May 23, 2018
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Foul language at concert offensive but not surprising

By Renee Ordway, Special to the BDN

Pssttt. Come closer. I’ve got a secret: I have tender ears.

So had I been in the parking lot of Shaw’s Supermarket on Main Street in Bangor last Sunday and had a child with me, I most likely would have been quite offended had I heard over a very loudspeaker from the Oxxfest concert across the street the F-bomb dropped several times along with an invitation for the women in the audience to show their breasts, only using a vulgar term that begins with the letter t.

My first reaction upon reading the letters to the editor in Wednesday’s BDN written by two different women who experienced the same verbal assault at the same time in the same grocery store parking lot and who both felt strongly enough to send their concerns off to the editor was one of concurrence.

Uncalled for, I said to myself, ignorant and over the top, and completely inappropriate for a downtown, outside venue.

I still feel that way, by the way.

But …

It was Oxxfest. It was a 12-hour, all-day alternative rock concert.

The musicians have a lot of tattoos, black-painted fingernails, multiple piercings and an array of musical talent.

They are loud, they scream lyrics that some of us don’t understand and don’t like. Apparently, they drop the F-bomb a bit casually.

Personally? I hate that. It really does grate on my tender ears.

I am sure those two women who wrote the letters indeed felt assaulted to a degree.

They felt they should be able to go grocery shopping on a Sunday evening on Main Street in Bangor without being subjected to “effing” this and “effing” that and show me your “t—s” being screamed through amplifiers and echoing off buildings along the street.

Really? Is it terribly hard to understand their point of view?

On Wednesday, reporter Andrew Neff did a story on the women’s concerns and talked to Bangor Police Chief Ron Gastia and Waterfront Concerts promoter Alex Gray, who basically said there is no law against profanity. Gray said they remind the acts they are in a residential area and discourage bad language, but in the end the musicians are artists and profanity is covered by that little nugget called “free speech” in the U.S. Constitution.

As a member of the news media, I’m generally a big fan of that particular nugget.

Of course, Wednesday’s story on the issue prompted more than a few online remarks, mostly sarcastic and nasty from readers hiding behind the anonymity such a venue provides them.

I’m actually surprised it has taken so long for this issue to arise, given the diversity of acts that come to the waterfront stage and its proximity to so many homes and businesses.

In my opinion, the solution is neither complicated nor foolproof.

Gray needs to assure the community that he understands their concerns about vulgarity and offensive language and continue to encourage performers to tone it down given the location of the stage.

Acts that completely disregard reasonable expectations simply should not be asked to return. Like free speech, that’s a right of the concert promoter, as well.

The other lesson is for the rest of us with tender ears.

There are places I avoid for a variety of reasons. In fact, I wish I had avoided downtown about 4 p.m. Thursday when traffic was nearly at a standstill because of the Bangor State Fair, the J. Geils concert and the Cool Sounds weekly concert series.

People were everywhere, and as I sat in traffic I had time to ponder what those same downtown streets looked like not so many years ago.

The Waterfront Concert Series has been a phenomenal success beyond what many imagined was possible. There have been no major problems with arrests, bad behavior or vandalism.

The business they’ve helped bring to the area truly has helped change the landscape of downtown.

The women who wrote those letters had every right to feel offended and angry.

But it was one particular act at that particular moment and needs to be kept in perspective.

The lesson for me is to check out the concert schedule, buy tickets early to the acts I like, and perhaps try to avoid doing my business on Main Street on days when acts are playing that may taint my tender ears.

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