December 22, 2014

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Lorain authority board OK’d Roverfest profanities

T-Pain performs at Black River Landing during Roverfest as an audience member crowd-surfs near the stage. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

T-Pain performs at Black River Landing during Roverfest as an audience member crowd-surfs near the stage. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

LORAIN — F-bombs were dropped onstage at Saturday’s Roverfest concert at Black River Landing, but no one took shelter.

The profanity probably came as no surprise to fans of the annual Cleveland-area concert, which features sometimes raunchy rap, strippers and plenty of beer. The show was hosted by Cleveland-based WMMS-FM radio shock jock Shane “Rover” French of Avon. WMMS is owned by Clear Channel Communications, a San Antonio, Texas-based media giant.

While critics of the onstage behavior and language say it was inappropriate for Lorain, the Lorain Port Authority, which runs the site, was aware it was coming. The authority’s Board of Directors lifted the authority’s ban on “offensive, distasteful or inappropriate” music at the behest of French, according to Rick Novak, authority executive director.

“The board was aware that there was going to be obscene language and, in this case, they allowed it,” Novak said Wednesday adding that the board also allowed a different distributor to supply beer.

Novak said when profanity has been used onstage in the past, including by members of the Rat Pack, a Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. tribute band, performers were told to stop. He said the exception was a business decision based on hopes of showcasing the site and downtown Lorain for possible future shows.

Board president Carl Nielsen couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday, but board member Barbara Cook said she wasn’t aware of what type of event Roverfest was when she cast her vote. Cook said she was unsure if she would vote to lift the ban again if Roverfest returns.

Novak said no decision has been made on whether the show will return. Chris Tyler, WMMS program director, didn’t return a call or email Wednesday.

Some 15,000 people paid $25 each to attend. Novak said many attended previous Roverfest concerts and knew what to expect.

“If people were offended, I don’t think they would’ve sold out,” he said.

Despite heavy drinking and rowdiness, there were few arrests and no serious injuries at the concert. However, Lorain activist and Roverfest critic Denise Caruloff said Roverfest degraded Lorain and lifting the ban set a bad precedent. She said the authority could be accused of discrimination in the future if it banned behavior for some acts and not others.

“When you open Pandora’s box, you can’t close it,” she said. “If you do it for one, do you have to do it for all?”

Novak said decisions on lifting the ban would be made on a case-by-case basis. He said Roverfest was good for downtown businesses and the city.

While the $5,200 authority rental fee for the site was a fraction of an estimated $375,000 in ticket revenue, Clear Channel, which earned $6.2 billion in revenue last year, will reimburse the city for all concert costs. The bill is expected to be roughly $40,000, according to Safety/Service Director Robert Fowler.

Lorain and the authority didn’t get a cut of the ticket or parking revenue, but Novak said some downtown businesses profited. Will Castro, Scorchers Casual Eatery & Draft House co-owner, said his restaurant was “extremely busy” Saturday and concert-goers were well behaved.

Castro said he hopes Roverfest leads to more downtown concerts and he hopes Roverfest returns. Castro supports lifting the ban.

“If you’re going to Roverfest, you kind of know what to expect,” he said. “If you didn’t want to hear that, then you just don’t go.”

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 oregoodenow@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter at @egoodenowct.