that would be something they might want to investigate how to do.

After getting sent on the detour and sitting in that line forever, we got stuck behind a car that had caught fire. In the rain. Really? But then even after the 30 minute delay caused by that, there was STILL a huge line just to get to the parking lot.
We missed almost half the show. And then it took an hour just to get out of the parking lot. Though I suppose we were lucky not to be stuck there for two hours like some others.

Fortunately, the part of the show we did see was awesome, and I didn't care about standing in the rain. But nobody should have to go through what thousands of people did for this.

Add us to the list of people who will NEVER again go to Nissan Pavillion.

Posted by: We Hate the Nissan Pavillion | May 13, 2008 1:07 AM

Figured I'd give Nissan Pavillion one last shot since the concert was scheduled for a Sunday afternoon.

Never again.

Posted by: rs | May 13, 2008 10:42 AM

We left Fairfax at around five pm, and had no trouble getting to the venue. The problem was getting soaked through on the lawn for 2+ hours waiting for Radiohead to come on. I didn't hear about how bad the traffic was until after the concert, and I really do feel bad for everyone who couldn't make it, because the concert truly was incredible. Fantastic setlist, and I was so happy when they played Fake Plastic Trees. It's one of my favorite songs, and honestly, at that moment, the rain just added something to the whole experience. Even though I couldn't feel anything below my waist at the end of the concert, and all of my possessions got soaked (including my phone, which is now useless) it was so worth it. Getting out of the parking lot wasn't so fun either, but at least we got to sit with the heater on while we were waiting for two hours.

Posted by: Sarah | May 13, 2008 1:10 PM

Probably one of the most amazing shows I've seen in my entire life.
I've never bought a better ticket in my life. Radiohead was at the top of their game, they were completely sold into the show,
and they gave the crowd everything they could.

my take is here, http://www.patrolmag.com/index.php?id=427

Posted by: Nathan | May 13, 2008 1:48 PM

Radiohead was superb. I don't know that there are many bands that put a show like that.

The weather was terrible, but the experience was awesome. I actually flew in from the Midwest to see the show.

I read online that people hate Nissan Pavillion and now I understand why.

Hopefully folks in the DC area boycott that place. Terrible organization. The few security that were there after the concert ended were worthless. I spent 2.5 hours just to leave the parking lot.

I am so sorry for the people that did not get to see the concert. It was great!

Posted by: Adrian Vega | May 13, 2008 11:26 PM

I had always avoided Nissan because I'd heard all the horror stories, but when my friend came up with VIP tickets I had to take the plunge (sic).

We got there (by dumb luck) probably 15 minutes before they closed the road from that direction. The water was washing heavily over the road and there was an ominous amount building up in the swamp right off the shoulder (another in a series of brilliant decisions -- building a venue on a narrow road prone to flooding).

As VIP's, we had the privilege of paying $10 for a beer, which was so overpriced I actually spent less than if the beers had been merely $6. And $50 for a platter of wings? HA!

Obviously the show was amazing and I'm likely never to forget it. But I feel for those of you who couldn't make it, given the prices they charge you for tickets nowadays (esp. those "convenience" fees). But don't stop with Nissan. There are Congressmen who help Ticketmaster maintain its monopoly on concerts and an executive branch that declines to step in on behalf of consumers. During the concert Thom urged everyone to fight the Hill. What better reason than this?

BTW, I had never been to NP before, nor would I ever return. Naked greed has never been so repulsive.

Posted by: A Paranoid Android | May 15, 2008 11:29 AM

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