Sunday, June 18, 2006


Seeing the veritable tsunami of garbage left in the aftermath of a Dave Matthews Band performance at the state park in Saratoga is a sobering experience. The utter disdain these visitors seem to have for the nature preserve surrounding the Performing Arts Center is staggering for any civilized human familiar with the long standing tradition of throwing trash in the aptly named trash cans.

Each year, the otherwise innocuous horde of fans descends upon to this ordinarily sanguine area of the city with cases of beer and grillables, turning the park into an orgy of drunken mayhem. Two days later, they leave behind a park in a condition that even most landfill operators would consider deplorable. And Saturday’s finale didn’t disappoint.

As Matthews belted out the first few chords of his opening tune, the rolling greens of the park pavilions stood dotted with a confetti of beer cans and colored Solo cups. The of shattering glass was an all-too-frequent sound in parking areas, as exiting traffic smashed carelessly discarded bottles. Even with plastic garbage cans placed prominently throughout the park, there was a litany of other refuse left behind, ranging from smashed Styrofoam coolers to busted lawn chairs to rotting hotdogs; all standard fare for wasted concertgoers.

On a side note, the now-annual dump of garbage in the park has spurred an odd symbiosis, with the bulk majority of returnable cans and bottles being collected in mere hours by groups of enterprising adolescents, who understand that 1,000 cans translates to $50 worth of drinking cash. Still, the park’s grounds crew inevitably logged overtime to clean up this disaster, which is a price that should be paid by the host Clear Channel Entertainment, and not state taxpayers, who pay the salaries of the SPAC staff.

Still, there remains the gnawing question, which is where these people learned it’s even remotely reasonable to throw their refuse on the ground where they stand. What’s implied by their wanton disregard is that they would find it proper to defecate on the same bed they sleep, a thought that raises a number of questions from a behaviorist point of view.

Now, one could be quick to jump to the conclusion that state park officials should simply start cracking down on the revelers, giving those who choose to use the park as an extension of the bars downtown a ride in the back of a paddy wagon along with a book of citations. But this would simply reinforce among these partiers –many of them either soon to attend or attending college –a prevalent perception of an overly policed society. And besides, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of drunken fun now and again.

Here’s a different solution for park police to put in their pipe and smoke. If someone’s vehicle happens to be surrounded by garbage and unattended, then write them a ticket for littering; even place a warning on the concert tickets themselves so that fans aren’t caught off guard. It’s not likely that the fine will deter people from their filthy ways, but it would add revenue to the park’s coffers that could be used to help rehab trails, creeks and then some.

Even better would be a public appeal from Matthews himself to his audience, asking them to respect the park that has earned him a hefty penny over the past decade, or perhaps risk loosing the well-loved venue. After all, SPAC could very easily tell Matthews to screw off, much like they did with the Grateful Dead back in the day.


Anonymous Xtraspatial said...


Turn on your time machine and rewind to your college/high school daze/days.


Were you thinking about where you put that empty can/bottle? If there were already beer cans randomly distributed around the parking lot, would you separate from your circle of friends, just to put it in a receptacle 20 feet away? Weren't you operating under the '"mommy" will clean up after me' mentality? And what if "The Man" found the beer cans in daddy's car? I'm only 19! I could get grounded for a month!

Your grumpy old man routine reminds me of a woman who was in my neighborhood association in Boulder, Colorado. She wonders why each academic year the student body of Colorado University, who made up a significant portion of the neighborhood tenants, would have loud parties, year after year. I think she actually expected them to learn some manners over the course of her twenty years in the neighborhood. Apparently, she thought they were the same kids all twenty years, and not a new crop of teenagers out of their parents' dominion for the first times in their lives.

I, too, was appalled by the indifference of Boulderites who would flick their cigarette butts--believe it or not, some Boulderites smoke: the self-proclaimed "control group"--on the ground. I would pick a butt up and confront them with "Hey! You dropped this." But I just pissed off more people that way. Since I've surrendered to the notion that entropy is the default state of all systems, I've found it much more rewarding when I go out and pick up the litter in my neighborhood and when I sweep my floors.

Now I'm not trying to justify the kids' behavior, but I do think that it takes them a while to learn what the implications of their "tragedy of the commons" are. I think your appeal to the musicians to get the word out during the show is a great idea, however, I doubt the majority of the bottles in the parking lots were dropped by concert-goers. There was probably a lot of partyers out in the lots without tickets to the sold out shows.

I doubt that one out of fifty concert-goers knows that Spa State Park is home to the only active geyser east of the Mississippi, and bet that only one out ten can explain how a geyser works. But they are young and will most likely turn into fine upstanding citizens with a house near the track and will whine when some drunken sot tosses a beer can on their front yard on their way to Siro's.

Please don't think I condone the disrespectful act of littering/polluting. I just acknowledge it as something that happens in a mass assembly when anonymity of the offender is almost guaranteed. I think it would make sense for the concert promoters to at least share in the cost of cleanup with the State Parks. That way there would be an incentive for Clear Channel to request that their acts appeal to their fans for some "civilized" behavior. And I'd feel like the high costs of SPAC concerts were almost justified.

From the vaults: I went to a Dead show back in the summer of 1976 (6/14)at the Beacon Theatre. During the first set, someone lit a firecracker and thru it towards the stage. Jerry said "One more and we're outta here." Sure enough, some butthole thru another and that was it; the Dead walked off only an hour into the show:

1. Cold Rain & Snow 6:11
2. Mama Tried 3:50
3. Row Jimmy 9:18
4. Cassidy 4:37
5. Big River 6:36
6. Might As Well 5:13
7. Lazy Lightning / Supplication 5:11
8. Playing In The Band 18:12

The next night, no one thru any firecrackers and the show was the typical 2+ hour event.

Rage on!

4:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its hard to police the nut house when Joe Bruno and his SPAC cronies give their silent ok to trash and destroy the place. 38,000 people should not be in a place made for 12,000.DMB should move to the Pepsi

12:12 PM  
Anonymous Xtraspatial said...

In my experience, I have come across three archetypal behaviors:

1. The Child, whose attitudes can be summed up by "mommy will always be there to clean it up, make it feel better, or make the monster go away"

2.The Enabling Parent, whose attitudes can be summed up by "I've got to clean up after my own, lest I suffer the embarrassment, shame, or guilt of having created a monster" and

3. The Responsible Adult, whose attitudes can be summed up by "If I at least take responsibility for my actions, I can sleep with myself, and maybe others will follow suit, and we can live in peace and beauty. If it gets out of hand, I'll either reason with the offender, learn to live with it, or turn the offender over to the Enabling Parent type (enforcement officer, psychologist, etc.)"

It is sad that we mostly see the effects of the Child, but as in the rhyme my mother once told me "As you amble on thru life brother, no matter what your goal, keep your eye upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." And as my friends from my skiing days used to say, "You don't ski the trees, you ski the snowy patches between them." Everything beautiful needs a context of ugliness to make it stand out as beautiful. Find your beauty where you can, and be the change you wish to see.

Incidentally, it's relatively easy to see these archetypal responses in our so-called leaders who are actually leaving the messes they create for someone else (technology, the next generation/administration, God) to clean up after they leave. In fact, I see these behaviors in the people I interact with all the time.

It's all good.

4:01 PM  
Blogger reverendspam said...


I agree with what you are saying other than your recollection of the GD show on 1976-06-14.

I wish I was there with you as it must have been one 'ell of a show to have seen the band walk off stage when it is archived that they actually played two whole sets beautifully recorded by Betty Cantor. This is known as one of the tightest and best sounding shows the dead put on in 1976 ;)


9:19 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

View My Stats