Don’t blame Kenny Chesney, Pittsburgh, and don’t ban him either. Don’t blame anyone but those involved. The mess during and after the No Shoes Nation Tour does not rest solely on Chesney. He did not personally tell people to go to the venue, days before in some instances, and wreck the joint. He did litter the parking lot of Heinz Field with trash. He did not drink heavily and get into fights in the parking lot.
You did. And by you, I mean people in the parking lot, at the event, on the water, wherever. The issue with this kind of mess is not that we have a concert in the summer. Pittsburgh has turned the corner from burnt out steel town. It has topped many “Best City For…” lists, nauseatingly, the last few years. It has become a technology hub. It has gone from being only about The Steelers, The Penguins, and The Pirates, to being about the cultural and the artistic.
Pittsburgh has been given an overhaul, boasting many new venues for events. In the last few years, Stage AE has proven to be a great location for concerts. The old Trib Total Media Amphitheater was demolished and is now Highmark Stadium, built entirely with private funds and home to the Riverhounds and concerts. We have The Rex, which has been around since 1905, the Consol Arena, A.J. Palumbo, The Benedum, Heinz Hall, Byham, the new Arcade Comedy Theater. The list grows every year.
And yes, we have Heinz Field and we have Starlake Pavilion for our bigger concerts Yes, they draw large crowds. Yes there is tailgating. Yes, there can be a mess. No, it’s not acceptable.
The problem is that banning one act will cascade into a series of stymieing commerce and cultural into the area. This year, it’s Kenny Chesney, next year it could Jimmy Buffet. Hell, it could be a Cleveland, Baltimore, or Cincinnati game. Any number of events could result in the ridiculousness that took place this past weekend. But, I remind you, this is also the town that started couch fires in Oakland and turned the South Side into an area of bedlam after championship sporting events. You wouldn’t dare blame The Steelers or The Penguins for that would you?
We all want to have nice things, but there needs to be some accountability. There was no earthly reason for there to be tailgaters at that concert as early as they were. Boaters arrived days before. The combination of early drinking, hot temperatures, and natural tendencies to do bad things when affected by both led to a majority of the issues. On the whole, they amounted to a small percentage of the total number of people on site. Yet, everyone loves to bitch and complain when something wrinkles their upturned nose. Soon petitions came out wanting to ban Chesney from playing Pittsburgh. Why?
Ban tailgating. Ban early admission to the lots. Increase policy enforcement of “on the books” laws against disorderly conduct and public intoxication. Increase the availability of trash receptacles. Increase awareness. Police each other. Pick something other than the thing that brings money into the city.
I’ve heard that had this been a Steelers game it would never have been that bad. Well, who is to say? Chances are, the same result would have happened, a clean lot the next day. Yet, you can be sure that diehard fans with season ticket holders and a modicum of respect for their team and venue would probably do their part to inform the rest of the tailgaters to “PICK UP YO SHIT.”
But don’t start Facebook groups bitching about it. That should be banned.