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Promoter says new festival won't have Starscape's woes

MusicConcertsPublic Officials

The promoter of last year's Starscape Festival says a new event he's marketing that targets a similar audience won't have the safety problems associated with last year's June concert.

Promoter Evan Weinstein says he wants to disassociate the new Moonrise Festival from the issues of Starscape last year. City officials said Starscape, the long-running electronic dance event at Fort Armistead Park, could not return because of issues at last year's concert, including overcrowding and drug overdoses.

Weinstein said the event is under new management and will undergo significant changes to make it safer, including ending each night at 11 p.m. instead of going all night.

"We're addressing all of those concerns," Weinstein said.

But plans for Moonrise may be less settled than ads suggest. City officials say the organizers have yet to apply for a permit. And some City Council members say they are worried that last year's problems will be repeated.

"They have to walk the walk," council Vice President Edward Reisinger said. "Their credibility is shot with me."

The concert is to be headlined by the rapper-turned-reggae artist formerly known as Snoop Dogg and will be held June 8 and 9 in Port Covington, Weinstein said. Starscape was held June 9 and 10 in 2012.

The event's organizer, Jerry Gottlieb, owner of Charm City Hospitality and an organizer of the first Baltimore Grand Prix, did not respond to requests for comment. Gottlieb was not involved with last year's Starscape Festival.

City officials said they haven't received permit applications to evaluate, but declined to say more. Organizers sometimes apply for and quickly receive permits within weeks of an event, but this one would get special scrutiny given the problems at Starscape last year, Reisinger said.

Officials from the Baltimore Sun Media Group, which owns the Port Covington property that promoters have advertised as the site of the concert, declined to comment.

Reisinger said he was shocked last year when Starscape's organizers allowed 14,000 people to attend a concert with a permit for 7,500. He called the concert a "drug party" that stretched city resources too thin. According to a report by the fire marshal, last year's "rave-like" atmosphere got out of control and there were an unspecified number of drug overdoses.

The people behind this year's event "can promise the moon. I don't believe them," Reisinger said.

For its first 13 years at Fort Armistead Park, Starscape went off without a major incident, according to the Fire Department. But the event grew considerably last year. Emergency medical crews from the city and Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties struggled to keep up with calls for help from the site, responding to the park "continuously" for 12 hours, the fire marshal's report said.

Councilman William H. Cole IV, who represents Port Covington, said Gottlieb informed him about his plans for Moonrise. But Cole said he doesn't believe organizers have a signed contract with the Baltimore Sun Media Group to use the property. He said he wants to see an actual permit application before making up his mind.

Cole said Gottlieb reached out to him: "He insisted that it has absolutely nothing to do with Starscape. ... It's a totally different event."

On the Starscape Facebook page in recent weeks, Moonrise was advertised as a replacement for Starscape, not a repeat. Those pages have been taken down.

The Moonrise Festival will be "bigger and better" than its predecessor, the Starscape website said.

The new concert features some of the same acts as Starscape and appeals largely to fans of electronic dance music. The two headliners are new. The first day of the concert is to be headlined by the electronic music artist Pretty Lights. The second day is headlined by the rapper Snoop Dogg, who has recently been performing reggae songs under the name Snoop Lion.

Snoop Dogg's agent, the William Morris Agency Inc., confirmed that he will be performing at the event.

General admission tickets range from $125 to $149. Passes being sold as "VIP Tickets" range from $199 to $250.

luke.broadwater@baltsun.com

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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