Oxxfest, sun heat things up at Waterfront Pavilion

Concertgoers at Oxxfest on the Bangor Waterfront Sunday afternoon.
Concertgoers at Oxxfest on the Bangor Waterfront Sunday afternoon.
Posted July 31, 2011, at 8:23 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 01, 2011, at 12:05 p.m.

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Members of Crossfade Mark Castillo on drums and Ed Sloan perform at Oxxfest on the Bangor Waterfront Sunday afternoon.
Members of Crossfade Mark Castillo on drums and Ed Sloan perform at Oxxfest on the Bangor Waterfront Sunday afternoon.

BANGOR, Maine — While alternative rock band Crossfade was burning up the “B” stage at Waterfront Pavilion, some 3,500 fans were trying to keep from burning externally and internally as the blazing sun and temperatures in the mid 80’s forced many music fans to seek shade.

Crossfade, the last of 13 warm-up bands at Oxxfest, played a solid 45-minute set featuring nine songs before the action and sound quickly switched over to the main stage, where Maine band Uncle Jack kicked off a 25-minute set to open the later portion of the all-day music event.

And through it all, authorities kept watch by walking around, manning stations, or remotely from the city’s mobile command vehicle parked on the former Bean and Conquest used car lot above Summer Street.

“Everything’s here, from access to the Internet, weather radar and instant updates,” said Bangor Fire Department assistant chief Darrell Cyr, one of two officers staffing the command center, which brings together officials from the city’s fire, police and emergency services agencies on site. “I think the thing I like most about it is it gives us the ability to pick up our office and take it anywhere. It’s all self-contained with radio, printing, email, everything we need.”

The 41-foot-long, $331,500 behemoth features a computer-aided dispatch console; portable radios; ham, marine and aviation radios; a satellite phone; a satellite TV for monitoring breaking news; a weather station; spotlights; eight laptop computers; and a 900-megahertz mobile data station located in two of the three sections: a communications area up front or the the command center with a conference room and video display in back. There’s also a small galley and restroom in between.

There’s also a pan-tilt-zoom camera capable of zooming close enough to the same view a fan has from first row, dead center to the stage, and recording the video.

“There are four of them in the state, but we’re the only city that has one,” said Cyr.

Normally, this command vehicle would be stationed at the Bangor State Fair, but it was moved to the waterfront park area to oversee the 12-hour Oxxfest concert, which started at 10:30 a.m.

“We brought it down here today for this because it’s an all-day event,” Cyr explained. “Later on, what we’ll do is focus the camera on the mosh pits to keep an eye on things and make sure they don’t get out of hand, and if someone gets injured, we can direct them to the injured person quicker.”

Things were pretty mellow most of the day as emergency medical services personnel had just one instance of someone having to be transported to Eastern Maine Medical due to heat-related problems.

“It’s mostly been dehydration issues, but they’ve mostly been just people who needed some water, and that wasn’t many,” said Bangor Fire Department captain Tom Higgins. “And the people have been pretty mellow overall.”

The crowd was smaller than organizers hoped and police and fire officials expected, but the crowd was expected to grow as the sun went down. By 9 p.m., police estimated the crowd consisted of 5,500 people. In total, 20 uniformed Bangor officers were on duty at the concert and 10 were at the fair. Fire department and medical personnel numbered six from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and increased to eight from 5 p.m. to close.

“I think the heat might have kept some people away, and at the lake or beach early on,” said Cyr, a Van Buren native.

Bangor police officers Gary Decker and Dick Polk said they try to keep on the lookout for certain disturbances at large gatherings like Oxxfest, especially in oppressive heat.

“One of the big things we deal with here is domestic issues, like if two people are crowded and they’re pushing each other in the heat and tempers or flaring, or someone’s looking at someone else’s girlfriend. Stuff like that,” said Decker.

Due to the hard rock edge most of the bands played, the concert was friendly to mosh pits and crowd-surfing, meaning willing participants could form open circles and frenetically slam into each other — mosh — as well as let themselves be hauled up and passed around overhead via other fans’ outstretched arms and hands — surfing.

“The promoters want the mosh pit stuff to happen, so we have to just keep a close eye on it,” said Polk. “If people are engaged in it, then we’re not going to stop them unless it gets to the point that they might cause a major injury.”

Both officers were grateful to have a mellow crowd as it was hard enough battling the heat with Kevlar jackets and two layers of dark clothing that didn’t look comfortable to wear.

“It’s not,” Polk said with a smile. “We just try to stay in the shade as much as we can and drink a lot of fluids. We also take a lot of breaks in the command center in the AC.”

One new feature for Oxxfest was an autograph tent in which 18 of the 19 bands — headliner Stone Temple Pilots had not committed to participating at press time — signed autographs for fans shortly after their shows.

“We’ve had promotional booths at all the concerts, but for this kind of festival thing, we talked to [Waterfront Concerts promoter] Alex Gray about setting up an autograph tent too because there are so many bands,” said Mark Bravemen, owner of Mark’s Music in Brewer. “I don’t know how often this happens, but the bands are loving it and the fans are going crazy over it.”

The late-headliner show featured Rose Hill Drive, Paranoid Social Club, My Darkest Days, Sick Puppies and Stone Temple Pilots.

After Sick Puppies delivered a raucous, high-energy performance to amp the crowd up, STP performed an 85-minute set with few breaks between 12 songs, the best-received of which were “Interstate Love Song” and “Plush.” The digital, fiber optic-like screen backstage and smaller identical screens out front provided a dazzling visual display and some fans were left hoarse from cheering after a two-song encore.

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