Musicstock 2000 Benefit Under Fire
Musicstock 2000 – Central New York Rock For Hunger has already been forced to change venues once, and is now being threatened with an injunction aimed at stopping the festival, scheduled June 30 – July 2 at the Cortland county fairgrounds.
Officials from Cortland county, city and the city school district are banding together to try and block Musicstock, citing public health, welfare, safety, security, traffic and other issues. The lawsuit will oppose the event as a “potential public nuisance,” County Attorney Larry Knickerbocker said.
The city school district operates a campus adjacent to the fairgrounds and joined the suit on that basis. Classes are not in session for the summer.
Originally scheduled as part of the Cayuga County Fair, Musicstock had to find a new home when fair officials failed to obtain required permits for the event in time, promoter Nick Papatonis told Pollstar. The festival, which would showcase some 40 local acts over three days, was moved to the neighboring Cortland County Fairground.
News of the move prompted Cortland-area officials to take their concerns to the courts. A spokesperson for the County Attorney’s department declined further comment to Pollstar, saying the case was “in litigation” once the injunction was requested.
“Ever since the news about what happened at Woodstock last year in upstate New York, all of these small counties are freaking out,” Papatonis said. “We told them this was just going to be a small event, but they think that because we have a Web site and the Internet, all these thousands of people are just going to show up and now, they have all these safety concerns. We’re only expecting a couple of hundred people.” Papatonis stressed that the event is being marketed as a charity fundraiser and no alcohol will be allowed.
“The head of the public health department is just screaming, ‘Woodstock this’ and ‘Woodstock that,’ like there’s going to be tens of thousands of people. She’s going on about how ‘they’re going to burn down the cattle barn [at the fairground site]’ and ‘what is your lightning assessment plan? What if somebody gets hit by lightning?'” Papatonis said.
Papatonis countered that the festival has purchased insurance coverage of $1 million for the event, but because it’s “mainly just a big picnic for Central New York musicians and their friends, and to raise a little money and some canned goods for the food bank,” the expense of hiring professional security is unjustified. He said band personnel would double as security while not on stage.
“Our budget for this concert is under $3,000 and we haven’t even advertised it,” Papatonis said. He added that a similar event had been staged recently in nearby Syracuse, N.Y., and “about 300-400 people showed up.”
Papatonis accused local officials of using Woodstock ‘99, as well as the booking of glam-shocker Marilyn Manson in Syracuse last year, to make political hay over any rock concerts in their backyard. He believes the attack on Musicstock is politically motivated, and has contacted the American Civil Liberties Union for support.
If Musicstock is forced to cancel, Papatonis said the ACLU will join organizers to stage a “free speech rally” on July 1 at the Cortland fairgrounds instead.