'We're talking 80,000 bodies rocking to music'

Ravens arena braces for HFStival, 12 hours of music and moshing

21 bands and an M1 tank

May 28, 1999|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

You know it's a party when 100 police officers show up -- and so does the Army with an M1 tank.

Add 75,000 fans and you've got the largest rock concert in Baltimore's history.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers and 20 other bands will rage for 13 hours tomorrow at PSINet Stadium for a festival of food, frappuccino drinks and inflatable slides.

Managers of the year-old Ravens football stadium expect the HFStival, sponsored by radio station 99.1 WHFS-FM, to be a test of whether the arena will succeed as a destination for other large national acts or whether such megaconcerts will spark too much irritation among city neighbors.

The Landover-based station has held the concert series for the past six years at RFK Stadium in Washington, but it was attracted by the Baltimore stadium's larger size and high-tech video screens, company officials said.

Maryland Stadium Authority officials say they'd like their first nonathletic event to run so smoothly that the festival will return to southern Baltimore next year and in all future years -- although station managers aren't making any promises.

"We want the concert here permanently," said Sherman Kerbel, director of facilities for the stadium authority. "We want to prove we can handle major shows like this all the time and get a reputation as a place artists love to go."

To keep teen-age Fountains of Wayne fans from becoming mountains of pain for neighbors in Federal Hill, the city plans to have more than 100 officers working security and directing traffic around six streets that will be shut down.

Army recruiters also have told concert managers they plan to truck in an M1 tank early Saturday to help advertise the military to young people, said Mary Kay LeMay, director of promotions for WHFS.

"The tank is strictly for promotional purposes," LeMay said. "Idon't think it would make the most effective form of crowd control."

Despite the presence of the peacekeeping force, neighbors said they were anxious at the thought of nose-ringed suburban warriors hooting near their stoops.

"We're going to get out of town," said Robert O'Donoghue, 55, a banker who lives in Federal Hill. "The football games are loud, but volume at the stadium is really going to be cranked up for this. Huge and nasty."

Dick Leitch, 53, a financial manager who lives on Warren Avenue, said neighbors are used to large public events at Camden Yards and PSINet Stadium, and will only object to the concert if they have to spend their Sunday picking up trash.

"We live in an urban area and people here generally like the excitement," said Leitch. "But if there are a lot of incidents in the neighborhood, you'll see us raising heck about the idea of more rock concerts."

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said the city will do everything practical to keep the neighborhood in order. He warned concertgoers not to park on the local streets, which are restricted to residents who have stickers on their windshields.

"We are encouraging people as much as possible to use buses and light rail and Metro to get to the concert," said Schmoke.

Tickets for the festival cost $25 and sold out in 88 minutes on May 1, said Mike Fink, a promotions assistant for the station. This was a record for the 10-year-old concert, which was held in Prince George's County and Fairfax, Va., its first four years.

Some of the intense interest in the concert might have come from the fact that the Red Hot Chili Peppers will be playing the hit "Scar Tissue" and other songs from their unreleased album "Californication," said Fink.

Also playing during the show, which runs from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., are the Goo Goo Dolls, Silverchair, Orgy and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, among other bands.

About 100 food vendors in tents around the stadium will serve everything from pizza to beer and frappuccino coffee drinks. Concert workers will raise an air-conditioned tent for dancing to techno music, a "rain room" tent that will spray water on hot concertgoers, a 25-foot climbing wall for adventure seekers and a virtual-reality exhibit to let visitors experience action film-like movie sequences.

"We're breaking in a new stadium. It's awesome," said Billy Zero, a disc jockey at the station. "We're talking about almost 80,000 bodies sweating and moving and rocking to music." The festival is also about charity. Some of the proceeds from the event will go to nonprofit agencies providing food and shelter for refugees in Kosovo, said LeMay.

Although LeMay said she did not know how much money would go to this purpose, she noted that past concerts have generated more than $25,000 for such causes as aiding hurricane and burn victims.

The stadium authority and Ravens football team, which share the arena, will receive a percentage of the profits that might be roughly $150,000 to $200,000 each, according to one state estimate.

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