From the Editor, 8/27/21, Photo by Katie Friesema
If any segment of society can complain about the impact of the pandemic, it is the world of live music. Large group gatherings have been taboo, be it 1000 people or 50,000, basically eliminating that part of our economy and culture. Even our hometown Open-Mic Night at the Wellsville Creative Arts Center had to stop hosting local performers on Wednesday evenings until recently.
The live music world has slowly re-emerged from a year of cancellations and disappointments, hoping to at least provide a summer of concerts as news of another Covid wave amplifies. Western New York is fortunate to have some of the best outdoor large event venues possible, allowing the region to host dozens of renowned performers.
I was lucky to get out for my beloved Grateful Dead, currently touring the country as the latest incarnation, “Dead and Company.” The band put on the concert at Darien Lake’s outdoor amphitheater, which brings thousands of locals and a large contingent of nomads. In the Grateful Dead world, a caravan of fans and vendors follow the musicians from venue to venue, many from the first concert to the last. When this band comes to Western New York, they bring a whole culture with them, including the tribe.
The band had made a request of every venue to require vaccination to enter the concert, which was interesting considering the crowd at hand. Grateful Dead fans are well known for rebellious sentiments and non-conformity. It was largely a token gesture that couldn’t be enforced. The main reason was simply staffing, Darien Lake like all businesses, are suffering an acute labor shortage. The lady who was checking for documentation was easily subverted and security wasn’t able to play any role beyond deterrent.
Staffing was an issue once inside the concert, most seriously at the beer tents. Personally, I like my music with cold beer and that was a painful process. As large groups tend to do, they all get thirsty at the same time. With the beer tents only operating at half capacity, a nightmare developed. A deep thirst struck me shortly after getting situated and the neon glow beckoned to me incessantly. When the parch became unbearable I wandered into the line of other desperately thirsty souls, hoping for the best.
Nearly an hour later, and after becoming fast friends with two lawyers from Denver(who were also twin brothers), the frazzled bartender provided the beer, it was cold and refreshing. It was a very big beer(well two beers, lets be honest, I wasn’t driving,) and lasted until the concert concluded with a well known Bob Dylan singalong fit for the times, “Knocking on Heaven’s Door.”
Everyone in the crowd was grateful for the time together, and shared in the uncertain days to come, hoping for the best.
*Pictured above are band members John Mayer and Bob Weir this week in Darien NY