Concert-goers must strain to catch the drift


The biggest crowd in the summer's Month of Sundays concert series came to downtown Westminster during the weekend, but only about half the 3,000 listeners heard The Drifters crooning '60s tunes such as "Under the Boardwalk.

Barry Weidner, program coordinator for the Carroll County Department of Recreation and Parks, said the band's sound system was inadequate for the crowd that filled the park, bleachers and adjoining alleys.

A mixed group of spectators, ranging from babies to senior citizens, came with strollers, lawn chairs and picnic suppers to the fourth show in the five-part concert series.

Band members, who expected loud replies to their stage banter, called out, "I can't hear you."

"We can't hear you either," came the reply from the far reaches of the City Playground.

"According to The Drifters' contract, they were to supply the sound system," Mr. Weidner said. "We have provided equipment for other groups, and we told them to expect in the thousands."

The contract said the band had to provide sound for 500, an average crowd for the series, which ends Sunday with a concert by the Chorus of the Chesapeake.

"We knew, just from word of mouth, there would be a lot more," Mr. Weidner said. "We kept hearing people couldn't wait for The Drifters."

Cheap seats -- admission was a donation to homeless shelters -- also swelled the crowd.

Despite problems with the sound system, the evening proved fruitful for the county's Human Services Programs, which received 1,200 pounds of food donations to the area shelters.

"We had three van loads full of food and paper goods and $200 in cash donations," said Sylvia Canon, the Human Services Programs director.

Those who arrived early for the 7 p.m. show had the acoustical edge. Dave Herlocker, who managed to find a seat "straight in front," said he had little trouble hearing.

"They shouldn't have been surprised at the crowd," Mr. Herlocker said. "Most people have heard of these folks, and it was heavily publicized."

PD The Drifters have sold nearly 200 million singles and 80 million

albums in the United States. But plugs for "Too Hot," their latest release, often were unheard by Carroll fans.

Paul Manna, booking agent for The Drifters, said the band travels with enough gear to provide adequate sound for 1,000 listeners.

"They just were more popular than either Carroll County or the band thought they would be," said Mr. Manna. "There was a flood of people and the band couldn't carry the sound. It was nobody's fault."

Larry Wilhelm, owner of Wilhelm Limited Caterers, nearly sold out of hot sandwiches and cold sodas. The strain to hear did little to upset the conviviality of an evening in the park, he said.

"Everybody was so pleasant, and what I heard of the concert was fine," he said. He added with a laugh, "Maybe The Drifters know more about putting on a show than I do."

At intermission, Mr. Weidner and his staff added sound equipment and "boosted it back as much as we could."

"It helped," Mr. Weidner said. "We will know better in the future."

The entire system went out briefly during the second set, but soon the band called "we're back" in its loudest note of the night. Many fans stayed, waved and "saved the last dance" for The Drifters.

The day after the show, Mr. Weidner was counting many more compliments than complaints, he said.

"Everybody seemed to have a good time," said Kathy Palaia, whose deck faces the park. "What was most astounding was the grounds were so clean afterwards. There really was no litter."

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