Three novice concert promoters from Costa Mesa and a huge amphitheater in San Bernardino County got their first taste of large-scale punk rock promotion last weekend--and found it not altogether sweet.
The show also held a sour note for a rowdy young Huntington Beach punk singer who wound up briefly behind bars on suspicion of inciting a riot at the Punk Show '95 festival on Sunday.
The event's organizer, Costa Mesa-based CPR Productions, was starting at the top of the punk-promotion ladder: With minimal concert experience behind them, the three partners, two of them brothers in their early 20s, decided to leap into the punk scene by staging an 11-hour, 22-band extravaganza at a major outdoor concert facility.
Hosting the promoters, their roster of grass-roots Southern California bands and some 5,600 punk fans was the Glen Helen Blockbuster Pavilion, a 2-year-old concert bowl in Devore that had not previously put on a punk show.
Punk rock has turned into a lucrative property in the past year, but, as the events of Punk Show '95 demonstrate, it remains a raucous, untamed and potentially volatile form of entertainment. The day brought 11 arrests, according to police. It also resulted in an undetermined but "not enormous amount" of property damage, according to Blockbuster Pavilion general manager Alan J. DeZon, and no reports of serious injuries.
One San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy required stitches after he was struck in the head by a thrown object as police skirmished with punk fans. A Sheriff's Department spokesman said the incident took place as deputies made arrests related to an unarmed assault inside the amphitheater.
In a separate incident, Mark Adkins, singer of the popular Huntington Beach band Guttermouth, was arrested on suspicion of inciting a riot. Police said Adkins tried to inflame the audience against the security crew. He was also charged with misdemeanor assault after allegedly scuffling with security guards backstage following Guttermouth's aborted performance.
The day ended, prematurely, with fans pouring onto the stage. It had been left unguarded by the amphitheater's security detail, which, fearing for its safety, had pulled back after Guttermouth's set.
In the aftermath this week, CPR's partners criticized Blockbuster management for not tailoring the fixed-seat venue better for punk rock. Brothers Raymond and Chris Martin said they had asked for a bigger mosh pit and contended that such a setup might have forestalled the trouble that broke out during Guttermouth's performance.
"It wasn't set up the way [punk fans] like it," Raymond Martin said. "They felt they weren't given the opportunity to have fun at the show and that they were treated like a problem from the beginning."
DeZon dismissed the notion that the lack of a larger pit--he estimated the small one provided at stage front held about 250 people--played any part in causing the turbulence; he laid the blame entirely upon Guttermouth's Adkins and on the promoters' inability to "have a handle on [Guttermouth's] presentation."
The promoters and the venue manager agreed on one thing: their belief that Guttermouth's singer egged on his fans, touching off the concert's worst trouble. The band is a popular local act that has toured with the Offspring and records for Nitro Records, the label run by Offspring singer Bryan (Dexter) Holland. Guttermouth's satirically intended songs cast a wide net of ridicule; the band is known for a mock-confrontational stage style in which singer Adkins baits fans with sarcastic humor and engages in profane but jokingly intended rabble-rousing.
According to Raymond Martin, who watched from the stage, Adkins became angry at the security crew during Guttermouth's performance and urged the audience to "get Staff Pro," referring to the private company that provides security for Blockbuster Pavilion and many other Southern California concert venues.
DeZon said he heard Adkins call out, "We're not going to play until you tear this place apart!"
Adkins, who posted bail after his arrest, could not be reached for comment. Guttermouth drummer Jamie Nunn flatly denied that Adkins had incited the crowd.
"It's absolutely not true; it's a lie," he said of claims that Adkins had threatened security guards or urged the audience to "tear apart" the amphitheater.
"We never said anything that drastic," Nunn said. Adkins "had voiced his concern about how security was treating the kids in a rather direct manner, but in no way did we say 'attack the security' or 'injure security.' Absolutely not. No way did we say, 'Tear this place up.' We all know too well what can happen if we do that. There was no inciting anything."
Nunn and the Martin brothers contend that security guards were being too rough in turning back audience members who bodysurfed atop the crowd to a stage-front barrier as Guttermouth played. They also said that things got worse when Blockbuster officials cut short the band's performance.