News Item: Stompin' festival, 30 years later
(Category: General News)
Posted by MJF
Friday 04 August 2006 - 10:56:35

The Roanoke Times

Some may remember the bands; some the lack of bathrooms; some the naked longhairs.
By Joe Eaton | 981-3376


Thirty years ago this weekend, an estimated 100,000 music fans descended on a Carroll County farm for a Woodstockian festival of sex, drugs, blues and bluegrass.

It was Stompin' 76, a three-day music festival as legendary for its musical lineup as its epic lack of planning, the abundant marijuana, cocaine and moonshine and a security force of Pagans motorcycle gang members.

If you were there and are hoping for an anniversary piece of Stompin' 76, festival promoter Hal Abramson has a message, and a T-shirt, for you.

First the T-shirt. Abramson, who was a 21-year-old college dropout when he promoted Stompin' 76, is selling reissued T-shirts from the festival on his Web site, where he also peddles a self-published book on how not to promote concerts and festivals.

For the Stompin' anniversary, Abramson is also asking people who attended the festival to send their stories and post their pictures to his Web site.



Should they take Abramson up on it, festivalgoers will likely rave about the bands, which included Bonnie Raitt, John Prine, Doc and Merle Watson, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Ry Cooder, New Grass Revival and the Earl Scruggs Revue.

Just as likely, they will also remember the lack of bathrooms, the open-air drug vending and the Pagans, who took iron-fisted control of the grounds after the security company hired by Abramson quit.

And if there are any Carroll County residents who write in, they will probably recall the trash, the naked longhairs and the clogged roads as at least 100,000 revelers from up and down the East Coast tried to make it to a festival where 35,000 were expected.


And there will be mention of lawsuits and the supposed pile of money that rumor has it was flown off in a helicopter after the festival.

And that's where Abramson's message comes in. "I didn't steal any money," Abramson said in a telephone interview from his mother's house in Maryland, where he lives. "In fact, I didn't take a salary."

The festival was a wash, he said. But for Abramson, it was also the apex of what so far has been a rotten career.

Since Stompin' 76, Abramson said he has managed a Wal-Mart and failed at most of his dreams, including Festival Land, a music festival theme park he hoped to build in Tennessee.

Abramson is currently trying to gather money to level a series of lawsuits against the people who shut down a 2005 jam band festival he promoted in Oregon.

Stompin' 76 was as good as it gets for Abramson. "It's kind of like being a child star," he said.

Sure, mistakes were made, he admits, but Stompin' 76 has a place in history that cannot be duplicated. "You would have to put out millions of dollars to hold a festival like that today," he said.

And of course, a duplicate Stompin' probably wouldn't be in Carroll County. After the Stompin' 76 festival, the county passed an ordinance curtailing outdoor music festivals.

"I'm probably the most hated man in Carroll County," Abramson said.

www.concert-promotions.com



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