What you get when you mix 6,600 jam-band fans, 250 paper masks of City Council member Carl Mumpower, police K-9 units and two weeks of pre-show hype about drug use in the Asheville Civic Center? Apparently, you get good, clean fun.
That was gist of Mumpower’s conclusion after he attended last Friday night’s Widespread Panic show. Before the concert, he’d warned that the band’s performances “stimulate a drug flea market in downtown Asheville” and encouraged the police and Civic Center staff to stiffen counter-drug measures. Afterwards, in an e-mail to City Manager Gary Jackson and local-media outlets, Mumpower wrote: “With limited exception, it was clear from the smell and behavior during the concert that staff, security, and police were actively enforcing house rules and city drug ordinances. Those wishing to support a drug culture in Asheville were not in control of the facility.”
(In the e-mail, Mumpower did sound some concerns: The same night, he wrote, he witnessed “active drug trafficking” during visits to four public-housing developments.)
The Asheville Police Department reported making four drug-related arrests near the concert, a significant reduction from a 2003 Widespread Panic show at the same venue, which netted 32 arrests.
Mumpower’s campaign to rid the Civic Center of drug use had clearly gotten the attention of some concertgoers. Asheville resident James Fuller prepared and shared some 250 paper likenesses of the Council member, which dozens of fans held in front of their faces outside the event.
Fuller told Xpress he dreamt up the effigy over pizza, joking that “an army of Carl Mumpowers might actually be enough to scare off the hippies.”
Fuller said he intended the masks to make a serious point, however. “The more serious side is that we’ve got a city with limited resources, limited police resources, and serious problems ranging from domestic violence to hard drugs. It seems the hypocrisy and egotism of doubling up police to arrest hippies for smoking grass strikes me as a poor use of city resources.”