By Greg Klein STAFF WRITER
---- — For one weekend only, the Chestnut Street parking lot will be known as Shakedown Street.
The open-air market famous at Grateful Dead shows is expected to come to Cooperstown on July 13 and 14 for the Furthur concert at Doubleday Field on Sunday, July 14. Furthur is the Grateful Dead legacy band that features original Dead members Phil Lesh and Bob Weir.
Village officials have conceded that they don’t want to, and probably can’t, stop unpermitted sales of shirts and other Grateful Dead and Furthur souvenirs. Cooperstown Mayor Jeff Katz said that he is trying to put the word out to the band’s followers that their sales will be allowed if contained to the parking lot.
“Usually we require outside vendors to have a permit,” Katz said. “We’re not going to catch those people in this process. What we are trying to do is filter it into the parking lot.”
Shakedown Street is the name of a song and album released in 1978 by the Dead. It has also become the unofficial name of the band’s black market community where music bootlegs, shirts, stuffed bears and sometimes drugs are sold at concerts.
Despite Katz desire to allow the band’s fans to congregate, Cooperstown police chief Mike Covert said that his officers aren’t going to allow illegal activity.
“We’ve never really cracked down inside the stadium. We will make rounds inside the concert, but that is not our primary concern,” he said. “Of course if someone is stupid enough to (do drugs) in front of us, we are going to detain them, and issue a court summons. What we don’t want is it spilling out into the streets. That’s my major concern. We will have police outside the concert to make sure nothing gets out of control.”
Likewise, although beer will be sold at the concert – a deal breaker in the contract with promoter Magic City Promotions, according to Katz – open containers and public drunkenness will not be tolerated outside the venue.
Still, Katz told Covert that he wants the police to be careful to find the right balance between protecting the village and allowing the concert-goers to enjoy the experience.
“What I am wary of, is we don’t want to give the impression of an overbearing police presence,” he said.
Despite the concerns about the band’s fans, village officials were clearly aware that the visitors not be typical young concert-goers. The Grateful Dead’s heyday was the 1970s and the Further fans will skew older. Village trustee Bruce Maxson is a big fan; Covert himself admits to going to Dead and Further concerts, including one recently.
“At Bethel Woods, they had 470 arrests,” Covert said. “The biggest problem was trespassing because they were sleeping everywhere. That’s why we need to focus where they go.”
Fans will also be allowed to park overnight and camp at the Gateway Parking Lot. The trolleys, which will be running all weekend, will also be running the night of the show to decrease traffic congestion.
While figures on ticket sales were not available, Katz said he expects more than 8,000 to be sold.
Covert said that he has already reached out to the state police and Oneonta police department to have extra officers available for traffic control.
“It is no different than induction weekend in that respect,” he said. “They will be there to give directions and help out. It can actually be a very positive thing to give our visitors a good impression of the village.”
In addition, a local judge will be on duty to process any trouble makers.
The backstage area for the band will be on Elm Street as it has been for past concerts at Doubleday Field. The street will be closed off at some point on the day of the concert. However, since this is the first time a concert will be held on a Sunday, allowances will be made for church services at First Baptist Church and St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, which are both on Elm.
This is the first concert at Doubleday Field since the 2010 Sugarland performance. While a lot of the logistical concerns for putting on a show are the same, Further’s fan base is different than that of Sugarland, which plays country music.
“That’s the biggest difference,” Katz said. “This is a specific scene that has a unique problem, and how do we deal with it.”
Despite the concerns, Katz said he believes the village will be able to handle the event.
“We have a lot of experience with concerts,” he said. “We don’t need to reinvent things. It is also the third concert that we have done with (Magic City), so they know what to do too.”