Dave Matthews fest hits S. Side steel plant site

July 8, 2011 (CHICAGO)

A three-day music festival featuring the Dave Matthews Band is under way at the former site of the U.S. Steel South Works plant.

Some residents say this will be an economic boost for the community. Others think it is a disruption.

Back in 1992, the steel mills at the 600-acre plant closed forever. It was around the same time the Dave Matthews Band was just getting started.

Nearly 20 years later, the band is an icon of showmanship and community values, and they are giving the South Side renewed hope that something of importance can be produced from at the historic site.

"I knew when they tore down the steel mill that I would like to use this parcel, and the stars aligned," said Jam Productions' Jerry Michaelson.

Perhaps surprisingly, the history isn't completely lost on the mostly 20- and 30-something crowd that is gathering for one of only four Dave Matthews Band Caravan concerts that the band is mounting in this, its 20th anniversary season.

"I love Dave, but there's other bands I'm excited to see," said Ally O'Connor, a concertgoer from Oak Forest.

Meanwhile, there is some discord with people who live near the site over parking restrictions.

"As soon as I leave from in front of my house, I'm not gonna have anywhere to park tomorrow and Sunday. What am I supposed to do as a resident?" said Jesse Tendayi.

And there are those that stand to benefit in a way the Southeast Side has long dreamed about.

"To be able to visualize at USX with the Dave Matthews Band, for example, can give us a positive outlook there will be more concerts," said Graciela Roboled.

Back on the sprawling site, there are three concert stages that will feature 38 bands over three days.

Bobby Long entertained early arrivers on the Slip Stage, just north of where the Great Lakes freighters hauling iron ore once disgorged the raw material that became Chicago steel.

And Gary Clarke Jr. mesmerized on the main stage that pays homage to what this place used to be called: "South Works."

"Beautiful thing, to take an area and have a plan to rebuild it and have things in the works," said Steven Etter, a concertgoer from Crown Point.

Dave Matthews Band will take the main stage for the first time at 8 pm. Friday night.

Chicago's Office of Emergency Management and Communications is encouraging concertgoers to try to take public transit. Shuttle buses are running from the 87th Street CTA stop on the Red Line.

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