‘If Bangor doesn’t want us, we’ll leave,’ Waterfront Concerts promoter says after council tables vote

As he helps move seats, Waterfront Concerts promoter Alex Gray, stops to talk with concert-goers before the start of the Charlie Daniels-Lynyrd Skynyrd  show on the Bangor Waterfront in August 2010.
As he helps move seats, Waterfront Concerts promoter Alex Gray, stops to talk with concert-goers before the start of the Charlie Daniels-Lynyrd Skynyrd show on the Bangor Waterfront in August 2010.
Posted Nov. 28, 2011, at 10:38 p.m.
Last modified Nov. 29, 2011, at 10:48 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The Bangor Waterfront could be a lot quieter this spring and summer.

An expected vote by the full Bangor City Council on the authorization of a 2012 agreement between Bangor and Waterfront Concerts was tabled Monday night following a concerts workshop, at least temporarily placing a third season of concerts in jeopardy.

“If Bangor doesn’t want us, we’ll leave,” said Orono native and Waterfront Concerts promoter Alex Gray. “I’ve already heard from half a dozen municipalities in Maine that want the same thing Bangor already has and are prepared to have serious talks about us relocating.”

Councilors Cary Weston and Charlie Longo both were quick to emphasize that the delay does not mean a contract won’t be approved.

“I don’t think this by any means is any slight on the Waterfront Concert series at all,” Longo said. “It’s just an opportunity for the public to weigh in and for the new councilors to give their two cents. The last thing you want to do is vote on something you didn’t weigh in on and I respect that totally.”

What was expected to be a vote on a proposed contract for a third season in 2012 was derailed as councilors asked for more time in an earlier workshop session.

“We had a workshop on the Waterfront Concert contract and three councilors who haven’t been part of that previous conversation wanted more time to digest it and be part of that conversation,” said Weston, who was recently chosen as mayor. “Those three, along with two others who either weren’t in favor of it or had more questions, also wanted more time to study it.”

The three newly elected councilors are Ben Sprague, James Gallant and Joe Baldacci.

Upon hearing about the council’s decision, Gray sent an email to some city staff members hinting that the series may withdraw its application for a 2012 concert series.

“We came to Bangor because another municipality wanted more money and we’ve done really well for the city and ourselves and the fans,” said Gray, who also represents the Live Nation concert bookings and promotions company in Maine.

“This is saveable because Bangor’s home for me and all things being equal, I want to be here,” he said. “This is where I grew up. My family, my friends and my roots are all here.”

“I don’t think anyone’s having second thoughts. I think there’s information to be had by folks,” said Weston. “There are two issues at play: First is generic use of the waterfront as a whole in terms of who should be using it, who are we sharing it with, who has rights of usage on certain dates.

“Second is the executive session component and the financial information which would have to be dealt with privately,” Weston added.

Weston said the council has tentatively scheduled a public session on the Waterfront Concerts on Wednesday, Dec. 7. Part of that session will be closed to the public in executive session as specific contractual and financial information will be shared.

The main issues concerning councilors appear to be inability to honor a pledge made to move the stage and aim it downtown to lessen the secondary noise which caused a few complaints from residents off Main Street. An estimated $600,000 cost to move the stage led councilors — who initially pegged the cost closer to $125,000 — to decide to keep the stage’s current configuration at Waterfront Pavilion one more year.

“There are concerns on both sides and being a West Side resident, I know sometimes it’s annoying and others it’s not,” said Weston. “There are a lot of factors, but as far as re-orienting the stage, there are some tough discussions to be had because we found out — after saying we were going to change it’s direction — we were going back on that due to the cost of changing it.”

Some of the new councilors also want more financial information from Waterfront Concerts, LLC and Gray.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to get the Waterfront deal done. I’m confident we will. I think there’s more support than not,” said Longo. “The nine councilors, I believe, like the Waterfront Concerts. We like the Waterfront Concerts and we’ll do most anything to accommodate them here.”

Weston concurred, saying Bangor has gained a lot of direct economic and inherent benefits from Waterfront Concerts during its two years in Bangor.

“The more time you spend with it, the more you recognize what a great benefit it is to Bangor and what a very unique asset it is to the region,” Weston said.

In the meantime, city officials will continue to work toward a long-term agreement with Live Nation as well as a site layout and project budget that makes sense for the city, residents, the promoter and concert-goers.

Time is starting to become a factor as well because most acts are lined up months in advance for major concert venues.

“The real goal is to get the contract finalized because they have to be able to tell acts what dates they have to work with and what facility they have to work with,” Weston said. “He needs to know he has a deal in place before he can negotiate with anyone and they have to negotiate months in advance.”

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