BANGOR, Maine — Passing police sirens, the soggy, smelly gravel beneath concertgoers’ feet and the headlines from the Bangor Daily News all were fodder Saturday night for Garrison Keillor, host and writer of the radio show “A Prairie Home Companion.”
“A man is trying to sing and not bother the neighbors,” Keillor sang at the Darlings Waterfront Pavillion during his Radio Romance show, which was very similar to his weekly radio show but was not broadcast live.
“Could you keep your voice down, there’s neighbors,” Keillor cautioned his fellow cowpoke in the Lives of the Cowboys skit that is a regular segment on the show. “There’s going to be complaints,” he said, referring to concerns that have been expressed to Bangor city officials about the noise level of some concerts this summer.
“I’ll deal with complaints,” sound effects expert Fred Newman declared, as he shot off an imaginary pistol.
Since the first concert of the season in May, Bangor police and city staff have received a total of 72 calls about concert noise stemming from 10 events, according to a story published Saturday by the Bangor Daily News.
Sgt. Wade Betters said Sunday that Bangor police received no noise complaints about the concert. The only other event that resulted in no complaints was the July 12 mixed martial arts bouts.
Another separate problem that was evident Saturday night was the smell of sewage emitted from the wet ground under the gravel on the site. Waterfront Concerts Promoter Alex Gray said Sunday in an email that the City of Bangor is working to resolve the situation.
A combination of things appears to be causing the smell, including the newness of the site, Gray said. Another factor is the organic starter material, similar to potting soil, that was put down in an attempt to help the sod take.
“That, combined with the massive amounts of rain that we have received in June and July, had created a severe drainage issue,” he said. “The city has a consulting engineer working on the issue along with the contractor that did the work, and we are confident that they will get it solved in time.”
Keillor joked about the “grassy smell of summer” as he began his performance. He also said that he was not able to hit the notes made by the siren on an emergency vehicle that headed south on State Street as he opened the show.
Known for doing extensive research when visiting a community, Keillor referred to the history of the Queen City of the East and its reputation during the late 19th century as the lumber capital of the world with a waterfront full of illegal saloons.
“When the rest of the state went dry, Bangor found a way to stay wet just by ignoring the problem entirely,” Keillor said.
The concert drew a multi-generational crowd dominated by baby boomers.
Earle Towle, 63, and his wife, Joy Towle, 61, of Fryeburg attended the concert with newlyweds Megan Patterson, 28, and Newton McNeill, 29, of Milford.
“I grew up listening to ‘A Prairie Home Companion,’” McNeill said before the show began at 7:30 p.m. “What I love about the show is it includes a form of storytelling that I don’t often find in the reality TV shows and high-velocity entertainment being offered today.”
Joy Towle said she and her husband listen to the show every week, and, earlier this year, went to a live radio broadcast at the Maine Center for the Performing Arts in Orono.
The Radio Romance Tour was part of a month-long, 26-city tour. Keillor told the audience that he decided to go on the bus tour after his wife “had some ideas for projects” he could do this summer.
In addition to Newman, Keillor was joined onstage by Richard Dworsky and the Guy’s All-Star Shoe Band and Sara Watkins, a bluegrass fiddler and singer.