NY Times June 5, 2003, Thursday METROPOLITAN DESK

An Alternative Concert Moves to an Alternative Site: Giants Stadium

By ELISSA GOOTMAN (NYT) 869 words
It was supposed to be an alternative outdoor extravaganza: a two-day concert where thousands of people could pitch their tents on a freshly mowed field near the North Fork of Long Island and enjoy art exhibits, yoga classes and the music of more than two dozen bands, including the Beastie Boys and Radiohead.

But yesterday, after more than a week of legal and political wrangling over a lack of permits and police protection, Suffolk County officials announced that the Field Day Music Festival, scheduled to take place Saturday and Sunday on a former airfield in the town of Riverhead, would not.

Yesterday evening, the concert promoters announced that Field Day would, in fact, go on, just not as it had been envisioned. It will be a one-day event, on Saturday only. There will be no camping. Not all the bands are likely to play. And it will be held not beneath the stars, but in Giants Stadium, 70 miles away in the New Jersey Meadowlands.

About 35,000 fans were expected for each day of the concert, according to the organizer. According to the Field Day Web site, the people who bought tickets for the Long Island concert will be automatically reimbursed for their credit-card charges but must buy new tickets if they want to attend the rescheduled concert. Tickets, available through Ticketmaster, went on sale yesterday.

Rumors about the changed plans started circulating on Internet message boards hours before the official announcement, setting off outrage and confusion among ticket-holders, many of whom had planned to travel to New York from other states.

''Chances of me going to Giants Stadium: 0,'' one fan wrote.

Another used multiple expletives to describe the changed plans and the stadium, which he described as ''in the middle of a swamp.'' Some fans suggested boycotting the stadium concert.

Others proposed that ticket-holders show up in Calverton, the area in Riverhead where the concert was to be held, with musical instruments and a willingness to create their own Field Day. ''Those of you who were planning on going to Calverton this weekend, go as you originally planned!'' a Web site created by one fan read.

The Riverhead Town Board at first approved the concert plans in February. At the time, board members hoped it would give the town a much-needed economic and cultural boost. But about two weeks ago, the plans started unraveling, even as two stages were being built and tickets were being sold.

Last week, the Suffolk County Health Department denied the promoter's application for a mass gathering permit, saying there were not enough police officers to handle the crowds and the traffic. Suffolk County refused to send its police, saying it had been approached too late in the process.

This week, the state police confirmed that they could not provide officers, although the concert producer had agreed to pay them.

At a news conference yesterday morning, Riverhead officials blamed the county for blocking the concert.

''This is a sad day for Riverhead,'' said Edward Densieski, a town councilman. ''Suffolk County has to step up to the plate. The disdain shown by the county to Riverhead is obvious in every action they do.''

At a second news conference, before the concert promoters announced the location change, the Suffolk police and health commissioners urged ticket-holders not to come to Calverton, and blamed the town and promoters for poor planning.

Andrew Dreskin, the executive producer of Field Day, said that the concert had been impeccably planned but that Suffolk County had been obstructionist. He saved his praise for New Jersey.

''We're thrilled to be in a state where they're keen to hold a world-class music concert, and we're keen to bring an economic benefit to the area,'' he said.

''I don't know if this is originally what I had envisioned, but we're ecstatic that Field Day will take place this weekend. ''

He said the original headliners -- the Beastie Boys and Radiohead -- would still play, along with more than a dozen other acts, including Beck, Blur and Underworld.

But will fans intent on a weekend-long outdoor festival near the Long Island Pine Barrens settle for the New Jersey Meadowlands? Robert Brown, 33, a technology consultant from Stamford, Conn., said he would not. ''The main attraction to me was the whole festival atmosphere,'' he said. ''The idea of going to Giants Stadium doesn't really appeal.''

Deborah Hornstra, her husband and their two teenage children had planned to travel from Princeton Junction, N.J., for the concert, in honor of her coming 44th birthday. Instead of camping out, Ms. Hornstra had booked two rooms at an inn in the Hamptons. They were nonrefundable, and so the family will spend the weekend at the beach.

''We wouldn't go to a big stadium show of that nature,'' Ms. Hornstra said. ''That just wasn't what we had in mind.''



Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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