Memorable Open Air Concerts
By Jeff Salter
Generally speaking, these days, I’d much rather be indoors than out. Lots of reasons, mostly related to age and various infirmities. But I still remember younger years when you could hardly drag me inside unless it was pouring down rain with lightning nearby.
Outdoor performances have their own problems, beginning with electricity and shelter… and ending with amenities like restrooms. Another big problem with outdoor music is acoustics and ambient noise — it’s hard to listen to a heartfelt song when a train rumbles past or a helicopter flies overhead.
To be sure, I’ve heard some big names (in music) in indoor concerts, including Glenn Yarbrough, The Rascals, Classics IV, B.J. Thomas, and The Happenings, among many others.
But I’ve also seen a few greats in an outdoor venue… so let me set the stage (pun intended): At the very end of August 1969, two weeks after the big event near Woodstock NY, some of those very same performers traveled to a little known raceway in Prairieville, near Gonzales, roughly midway between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Yeah, betcha you never heard of it. It was called the New Orleans Pop Festival and it drew perhaps one-tenth of the crowd which (a fortnight previously) had flocked to see many of the same performers.
On a double date, I was there with a girl from Gretna. She loved Janis Joplin… and Janis was on the bill. Partly because there were many changes in the lineup from what had been published during the concert’s advance promotion, I’ve never been 100% certain who I saw, beyond Country Joe and the Fish, a soloist named Oliver, and (of course) Janis.
According to Wiki and other corroborating sources, this was the actual lineup for the day I was there:
Sunday, August 31, 1969
It’s a Beautiful Day
Country Joe and the Fish
Assuming that order is accurate, I’m assuming I also heard most or all of those ten other acts (besides the three I specifically recall). And there are some BIGGIES in that group. Had I returned for the following day, I could’ve heard the Grateful Dead, Chicago, and the Jefferson Airplane. Wow.
I have a more fulsome report on this outdoor festival in my 4F1H post from some 27 months ago. I hope you have a few minutes to check it out:
More Local, More Enjoyable
So, having established my music-listening bona fides by dropping some of those big names, let me say that I’ve lately found a lot of enjoyment in smaller outdoor venues with individuals and groups from this and other areas of Kentucky.
Some of these, I’ve heard at the Market on Main events in downtown Somerset; at least one concert was at the “piano park” over on College Street. These settings are relaxed, informal, and – for lack of a better word – “intimate.”
I love sitting through a concert and then being able to go up and chat with the musicians afterwards. I certainly couldn’t do that with the crowds at the Raceway in 1969.
Here are some of the individuals and groups I’ve heard, locally, in these smaller venue outdoor concerts. [And let me add that I’m very impressed with the talent represented. Based on talent alone, most of these folks could well be on a much larger national stage. But, of course, exposure is a huge part of the package, isn’t it?]
*** LaMay & Reese (Joe LaMay and Sherri Reese) with Paul Davis on banjo and Randy Frye on bass.
*** Warren Byrom with Chris Sullivan (and others)
*** Vocalist Stephanie Harris Bastin (and musicians)
*** Eric Bolander
There have been other groups I didn’t catch the names of.
Something in particular I enjoyed with LaMay & Reese was how relaxed they seemed. They took requests, chatted with the audience, did a bit of coordinating on their selections, and other unscripted things that I found refreshing. For one song, Paul Davis put aside his banjo, took Joe LaMay’s guitar, and sang a Roger Miller song requested from the audience. Betcha you don’t see that at the Grand Ole Opry.
What outdoor musical events have you been to?
[JLS # 296]