July 7th, 2006
By Christopher Blagg
Last summer, the Rolling Stones broke one of the cardinal rules of being a guest in someone’s home: Leave everything as it was when you arrived.
When Mick, Keith and the boys packed up and left town after two concerts at Fenway Park, they left an ugly wake of mangled outfield grass behind. Tonight, the Dave Matthews Band and Sheryl Crow arrive at Fenway for the first of two shows, but a repeat of last year’s turf debacle seems highly unlikely.
A combination of factors contributed to the Stones’ despoiling of Fenway’s hallowed grass.
“Last year we got the worst-case scenario,” Red Sox Senior Vice President of Fenway Affairs Larry Cancro said. “I don’t expect last year’s damage to be even within the realm of possibility.”
The big problem was the sheer size of the Stones’ stage, the ancient rockers needing a set the size of an aircraft carrier. Combine the length of time the immense stage sat in Fenway (two full weeks) with drenched grass due to nonstop rain and you have trouble - about 40,000-square-feet-of-replacement-sod kind of trouble.
Fortunately for the Sox, head groundskeeper Dave Mellor and his crew kept the team from having any major delays or problems when it came time for baseball.
“‘Our grounds crew is the best in the business,” Cancro said. “They’ve never let us down.”
Damage this time will be minimized thanks to the relative simplicity of Matthews’ stage.
“This stage is so much smaller than last year’s,” Cancro said. “It’s probably about one-third of the size and covering about one-third of the grass. The worst-case scenario for this isn’t even in the same, pardon the pun, ballpark as last year.”
It seems Matthews won’t be wearing out his welcome either, as the stage setup and breakdown times are considerably shorter than that of the Stones.
One factor is a wild card: the shift in fan demographics. All three previous guests at Fenway (Bruce Springsteen, Jimmy Buffett and the Stones) have attracted a decidedly older and graying crowd. Matthews may not be bringing in hordes of manic middle-schoolers, but the average age should be considerably younger.
That said, it’s hard to imagine anyone moshing or crowd-surfing at a Dave Matthews show. If anything, crowd behavior tends to be on the mellow side, given jam-band nation’s proclivity for certain chill-inducing extracurricular activities.
“If we thought it’d be a crowd that was particularly rowdy, we probably wouldn’t book the band,” Cancro said. “We want things to skew toward the demographics of a baseball game, because that’s what the park was designed for. I don’t see us ever having a metal band.”
Eat your heart out, Ozzy.