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Damage to museum grounds, dust pollution, liability among concerns

The promoters who staged the controversial Caras Park Summer Series the past two years want to bring outdoor concerts to Fort Missoula this summer.

Again, though, they're meeting resistance.

"We're trying to work in Missoula, and it's not turning into the easiest thing in the world," Bravo Entertainment's Jeff Kicklighter said in a phone interview Tuesday. "I don't understand how all of a sudden concerts became such an evil thing …"

At issue is the Van's Warped Tour, an all-day alternative-rock festival featuring about a dozen bands, including the Long Beach Dub All-Stars, a reggae-rock group, and Bif Naked, a rock 'n' roll singer in the style of Joan Jett.

Originally conceived by Lollapalooza's Kevin Lyman as a punk rock event, the annual tour has expanded over its six years into a rock 'n' roll sports show, with skateboarding and motocross biking demonstrations on portable ramps and tracks and music on three stages, Kicklighter said.

Bravo wants to bring the Warped Tour to Fort Missoula on July 7, but historical museum trustees and members of the Friends of the Historical Museum expressed alarm Tuesday at such an event coming to the grounds.

"With the controversy we've seen the last couple of years at Caras Park, what would the impact be, in what is a fairly rural neighborhood, if we had music playing at 10:30 at night?" Bob Teske, chairman of the museum's board of trustees, said at a morning meeting with the Missoula County commissioners. The Caras Park shows were booted from the downtown venue after neighbors complained about the noise they generated.

The Warped Tour would run from about 1 p.m. to about 9 p.m., Kicklighter said.

Damage to the museum grounds, dust pollution and liability also are concerns for the board, which has said "no" to the Warped Tour, but might consider Bravo's Willie Nelson concert, trustees said.

Friends president Gary Glynn was more explicit, expressing concern about "10,000 skateboard headbangers who may turn the museum into a bonfire in the middle of the night."

That's an emotional response based more on fear than reality, said Jim Betty, business manager for the Fort Missoula Theatre Co., the organization that schedules performances at the outdoor amphitheater and surrounding area and that puts on the "Charlie Russell's Montana!" musical play every year.

"Modern rock?" he said in the meeting. "What our kids are doing? We don't want anything to do with it."

Concerns about alcohol use, destructive behavior, drug overdosing and the like are legitimate, he said in a phone interview after the meeting. But, he asserted, only a minority of Missoula youths engage in such activities or are likely to at an event like the Warped Tour.

Kicklighter agreed. "There are no problems (at Warped) different from any other concert you do," he said. "The same problems that happen at Rock and Roll Daze (scheduled July 7-9 at the Missoula County Fairgrounds) will happen at this show. But kids don't run the city."

Yes, Betty said at the meeting, the daylong event could draw some 6,000 people, most of them under 30. But the American Indian powwow held at the fort each year draws as many as 10,000, he said, and the July Fourth activities see up to 5,000 in attendance.

For the most part, though, the financially ailing museum sees few visitors, he said. Bringing people to the grounds for concerts could push up those numbers, he said.

"We all would like to get something more out of our museum, rather than having it be a collection of relics, a cemetery," he said, making trustees wince.

But the museum has a mission, and it's to bring Western history and culture to Missoula, Teske said. Other events the outdoor theater company has scheduled, including a Tuesday night jazz series, a Big Sky Mudflaps anniversary concert and a Drum Brothers performance, fit within those goals, he said. The Warped Tour does not - and neither would a George Thorogood concert Bravo is trying to arrange, he said.

County commissioners urged the trustees, the Friends and the theater company to work together to find solutions to their concerns. Funding from the county is shorter than ever this year, Commissioner Barbara Evans said: "From my perspective only, you need to find some revenue."

Glynn pointed out that the museum only gets about $500 per performance, according to its contract with the theater company. The theater company is the local entity that would profit from the shows, he said.

Betty agreed, but said the theater company badly needs the money. "Charlie Russell's Montana!" costs about $10,000 per week to stage, he said.

Michael Sehestedt, the county's civil attorney, advised caution.

In trying to make the fort more popular, he said, "You don't want it to be accompanied by a curse.

"If you recall the uproar produced by residential neighborhoods over the Caras Park concerts," he said, "I think you'll understand why the trustees have got concerns."

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