PORTLAND, Maine — This summer’s Mumford & Sons concert on the Eastern Promenade struck a few sour notes with neighbors, but was generally on key, with the city profited to the tune of $54,000.
Those were the conclusions of a Tuesday night meeting where East End residents and city officials shared feedback and results from the Aug. 4 show.
Several people aired frustrations about closed streets, poor trash clean-up and excessively loud sound levels in the neighborhood.
“I was not particularly pleased with the final clean-up,” said Turner Street resident Ross Fields. He noted that temporary signs on event fencing had been snipped off and left on the ground.
More than 15,000 fans gathered on the Eastern Prom for the day-long event, making it one of the largest outdoor concerts in Portland in years. The event was headlined by Mumford & Sons, the British folk rock band whose hits are topping international charts. Portland was the first of just four locations in the country chosen to host the band’s “Gentlemen of the Road” tour.
The show had been a hot topic of conversation since being quickly proposed and permitted in early April, and was seen as a test for future large-scale concerts in city parks.
At Tuesday’s meeting, some people said they wanted the city to do a better job of first proving the benefit of such events.
In response, Andy Downs, director of public assembly facilities, cited financial results of the concert, showing that the city took in more than $29,000 from its share of ticket sales, merchandise, food and beverages. With the tour’s donation of six solar-powered recycling containers, worth nearly $25,000, the city received a total of $54,000 from the tour stop.
The city was reimbursed nearly $63,000 for providing police, medical and other services. No arrests, and only a couple minor medical incidents, were reported.
But neighborhood residents, concerned about the possibility of future shows on the Prom, wanted to know the overall economic impact of the concert.
“The benefit really has to be there, for businesses and neighbors. The feedback from the neighborhood has been, ‘This is great, but what about the future?’” said Andrea Myhaver, president of the Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Organization.
Bayside resident Jay York said, “When the city gets into renting public space for profit, there has to be an overwhelming benefit. … We need solid numbers to show that this is a worthwhile thing.”
Anita LaChance, the city’s director of recreation and facilities management, admitted that evidence of the benefit to local businesses was mostly anecdotal, based on comments from sandwich shop owners and hotel staff. And she said it had to be weighed against the inconvenience and “opportunity cost” to neighbors of a large event.
City Councilor Kevin Donoghue added, “There was not a robust opportunity to gather information [about the event's impact] beforehand, but this meeting is our make-up attempt.”
Not only was there not enough information, others at the meeting complained there wasn’t enough lead time to vet the idea of the concert.
“The show was the result of quick thought, executed without a lot of information,” a Vesper Street resident said.
But Mayor Michael Brennan urged the public to regard the concert as a learning opportunity.
“One learning is the need to strike a balance,” he said. “If an opportunity comes up, let’s not let it pass by. But let’s also get it before the public.”
Brennan also pointed out another benefit of the Mumford & Sons show.
“We ended up on the world stage, and we did well,” he said, citing a Rolling Stone article that described the concert and band members’ affection for the city. “If we have a future event, it will be even better.”