The powers-that-be in Orange Beach, AL have worked themselves into a tizzy over a single concert taking place on the Friday before Memorial Day at their large music venue The Wharf. The band? Road warrior southern rock band Widespread Panic.
At Tuesday night’s council meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Silvers laid into Wharf General Manager Jim Bibby over the booking. Silvers said the band’s fanbase has pushed the city’s fire and police services to the limit, calling a past three-day stint “pure mayhem.”
Despite an email sent about two weeks ago by Mayor Tony Kennon to [promoter] Red Mountain [Entertainment] and Art Favre, owner of Wharf Retail Properties LLC, expressing the city’s concerns about a possible concert, Silvers said “apparently the message didn’t get out.”
“We’re still not happy that this has been announced,” Silvers said. “The maximizing that it puts on our resources, our police and our fire department on a busy weekend — Memorial Day weekend, Jim — we can’t have that. We don’t promote that style of living and floppiness that’s happened, that they will bring. And they will be here, living in vacant garages, living in the streets, showering down at the beach. Jim, we can’t have it. We can’t put up with it. So please whoever didn’t get that message needs to hear from all of us up here.”
…Kennon said he was under the impression that the city had an agreement with Wharf officials that acts like Widespread Panic were not welcome in Orange Beach.
“I think people know that I’m a very vocal opponent of the music festival in Gulf Shores,” Kennon said. “I don’t believe for a minute that it’s who we are. It’s not our brand. It’s not what we’re trying to sell as a family-friendly destination. That is who we are and the minute we start prostituting that because of money or whatever reason then the next weekend can be prostituted and the next weekend and then it ends up we’re Panama City. And that’s not who we are if I can help it.”
Kennon said he hoped the booking was “an oversight” by management.
More: Widespread pain? Wharf’s booking of jam band ticks off Orange Beach officials
In Alabama Widespread Panic has had issues with fans and law enforcement in the past, with over a hundred arrests at shows not uncommon. What gets me is that this band has played more sold out shows at Red Rocks in Colorado (of which a few I’ve attended) than any other band and you never read about hundreds of arrests or animosity between the performers and the community when they’re in town. Then again, Colorado is not Alabama.
As far as the Mayor Pro Tem saying that Widespread Panic fans are every negative hippy stereotype, he needs to get out more. Most (if not all) of the Spreadheads I know are professionals and/or have kids and/or tend to spend a lot of money on their Widespread Panic experiences. They aren’t staying in vacant garages and living in the streets. They’re staying in nice hotels, eating out every night, etc.
To me this whole thing sounds like the powers-that-be in Orange Beach, AL trying to impose their values on the community. Widespread Panic doesn’t fit their values, and they’re letting that be known.
Widespread Panic. Photo: Andy Tennile