Party Spirit at ‘Summer Jam’ Beats the Heat


“We don’t have to take our clothes off,” Jermaine Stewart sang from the stage of the Pacific Amphitheatre on Monday, “to have a good time.”

Maybe not, but in the sweltering Labor Day heat, doffing all unnecessary duds became a simple matter of survival for those who attended the outdoor “Endless Summer Jam,” a marathon revue of Top 40 and dance music acts. The afternoon temperature hovered near 100 degrees in the shade, although shade was hard to come by for the estimated 10,000 to 12,000 people at the free concert, an end-of-summer promotion by Los Angeles radio station KIIS-FM (102.7).

The event attracted a predominantly young crowd to Costa Mesa from throughout Southern California.


Concert-goers dressed in shorts, bathing suits and halter tops attempted to stay cool by spraying each other with water bottles and fanning themselves with programs. Paper cups became a precious commodity, as audience members paraded to restrooms for cups of water.

Those looking for something more refreshing than lukewarm tap water were doomed to long, slow-moving concession lines. Angie Fenton of Riverside got in line at 11:45 a.m., 15 minutes before the scheduled start of the concert, and was still in line an hour later. “I’m very upset,” Fenton said. “I already missed the first group.”

Lauri Jordan and Jason Lachberg of Anaheim Hills had brought canned soft drinks and bottles of water to the show but were not allowed to bring them in. They also waited in the food-and-drink line, only to find that the going rate for a cup of ice was $1.50--the same price as a large soft drink. The wait in concession lines had stretched to more than 90 minutes by mid-afternoon, before tapering off later in the day.

The soaring temperatures were felt on stage as well. Even Robert (Kool) Bell, bassist for Kool & the Gang, found it tough to live up to his nickname. “Warm? It was like a sauna,” Bell said after the band’s afternoon set. “It was steaming.”

Still, although scattered cases of minor heat exhaustion were reported, most of the crowd seemed to survive the heat with party spirit intact. “It’s OK. There’s a breeze,” said LaToya Glass of San Bernardino, who sat quietly on the lawn with a friend while water fights raged around her. “They’re throwing water and stuff around. It’s fun.”

Said John Rubio of Los Angeles: “It’s fine. It’s better than the beach. The best thing about it is, it’s free.”

KIIS-FM gave away 9,000 pairs of tickets for the show as a “thank you” to listeners, according to the station’s marketing director, Karen Tobin. In addition, the event was a benefit for Athletes and Entertainers for Kids, a support group for terminally ill children. The radio station gave the group a check for $30,000 plus proceeds from souvenir sales.

Musical and comedy acts on the bill donated their time for the show. The concert opened with a short set by Breathe, a British pop group that had trouble staying in sync with its recorded backing tracks. The still-sparse crowd responded warmly to the band’s hit, “Hands to Heaven.”

Stewart got the crowd into more of a party groove with such funky hits as the aforementioned “We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off” and “Say It Again.” Clothes-horse Stewart also managed two costume changes in his half-hour set.

After sets by Information Society and ex-GoGo Jane Wiedlin, young rap duo D.J. Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince--a.k.a. Jeff Townes and Will Smith--won over the crowd with such paeans to teen Angst as the hit “Parents Just Don’t Understand,” and with its current hip-hop tribute to slasher flicks, “Nightmare on My Street.”

Following well-received sets by Kool & the Gang and brassy Brenda K. Starr, the crowd found itself with time on its hands as crews struggled to fix an equipment problem for Eddie Money. A huge trash fight erupted during the delay, spreading from the lawn to the seats, with crumpled paper cups, cardboard pizza trays and even hot dogs launched from all points in the amphitheater.

Money finally took the stage and earned the first encore of the day with a set of rock and pop hits from his sporadically successful career. Jeffrey Osborne was also called out for an encore following a polished set of his soul ballads and upbeat R&B; hits.

Osborne gave way to the Jets, a family act of bouncing, grinning Minnesotans who closed the concert with such bubble-gum dance hits as “Curiosity” and “Crush on You.”

The Jets took the stage 9 1/2 hours after the concert opened, but the crowd--the evening finally providing relief from the sun--stayed close to capacity and remained on its feet for much of the set. Still, a small-but-steady stream of concert-goers headed for the exits.

Montebello residents Eleanor and Manuel Noriega looked exhausted as they headed for their car at 10 p.m. after sitting through the whole show.

“It was great,” Manuel said. “It’s just getting late for a Monday, especially when you have to go to work the next morning.”

Not everyone in the Labor Day crowd had the day off. Sgt. Richard DeFrancisco of the Costa Mesa Police Department, standing near the exit as the concert drew to a close, had been there more than 12 hours, since 9:30 a.m. “There have been no problems,” he said, “but I wouldn’t say it’s been easy.”