Officials Vow Changes After Hank Williams III Gets Raw At Concert

By Newsferatu, Writer
Friday, June 9, 2006 @ 4:48 PM

Sounds like a party.

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From SignOnSanDiego.com (www.signonsandiego.com):

An annual fun-filled fiesta quickly turned into a fiasco Sunday when entertainer Hank Williams III spewed profanities from the stage and encouraged slam dancing that sheriff's deputies tried to stop for fear of massive injuries.

Yesterday, city officials were still recovering from the debacle, which happened at the end of the two-day Fiesta del Sol. Although no one was injured or arrested during the 7 PM performance, city officials vowed that in the future they would control the festival's entertainment list.

The Solana Beach Chamber of Commerce produces the annual fiesta that features live music, arts and crafts, children's rides and international food. While the city didn't organize the event, it was held at the Fletcher Cove public parking lot and the organizer had asked the city to sponsor $13,000 of its expenses. The City Council will discuss that request Wednesday.

If the city sticks to its promise of tight scrutiny, future fiestas won't see the likes of Hank III, Deputy City Manager and Public Safety Director David Ott said.

The singer, grandson of legendary country star Hank Williams, is known for his hard-driving songs and off-color language. He was paid $5,000 to perform and was a surprise headliner addition, Ott said.

Those who attended the concert said Hank III veered from his promised country music, playing punk at the end. He directed vulgar hand gestures toward the audience, cursed the city of Solana Beach and used obscenities that were broadcast into the city because the amplifiers at the Fletcher Cove stage faced east toward homes.

Hank III's agent, Jon Pleeter, was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Ott, who was at the event, said Hank III encouraged 40 to 50 fans to form a mosh pit – in which dancers jostle and shove one another – that deputies feared would lead to injuries. About 10 percent of the packed audience of 3,000 to 4,000 people were children, adding to the concern, Ott and organizers said.

When a security guard escorted a fan from the moshing hot spot and deputies confiscated cans of beer from the crowd, Hank III got angry and the crowd got agitated.

One of his singers jumped into the crowd and some in the crowd tried to jump onto the stage.

“There was potential for it to get out of control,” Ott said.

City Councilman Tom Campbell, who heard the profanities from his kitchen, has demanded that the chamber relieve Dan Herzberg, vice president of the chamber, of his duties as chairman of the fiesta.

Herzberg issued a letter of apology on Monday, to city officials and to local newspapers.

“I love music. His grandfather was so much part of our history,” Herzberg said yesterday in a telephone interview. “This was one time for the fiesta to make an impact so our children can hear and see music.

“I talked to his agent. He had assured me he would sing country music,” Herzberg said. “He put on a great show, but he used the 'f' word too much. He was trying to create a frenzy.”

Ken Leighton, who booked Hank III and the festival's other performers, said he was deeply sorry.

“There was no excuse for this. I deeply regret this mistake. We tried to do something good,” Leighton said. “I had no idea he would turn into a degenerate.”

Ott said festival organizers never told the city that Hank III would be performing, and only found out eight to 10 days before the show when the Sheriff's Department received a tip that he was going to sing.

Because of the singer's reputation, the city immediately demanded the organizers hire six additional deputies and four more security guards, for a total of 20 law enforcement and security personnel, Ott said.

Deputies decided not to stop the show for fear of starting a riot, but organizers cut it short by 15 minutes, Ott said.

Fiesta del Sol raised $90,000 this year through its sponsors, beer garden and vendors, Herzberg said.

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