Packed house, peaceful crowd | AspenTimes.com

Packed house, peaceful crowd

Chad Abraham

The sun beats down on the crowd assembled for Widespread Panic's Thursday night show. The band's audiences were well-behaved, police say. (Mark Fox/The Aspen Times)

Snowmass Village handled the Panic without problems. In fact, the nearly 18,000 Widespread fans who attended two Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Festival shows were “well-mannered,” according to the town’s police chief.A little more than 10,000 people attended the Widespread concert Friday night at Snowmass Town Park. Police Chief Art Smythe said his department was prepared for a near-sellout of 11,000, the single-day festival attendance record singer-songwriter Jack Johnson set last year.Thursday night’s Widespread show saw 7,200 fans, according to Jim Horowitz, Jazz Aspen Snowmass” executive director.The five-day festival drew about 32,000 fans, down slightly from last year’s record-setting totals. The main difference was Saturday, Horowitz said.”It [was] a few thousand less than we expected,” he said.Last year, David Byrne and Sheryl Crow drew 9,000 on Saturday. This year, the reunited duo of Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina headlined before a crowd of 4,700.On the festival’s final two days, 7,300 came out Sunday to see Willie Nelson and John Fogerty, while 2,500 fans attended Sunday’s show with Maxi Priest and Alpha Blondy. The latter had to interrupt his show midway through because of voice difficulties, Horowitz said.Blondy had just finished a short international tour, and the band was trying to get to another venue in Monterey, Calif., but missed a flight. That forced the band to perform two gigs in two states on Sunday before taking an all-night bus trip to Snowmass Village for Monday’s show. The schedule was too much for Blondy.”He lost his voice in the afternoon, and we gave him a lot of oxygen and tea,” Horowitz said. “He got out and did the best he could, but early in the show he was apologizing because he didn’t feel right.”Even without its namesake lead singer, the band continued.Horowitz was pleased with how the Widespread Panic shows turned out, noting that concerns the town might not be able to handle the popular band’s large and eclectic fan base proved incorrect.”It was a really, really positive couple of days that they were here – just good, clean, music-loving fans,” he said.”We were prepared for worse,” Police Chief Smythe said. “We had a lot of preparations in place, and certainly we were very busy.”Police responded to nearly 100 calls related to the concert Friday night, and 83 the previous night, but all were minor incidents. A number of people were treated for overintoxication, Smythe said.”Overall, it went very well,” he said. “I got a number of comments from my officers about how well-mannered and polite the Widespread Panic fans were, actually.”An Aspen Times photographer reported seeing the consumption of myriad illegal drugs in the crush of people near the stage Friday. But everyone was mellow, and the only arrests were two people cited for trespassing and released. They were trying to sneak into the show, Smythe said.There were also no problems with wayward campers.”We contacted one fella that was just behind the rodeo area [across from the concerts] basically taking a bath in an irrigation ditch,” Smythe said. “We just thought he was probably doing that in a place that wasn’t very appropriate. There was a little of that sort of thing.”The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority also was successful in moving the hordes to and from the venue.”The transportation program worked very well Friday night,” Smythe said. “We were very concerned about being able to move all those people away efficiently, because when we had Jack Johnson, there were some breakdowns in that system. This year, we had better systems in place, more buses and a more organized program.”One thing that did plague the event’s first two days was “a serious lack of available parking” in the upper village near the mall. That was due in part to “the fact that we no longer have the base parking lot because of Base Village construction,” Smythe said. “Lots A, B and C used to act as a good safety valve up there for people who wanted to park in the village and then come down to the event.”But he said the parking was a minor problem that didn’t impact the festival.Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is chad@aspentimes.com

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