2,000 music fans attend XocaToma

August 10, 1997


Staff Writer

Some didn't like the heat, others hated the dust. But most of the music lovers that converged on the Hagerstown Speedway all day Sunday had few complaints about the bands playing for the XocaToma music festival this year.

The 10 bands, hailing from as far as New York City, and as close by as Hagerstown, attracted an estimated 2,000 people to the all-day concert - a crowd that looked meager compared to the immense size of the Hagerstown racetrack.

Fans from all walks of life showed up to get a taste of local tunes, sitting lazily on blankets on the only patches of grass, wandering around the gravelly paths to meet friends or dancing in front of the erected stage where the bands played.


"You have something in common, no matter how old you are - and that's music," said Debbie Licari, 42, of Hagerstown who brought her kids to the concert.

Most onlookers, clad mostly in shorts, T-shirts, tank tops and baggy jeans to beat the penetrating sun, praised the event as a rare opportunity for under-aged teens to get out and see live musicians from their hometowns.

"I think it's great they put this thing together. It gives people in this area something to do. There's not a whole lot out there, especially for people under 21," said Jason Teach of Williamsport.

Teach had an extra incentive to praise the event - his band, Teach, was the seventh to entertain a cheering crowd of parents, teenagers and even young kids.

Miss Lonely Heart of Hagerstown kicked off the event, followed by 1%, Fried Moose, S.W.M., Outer Body Llama, To The Moon Alice, Teach, Eden's Poets, Unity Reggae Band and All Mighty Senators.

Jon Carter, 11, said he will return to the fifth annual XocaToma next year if he can.

"Because I like all the music. It's fun to be here," said the Mount Airy, Md., boy who had even managed to construct a fort out of the Speedway's dirt, mud, sticks and stones in between bands.

With hundreds of people mingling, listening to music, relaxing and even sitting back and drinking a little beer, the atmosphere during the day matched the kind of "concert environment" XocaToma co-organizer Kim Nehring said she wanted to pin down.

"Everybody seems to be happy. There's no tension," she said.

Also lacking this year were the fights in the audience that caused last year's show to shut down about 45 minutes early. To prevent a repeat performance, XocaToma organizers banned outside alcohol and coolers from Sunday's event, causing attendees to turn to the only Speedway concession stand selling beer.

Starting with about 20 kegs of beer, Speedway employees Stuart and Mendy Ulsh had a steady stream of customers buying an estimated three-fourths of their supply, they said.

"I don't really expect anything," said Mike Davis Sunday evening. He was one of about 60 security staff members dressed in fluorescent yellow T-shirts lining the perimeter of the racetrack.

The turnout, a little lower than last year's 3,000, didn't bother Nehring, she said. "(The Speedway) makes it look empty, but everyone is having so much fun because people aren't on top of each other. Last year there were wall-to-wall blankets, you couldn't move."

Nehring and her partner, Dan Dawes, owner of Emerson Scott Productions, an advertising agency in Waynesboro, Pa., created the music festival four years ago just to give area residents something to do.

Since then, its popularity has skyrocketed, raking in at least quadruple the patrons and artists after the show's first year, Nehring said.

"I'd have it more than once a year if I could," she said.

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