Theoden Janes

When the music stops at PNC, complete chaos begins

This is what you might call “PNC Music Pavilion Parking Lot Jail,” if you’re the driver of that Mitsubishi on the left, or the white Honda, or the blue BMW convertible, or the white Toyota Camry, or...
This is what you might call “PNC Music Pavilion Parking Lot Jail,” if you’re the driver of that Mitsubishi on the left, or the white Honda, or the blue BMW convertible, or the white Toyota Camry, or... tjanes@charlotteobserver.com

I broadside a shiny silver Range Rover filled with hipsters, plow into the back of a Maxima and stay on the gas, then – once it’s dispensed with – flip a Jetta-driving sorority girl the bird as I thwart her attempt to cut me off.

“Peace out, suckers!!!,” I scream as I tear off into the night.

When I open my eyes again, that fantasy snaps out of view, replaced by the glow of a thousand pairs of red brake lights.

It’s 11:30 p.m., another awesome summer concert at PNC Music Pavilion has just ended, and I’m at the wheel of my car in a big field filled with 10,000 other people hoping to at least make it out onto U.S. 29 while it’s still today and not yet tomorrow.

But 15 other vehicles angled in 15 directions are idling within 15 feet of me. The last time any of us were able to move? Fifteen minutes ago.

If you’ve been, you know: The end of a concert at PNC is like the start of The Hunger Games – except instead of all the Tributes making a run for a limited number of weapons, all the cars are making a run for a (very) limited number of exits.

And just like in The Hunger Games, the only way to get out of this “parking lot” is to get blood on your hands.

By the way, I used quote marks around the words “parking lot” because this doesn’t quite qualify, in my mind. Not a lick of striping, no arrows, no nothing.

Even PNC’s attendants can’t figure it out. Before Tuesday night’s Nicki Minaj concert, I arrived to discover that a trio of them had directed dozens of cars to park in a manner a human behaviorist probably would characterize as “really freakin’ stupid.”

Basically: The attendants guided Car No. 1 into a “spot.” Then they put Car No. 2 4 feet behind it, then Car No. 3 4 feet behind that one. Five feet to the left of that row, they arranged three more cars in the same fashion. And so on down the line.

If you draw a diagram following these instructions, you’ll wind up with a picture of a bunch of doodled cars trapped hopelessly between a whole bunch of other doodled cars.

I can only imagine how that panned out. I was too busy fighting my own bumper-to-bumper battles afterward to notice.

Thing is – and this happens after any PNC show – almost every concertgoer returns to their vehicle and instantly transforms into an enormous jerk.

Most of the parking attendants (save for one or two at the exits)? Gone. So the place becomes a giant, live-action game of “Grand Theft Auto”: stereos blaring, horns honking, four-letter words being exchanged; people on foot scrambling to avoid becoming roadkill as cars carve their own “shortcuts”; a prevailing “if-you-want-me-to-let-you-in-you’re-going-to-have-to-MAKE-ME-let-you-in” attitude.

The rage is contagious. You just want to broadside that Range Rover, plow into that Maxima, flip off that Jetta, get the you-know-what outta here.

PNC Music Pavilion likes to brag about its free parking, but that parking definitely has a price.

And after moving 30 feet in 30 minutes as the clock ticked toward midnight Tuesday, I came to this conclusion: I’d be happy to pay the venue a few extra bucks if it would just come up with a more efficient way to get me home – while it’s still today, and not yet tomorrow.

Janes: 704-358-5897;

Twitter: @theodenjanes

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