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Outcome of Mumford show bodes well for future concerts in Portland parks

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Mumford & Sons takes the stage on Portland's East End Promenade on Saturday night, Aug. 4, 2012.
By Christopher Cousins, BDN Staff

PORTLAND, Maine — Thorough pre-show groundwork by promoters and a gentlemanly approach by the musicians themselves made the weekend’s Mumford & Sons concert on the Eastern Promenade enough of a success that city leaders are exploring how to bring more concerts to Portland’s public parks.

Nicole Clegg, a spokeswoman for the city, said that despite a widely held view that Mumford’s seven-hour “Gentlemen of the Road” music festival on Saturday was a success, the show wasn’t without its hiccups.

“Certainly there are ideas we would have if we ever do this again,” said Clegg. “We’ll have a discussion about what are the things that we would do differently, but overall it went well. People had a good time.”

During an event debriefing scheduled for Thursday, representatives from several city departments will discuss everything from the positive message about Portland that was projected from the stage to lines for food vendors and bathroom facilities that some felt were far too long. Clegg said the City Council is likely to explore the issue of holding more large-scale shows on public property in the future, though nothing to that effect has yet made it to a council agenda.

Though the city hosts around 50,000 people on the Eastern Promenade for Independence Day concerts with the Portland Symphony Orchestra — a tally far greater than the 16,000 tickets sold for Saturday’s show — the Mumford concert was a first in terms of bringing rock groups to the Promenade and for the length of the multiact show, which went from about 2 to 9:15 p.m.

One issue that is sure to receive some attention is the number of food vendors and restrooms provided by concert promoters, which for the Mumford show wasn’t something the city had much control over, said Clegg. In some cases, people waited in line for hours for a bite to eat or a restroom, according to a previous report in the Bangor Daily News.

“That’s something we will talk about at our debriefing,” said Clegg. “In the future we will probably work with whoever the concert promoter is to come up with a plan that meets the needs of the number of people expected.”

City staff were still working Tuesday to clean up the Eastern Promenade, including minor repairs to the turf, but Clegg said all of that is covered by revenues from the show. She said figures about how much money the city made from rental fees and commissions from merchandise sales won’t be known for another week or so.

On a positive note, Clegg said there were no arrests associated with the concert and relatively few situations that required medical attention. Clegg estimated that approximately 20 people visited an on-site medical tent, most of them suffering dehydration or exhaustion brought on by Saturday’s high temperatures and humidity. That compares favorably to other shows in recent years in Portland and Scarborough.

Alex Gray, a promoter for the Waterfront Concert Series in Bangor, as well as a Wiz Khalifa show last week at Scarborough Downs, told the Bangor Daily News Tuesday that there have been two arrests since 2010 during a total of five shows in Bangor that were similar or larger in scope to the Mumford show. In Scarborough last week, there were two arrests, six medical transports and 50 people treated and released for various ailments associated with the heat, he said.

In Portland, Clegg said concert promoters and producers helped the festival go smoothly with an effective pre-show informational campaign that included interactions with various neighborhood groups, city staff and the city council.

“They did a very nice job of connecting with the community,” said Clegg.

City Councilor Kevin Donoghue, who lives about three blocks from the Eastern Promenade, agreed. He said he has heard no complaints from his constituents, but plans to host a forum to discuss the event in the next few weeks.

“My phone did not ring the entire day,” he said. “I found the noise levels more than appropriate. The greatest disruption was probably the airplanes flying overhead promoting shows in Bangor. Those constituents who I have heard from this week had their expectations exceeded. As an isolated event, it was a big success.”

Diane Davison, president of Friends of the Eastern Promenade, had the same impression.

“We felt that it went very well,” she said. “To have 16,000 people just behind the gates, to feel the positive vibe of the whole event, I think that was just remarkable. I haven’t heard any complaints.”

And when the world-famous English folk rockers Mumford & Sons arrived, there was little they could have done to serve Portland better, said Clegg. In addition to encouraging a neighborhood decorating contest that ended with the musicians showing up on a local family’s porch, they marveled from the stage about the city, which they chose as one of only four U.S. locations for the Gentlemen of the Road tour.

“They were just terrific about embracing the city,” said Clegg. “When they were on stage they asked everyone not from Portland to cheer for the city. You couldn’t ask for a better venue to promote our community.”

Bangor Daily News writer Andrew Neff contributed to this report.

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