Published Date Written by David CarkhuffSCARBOROUGH — When heavy metal fans mosh this weekend, hotels will make money.
At least that's the hope, as a new concert series in Scarborough finds its footing. Several area hotels sold out during a recent show by rapper Wiz Khalifa at Scarborough Downs, an economic boost that promoters hope they can replicate as a summer concert series continues at the harness-racing track.
Gates open at 11 a.m. Friday, Aug. 10 for Oxxfest, a heavy metal show featuring the "Trespass America Tour." The festival is part of the Music at the Track series at Scarborough Downs. Five Finger Death Punch leads the slate of bands, joined by "up-and-comers Battlecross, Pop Evil, and Emmure, metal vets God Forbid, and heavyweights like Trivium and Killswitch Engage," according to Waterfront Concerts, the promoter.
"It's an exciting time for the region," said Alex Gray, Waterfront Concerts promoter, in an Aug. 2 interview.
Although attendance figures were not released for the Tuesday, July 31 concert by Wiz Khalifa and guests Kendrick Lamar, Chiddy Bang, Schoolboy Q and Chevy Woods, Gray estimated it was between 5,000 and 10,000. The concert drew some attention for a spate of calls involving dehydration of the mostly young fans, which Scarborough Fire Chief Michael Thurlow said caught responders off guard.
Gray said, "Each event is going to present its own challenges," noting that the demographics of the Wiz Khalifa show skewed young and largely female.
"There's a lot of moving parts to what we do, the largest of which being the demographic we attract," Gray said.
The rap concert fit the location, as Bangor Waterfront concerts often cater to an older audience.
"It's just a demographics thing, this show attracts young people, and there are more young people in Portland," Gray said.
Due to a scheduling issue, a Friday, Sept. 7 classic rock concert by ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd didn't make sense to stage in Bangor, so Gray arranged for the two iconic bands to play in Scarborough.
"The city will have a much easier day on their hands because you're going to have a much older crowd," Gray said.
Fans at this Friday's heavy metal concert will likely "mosh," the style of dancing where participants bump into each other — so for medical responders, "that will be a lot of bumps and bruises," Gray predicted.
Yet for all the variations in musical styles, proponents of the Music at the Track series say the money generated is music to the ears of area businesses.
Many hotels reported they sold out during the Wiz Khalifa show, Gray said. The goal was economic development in Haggis Parkway corridor when Waterfront Concerts was approached by Scarborough Downs to host a series similar to what Gray stages in Bangor.
Others see the value in expanding use of the track.
"It's a good utilization of the space right now," said Harvey Rosenfeld, president and executive director of Scarborough Economic Development Corporation, "because it's a large site and there's plenty of room and there's great access to the Turnpike."
SEDCO, a quasi-municipal nonprofit development corporation, met with Gray and discussed his plans and was excited when he came back this year to work with town officials to secure permission to stage concerts at the track.
"It's been something that people have talked about for a while," Rosenfeld said.
"It brings people into Scarborough who have probably never been here, which is good. It helps the Downs, we're still in a difficult economic time," he noted.
Harness racing, facing competition from other venues for gambling, continues at the track but has been eyed as one of several potential uses, Rosenfeld said.
"If you can do a mixture of uses, and keep the harness racing going, I think people will be pleased," he said.
John Porter, president and chief executive officer of the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce, said Waterfront Concerts have hit all the right notes in Bangor.
"Our concert series is a real big deal, but I can't tell you that the formula that we have is going to necessarily translate into what they're trying to do at Scarborough Downs," he cautioned.
In Bangor, the series is staged next to an entertainment district, with the downtown area, waterfront and Hollywood Casino in proximity.
"What I hear from my members in the lodging industry, the owners of hotels, is they all sell out everytime there's a concert, every room in the city sells out. And that's huge," Porter said.
Gray said he will meet with Scarborough town officials to discuss next year's concert series at Scarborough Downs.
"We can make some decisions going forward in 2013," he said.