The beautiful Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View is a robust event venue with standard seating for 6,500 and seating on the spacious lawn for another 16,000. It was one of these lawn-sitters who discovered fire during the venue’s opening season in 1986. English rock and blues favorite Steve Winwood was on stage performing when a spectator flicked a cigarette lighter. It’s unknown whether the fan was lighting a smoke or preparing to raise a small flame in the air, as concert-goers are known to do. The result was an ignition of methane, which was leaking from the landfill under the amphitheatre grounds.
Several other methane-fueled fires were reported during that first concert season. This was a much bigger concern than when a pack of rowdy Motley Crue fans sets fire to a trash can (Cruefest was here in 2008). The City of Mountain View knew it was dealing with something that could be a serious hazard to people attending events – you can see a flaming trash can and avoid it; invisible methane gas is another story.
The City arranged for methane testing studies to determine exactly where the gas was leaking. Data from the tests was used to create protocols for better methane monitoring and more efficient methods to extract it from beneath the ground. To correct the problem, workers removed the lawn and installed a gas barrier and better quality equipment for the removal of methane. A new lawn was then put down.
Today the amphitheatre is safe and functions as a premier venue for entertainment events of all shapes and sizes. Perhaps the most prodigious player here was The Grateful Dead, who performed 39 concerts and used shows on October 1987 and June 1990 to collect material for the live album View from the Vault, Volume Three.
Part of the Shoreline Park Project, the amphitheatre was built in 1985-1986 by the City in cooperation with famous event promoter Bill Graham. The design was created by Graham to resemble the well-known logo that appears on the Grateful Dead’s Steal Your Face album.
Over the years it has played host to a long list of popular festivals including Lilith Fair, Lollapalooza, Ozzfest, Pop Disaster Tour, Rock the Bells Festival, Harmony by the Bay Festival and plenty of others. Upcoming artists slated to appear include Boston, The Doobie Brothers, The Backstreet Boys, Toby Keith, Alice Cooper, The Steve Miller Band, Journey and Motley Crue, hopefully with no fires of any kind.
Check out the Shoreline Amphitheatre’s website.
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