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The Week Ahead

Red tape grows in fest's field

June 02, 2003|Geoff Boucher

So far, the Field Day Festival has not lived up to its easygoing name. The two-day festival is scheduled for this weekend in Calverton, a leafy community on Long Island in New York, and its ambition is to create a sort of East Coast version of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, which has become a Southern California concert tradition.

The Field Day lineup certainly stacks up (Radiohead, Beck and the Beastie Boys lead the 35-act bill), but will the show actually go on?

On Tuesday, Suffolk County officials threw a monkey wrench into the massive machinery of the first-time event when they denied a mass-gathering permit for the 2,900-acre site. The sticking point was security -- county leaders have worried that the local police department is too small to handle the expected crowd of 50,000. The county also declined to contract out its own law enforcement to the event.

Promoters have spent the last few days scrambling to import state police, but there are other problems: The promoters must secure a city permit on Tuesday, and a state environmental commission has scheduled a Thursday meeting to consider possible trampling on nearby protected land.

Andrew Dreskin, executive producer of the show, remains publicly upbeat. "Obviously we are disappointed by this [county permit] decision but it appears to be based more on procedural issues than substantive problems," he said in a statement. "We believe we can resolve this issue quickly so that we can stage a festival that benefits the town, the county and a worldwide audience that seeks to come to Calverton."

If the organizers succeed, their new franchise will be a testament to the Coachella model that set up shop in Indio in 1999. Coachella, run by Goldenvoice promotions, in turn brought the European festival template to the U.S. by staging a huge, annual, somewhat remote show that does not tour and resists the commercialism of radio-created festivals.

The Field Day show has far less electronic music than Coachella, but the shared spirit of the two was clear when Goldenvoice was made a co-promoter of the New York show in April.

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