The outdoor rock concert was a staple of the 1970s, and 35 years ago the Triangle had a number of offerings for music fans. Former N&O writer Howard Troxler reported on the student-organized Springfest concert on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus in 1979.
The triple-header bill included Nantucket, a rock band based in Raleigh, and the Spinners, a soul band famous for Top 40 hits that include “One of a Kind Love Affair,” and “Rubberband Man.”
But the biggest draw of the evening concert was Jimmy Buffett, a self-styled “son of a sailor” whose easygoing, summertime tunes are popular among many college students.
Organizers had predicted an attendance of 13,000, but shortly after Nantucket hit the stage at 5 p.m., police estimated the crowd at 20,000.
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The crowd came from all across the state. Most brought ice chests with beer or liquor, lunch and the traditional Frisbees to throw about the stadium before the music started.
When Jimmy Buffett strode on stage, the roar matched that at any UNC football game.
“I think this is the greatest,” said UNC sophomore Kenny Barnwell. “Where else can so many people get together and get wild? We’ll party now while we can, because we have to study soon,” he said.
“The best thing about this is that it’s not disco,” said freshman Chris Charles.
The outdoor spring music festival was the first of its kind since 1970, when the annual concert – called Jubilee – was discontinued due to the damage to grounds by concert-goers and other problems.
Seventeen UNC policemen and 40 student marshals were on hand to contain the crowd, and they spent much of their time chasing gate-crashers, police said.
At one gate, an officer turned to chase someone who had jumped the fence, and eight more came over the fence while he was busy.
“This is ridiculous,” another officer said. “I’ve had three 80-yard dashes already. I feel like I’m in a track meet.” The N&O 4/22/1979
But the summer was just getting started. Just a few weeks later, fans gathered at N.C. State’s Carter Stadium to hear more bands. Former N&O writer Steve Levin captured the scene.
The sun beat down, people passed out from the heat and concession stands ran out of food, but the bands played on to the delight of about 40,000 rock fans at Carter Stadium.
The all-day concert, featuring big-name bands Boston, The Outlaws, Poco and Van Halen, was a 12-hour affair, beginning when the gates were opened at 10 a.m.
Shade was the most sought after commodity at the concert, although large soft drinks, souvenir T-shirts and marijuana also were in high demand.
“All I can say is, ‘Airborne!’” exulted David L. Turner of Fort Bragg. Turner and a friend left the stadium at 5 p.m., he said, partly to rest and partly to drink some beers before returning to hear The Outlaws.
Security officials at the concert did not allow any alcoholic beverages, glass containers or cans into the stadium, and N.C. State University Lt. Robert Bizzelle credited the policy with keeping the crowd, which he estimated at 40,000, under control.
“I had my fingers crossed about the whole thing,” said Bizzelle, who coordinated security for the concert. “Everything’s been real lovely. People enjoyed themselves, and we didn’t have any bad experiences.”
“Not a single arrest was made that I know of,” he said after the concert.
“Our main purpose is to make sure no one brings any weapons, alcoholic beverages, glass containers, cans and coolers into the stadium,” said Hank Young, a Dragon Security employee from Greensboro.
“We’re also supposed to keep people from climbing over the fence (into the concert). I caught one person climbing over. Hell, yeah, I threw him out.”
Tickets bought in advance cost $10. They were $12.50 at the gate.
Temperatures reached 86 degrees during the afternoon, and the first-aid station at the stadium was filled to capacity throughout the concert.
Lu Little, coordinator of Red Cross First-Aid, estimated more than 200 people were treated for heat exhaustion, nausea, drugs and lacerations sustained in falls during the concert.
“Some people got a hold of stuff they shouldn’t have and others thought they could make it through the day without eating,” said Mrs. Little. “It helped us a lot not having beer available.”
Although the field and lower seats of the stadium were filled, many other patrons contented themselves with sight-seeing, throwing Frisbees or guzzling water from spigots. Others just wandered.
“I came with six people and I can’t find a one of them,” said Tony L. Norris of Greensboro. “There ain’t no way I’ll ever find them here.” The N&O 6/3/1979