What’s the ideal place to experience live music? For some, a midsize hall with immaculate acoustics; for others, an intimate nightclub with a well-stocked bar; for others still, a clamorous, sweaty dive. For those who are able to get there, and who have an affinity with its vibe, the Gorge Amphitheater in George, Wash., with its scenic beauty and open-air sonics, is heaven.
Early in this friendly and entirely uncritical documentary about the venue, directed by Nic Davis, a geologist explains that while the Grand Canyon formed over five to six million years, it took mere minutes for a Columbia River flood to create this striking narrow valley whose geography practically demands an amphitheater.
The land once belonged to a couple of adventurous vintners, who put out seating and began hosting modest musical events there. Promoters, sponsors, and others took notice, and after a Bob Dylan booking in 1988 that showed the commercial potential of the site, the place grew.
It’s now home to several genre festivals, and a Labor Day weekend event hosted by the Dave Matthews Band. Matthews himself is a wittily self-effacing interviewee. Other famed players chime in, mostly with bromides. Footage from certain concerts does make the place look like a great, if rather exclusive, place to experience music.
Threaded through “Enormous: The Gorge Story” are the reminiscences of Pat Coats, a devotee of Gorge shows who shares 30 years’ worth of sometimes exhilarating stories, capped by one of loss. The dimension this adds is welcome. It reminds us that death is unavoidable, even in an anodyne documentary about a music venue.
Enormous: The Gorge Story
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 5 minutes. Available to rent or buy on Apple TV, Google Play and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators.
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