March 24, 2019
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Bangor approves deal to keep Waterfront Concerts

John Clarke Russ | BDN
John Clarke Russ | BDN
Lynyrd Skynyrd fans Rachel Malcolm (left) of Trenton and Jamie Tate-Copeland whoop it up with thousands of others as Charlie Daniels arrives onstage as the opening act for the Hollywood Slots Waterfront Concert Series in Bangor in August 2010.

BANGOR, Maine — Let the music play, for at least one more season on the Bangor Waterfront.

One week after postponing an expected vote on a proposed 2012 contract with Waterfront Concerts, the City Council voted 9-0 to approve it during Wednesday night’s special council meeting.

“I think a lot of people got up to speed, but I also think the community spoke, especially the business community and what they require, need and want from this,” said Alex Gray, Waterfront Concerts promoter.

Last week’s delay fanned fears from some concert fans that Waterfront Concerts might ship out.

“Yeah, I don’t think a lot of people thought a unanimous vote was going to happen, but I think since the last meeting, I’m proud of the effort that’s been put in by the council to get up to speed on areas they thought were necessary, discuss as a group the questions folks had, and be well-rounded on the areas people are concerned about,” said Councilor and Mayor Cary Weston. “I think this vote shows the council is coming forward and a unanimous vote for the future of the waterfront is the best thing for the city of Bangor.”

The delay apparently did have one unintended consequence. Bangor was primed to get an outdoor concert date with Grammy-winning singer James Taylor, but the delay — coupled with a need to complete Taylor’s concert tour schedule — resulted in Taylor signing elsewhere, according to Bob Duteau, Live Nation’s vice president of booking. Taylor will play Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland on June 29 and the Verizon Center in Manchester, N.H., June 30.

Councilor Joe Baldacci was one of three newly elected councilors who wanted a delay on the vote to get up to speed on the contract terms and issues related to the concerts, particularly noise levels, which some residents near Main Street complained about.

“I just wanted to make sure there was some forum for the concerns of the public to be heard before we get into any kind of long-term relationship,” said Baldacci. “It’s one thing to have a one-year lease and it’s another to have a five-year deal.”

Weston, who called the special meeting, is hopeful that Waterfront Concerts and the council eventually can discuss a long-term arrangement.

“Immediately we need to schedule a meeting to start talking about a long-term contract while engaging the promoter and Live Nation,” Weston said.

Municipal officials in areas including Gardiner and Greater Portland reportedly have shown interest in luring Waterfront Concerts away from Bangor.

“It got to the point where municipalities had stopped calling because they really felt Bangor really had it in the bag,” Gray said. “This opened the door for other municipalities.”

Does Wednesday’s vote close that door?

“I don’t think this closes that door because, unfortunately, we had seven to nine days of time where we took calls from people and took meetings,” Gray said.

Still, all things being equal, Gray’s preference is to stay put in Bangor.

“This is home. I have a house 10 miles up the road, so why wouldn’t I want to be here?” said the Old Town native.

Councilors said they know they have a good thing in the concert series and are interested in keeping it around more than another year.

“I equate this to the closing of a mill,” said Gallant. “Maybe it’s not the best comparison, but when you have an economic stimulus and you let it go, it leads to losing other things.”

KahBang music and arts festival officials and American Folk Festival chairman John Rohman also addressed the council to make sure their performance dates are protected so as not to conflict with any Waterfront Concerts shows.

As for the noise problem and complaints about foul language used at some shows, councilors were sympathetic and vowed to keep working to alleviate the problems, but said there is no sure quick fix.

“I defy any one of us to go to the mall and not hear the F-word,” said Councilor Patricia Blanchette. “What may be acceptable to today’s youth would have gotten my mouth washed out with lye soap, but it’s a different time.”

Five Bangor residents complained about either the noise level or vulgar language from some acts.

Several others came forward from the packed City Hall chamber to say they enjoyed the concerts and a few said they appreciated the fact they could hear the shows from their homes.

“The loudest concert last year total was Reba [McEntire],” Gray said. “By far it was the loudest, but it got the least amount of complaints and a lot of that is taste and tolerance.”

“You may or may not notice the noise or the F-bombs, but you’ll notice it more when they leave,” Gallant said.

Merchants would notice. Several councilors — and Kerri Tripp, executive director of the Greater Bangor Convention and Visitors Bureau — referred to sold-out hotels, standing-room crowds at restaurants, and jobs created by Waterfront Concerts and the vendors that set up shops on event days.

The public session was supposed to be followed by a scheduled executive session by the council, but councilors opted not to hold one and instead held the vote.

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