Disclosure: I'm not big on British folk rock, or massive crowds. So when 16,000 concertgoers were expected to descend on the Eastern Prom this past weekend for the Mumford & Sons' "Gentlemen of the Road" tour, my wife and I were sure to embark on our weekend trip up the coast as early as possible.
When I got home on Sunday evening, I rode over to the Prom, expecting to see a disaster area of scattered trash and dead grass. But instead, I saw the same old park, none the worse for the wear. Sure, they were still putting away some gear, and there was a slight whiff of spilled beer — but that wasn't keeping dozens of people from enjoying the evening on the Prom's broad lawn. Police reportedly had had a quiet night. Folk rock fans, apparently, are meticulous guests.
By all measures, the "Gentlemen of the Road" tour was a success, with tour organizers and the promoters from the State Theatre bending over backwards to be model guests. In addition to bringing tens of thousands of fans in to visit our city and local businesses — a powerful example of the economic impact that arts events are capable of — the show also made direct contributions to the city and to the park. According to City Councilor Kevin Donoghue, the tour reimbursed city staff for clean-up costs, chipped in a percentage of ticket, food, and beverage sales directly into City Hall's coffers, donated several thousand dollars to the Friends of the Eastern Promenade, and donated six solar-powered trash compactors for the city to use to keep the park tidy.
A postmortem meeting among city staff found broad agreement that the show was a success and "that any future event of similar size and scope on the Prom could be handled as well, if not better with some minor changes," according to a Press Herald report.
So will more summer music festivals bring thousands of polite concert-goers back to the Eastern Promenade in the future? It's still too soon to tell, but the "Gentlemen of the Road" tour seems to have made Portland a happy host, looking forward to more. Maybe next time I'll stay in town.