Youth prevails at concert

HFStival: The event makes its debut at the Ravens stadium as 75,000 music fans brave rising temperatures

May 30, 1999|By Heather Dewar and Tamara Ikenberg | Heather Dewar and Tamara Ikenberg,SUN STAFF

Old Man Summer met 75,000 mostly young concertgoers at PSINet Stadium yesterday for an event billed as Baltimore's biggest rock festival, and a good time was had by most.

From the breeze-blessed top level of the stadium, Michelle Kovaleski, 31, and Jim Davis, 35, peered down upon the distant, flailing crowd surfers at the 10th annual HFStival, as the sound of Silverchair drifted up. Kovaleski and Davis were glad to be far above the packed stadium floor, where the average age was about two-thirds of theirs.

"We're definitely in the right place," said Kovaleski of Washington. "We can see the band, and we can watch everyone get in fights."

"I'm glad those days have passed," said Davis of Bethesda. "I'm glad I survived those days."

Those days had not passed for the majority of concertgoers, still young enough for string bikinis and foolish enough for double tongue-piercings. Fans pumped tanned arms to the nouveaux reggae of Sugar Ray, showed off the trickiest new dance moves in the Trancemissions tent and savored baklava and cigarettes.

Some of the hottest alternative acts, from Orgy to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, participated in the first rock festival to be held at the Baltimore Ravens' new home.

"The children are on their good behavior," said Baltimore Police Sgt. John F. Herndon, who reported no arrests and no serious incidents by early evening.

Julie Badum, a Ravens spokeswoman, said three concertgoers were ejected and 50 were taken to local hospitals, most suffering from a combination of alcohol consumption and heat exhaustion. A few sprains were the most serious injuries, Badum said.

Hundreds of concertgoers were treated for heat exhaustion, when temperatures at the nearby Maryland Science Center climbed to an unofficial high of 90 degrees at 5: 22 p.m.

At one of the four first-aid stations, where overheated concertgoers were sitting two to a cot and the line stretched out the door, medical workers were eating cheese crackers to keep up their strength. They had long ago lost count of the number of patients treated, but nurse Tim Shahan said none of the cases was serious.

Almost all of the stricken were teen-agers who had drunk too much beer and stayed in the hot sun too long.

"As a resident I used to work with said, `A lot of acute and chronic stupidity,' " Shahan said.

Planners had urged concertgoers to take light rail to the stadium. But just as the gates opened, a northbound train packed with fans derailed about 100 yards from its destination.

No one was injured, but a 2 1/2-mile stretch of track between Patapsco Avenue and Camden Street was closed for about two hours. Service was restored about noon.

The concert, sponsored by Washington radio station WHFS-FM, was the first time the show was held in Baltimore. Previous HFStivals were held at Washington's RFK Stadium.

Much of the music on the main stage was in the alternative vein, from thrash group Blink-182 to the surging ska sounds of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, to the industrial rock of Orgy. Meanwhile, at the Street Stage -- a second stage set up outside the stadium -- the crowd heard everything from the hip-hop-flavored rock of Citizen King to the folk-inflected acoustic rock of Beth Orton.

Mostly though, there was big-time guitar rock, as bands like the Offspring, the Goo Goo Dolls and the Red Hot Chili Peppers performed their hits.

Though youth ruled the day, it had its disadvantages. For example, the minimum age for body piercing or tattooing in a tent at the Vendor Village was 18. Or younger, with parental consent.

"I wanted to get my tongue pierced, and they were trying to recruit an adult for me," said Jessica Curry, 17.

First aid workers ordered 4,000 pounds of ice and brought in bottled water by the truckload to help cool down overheated fans, said Greg Bartoo, a paramedic administrator with University Hospital Emergency Medical Services.

The three doctors and 12 nurses on duty were expected to treat between 1,200 and 1,500 people by day's end, Bartoo said. City firefighters and a private ambulance service gathered four ambulances, five paramedic teams on golf carts and seven more teams of roving medics on foot to treat the injured.

"This kind of event always produces heat exhaustion," said Dr. Michael Rolnick, a University of Maryland physician working in a first-aid room. "With alcohol and drugs, they get dehydrated."

From the basement command post, Jim Slusher of the Maryland Stadium Authority oversaw a bank of 26 video cameras that panned the stadium grounds inside and out. Slusher pronounced the event a success.

"If I was a dog with two tails, they'd both be wagging," he said. "This is first concert I've ever done. It's kind of exciting."

Morning traffic northbound on Interstate 95 approaching the city was backed up from Russell Street to the Baltimore Beltway -- about two miles -- for about two hours, as concertgoers poured in.

A tattooing and body-piercing tent outside the stadium gates did a brisk business.

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