Ready For Music Under The Stars

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There’s a great scene in the 1979 movie The Jerk where Steve Martin’s character (Navin Johnson) gets overly excited by the arrival of the new phone book. He rushes out to grab the book from his boss’s hand yelling, “The new phone book’s here, the new phone book’s here.” The utter confusion on Mr. Hartounian’s face as to why Martin could be as excited about something as mundane as the new phone book is priceless. But Martin has his reasons for the excitement. It was something special to him.

That’s how I feel every June when the Town of Oyster Bay releases the “Music Under the Stars” calendar. Who is it going to be this year? What iconic music group or performer will be teeing it up at John Burns Park, where the price of admission is just a lawn chair? Granted all the TOB Parks feature these “free” concerts during the month of July and into August, but it seems that the town saves the best for the largest venue, Burns.

Although the acts seem to be trending more toward “tribute” bands recently (the entire Eisenhower Park schedule this year is tribute bands—there are nine of them, I checked), there have been plenty of “real” performers in the past years available to us for free while on tour at other paying venues. How great was it to see top performers the last few summers like Blue Oyster Cult, David Cassidy, Grand Funk Railroad, Kansas or The Temptations (well most of them, anyway)? Last year we had Vanilla Fudge and Ambrosia.

Many of us “old timers” appreciate the laid-back atmosphere of Burns and the opportunity to howl along with some of our favorite songs while not actually being naked in the shower. Sure, we drag the younger generation along to witness their parents and neighbors hooting and hollering with no inhibitions as we thoroughly enjoy ourselves, reliving our youth for a few hours, but who cares?

Music was everything to our generation growing up, and still is. There is a reason why “classic” rock is still popular forty years after it was first released. Here we are, approaching the 2020s, and still grooving to the music from the 1970s and 1980s. Think about it: in 1980, was any music from the 1940s being listened to on the radio? No, rock and roll is different, my friends. Heck, Beatles music is more than 50 years old. You going to tell me you still don’t enjoy “Twist and Shout?”

I know, most of the “classic” acts performing today are missing key components of the original bands, but they still keep performing what we want to hear. Tribute bands may actually reproduce the music closer to the recordings we remember, but it’s not the same. Those bands are like being at a bar that has “Rock Star Karaoke.” Some nondescript band playing the music and someone else singing the lyrics.

We had plenty of that growing up when they were called “cover” bands. There wasn’t a bar in a 20-mile radius that didn’t have a rock cover band playing every weekend. Many of us Baby Boomers have already seen some of these performers in arenas and we have certainly paid our dues in the form of albums, cassettes, 8-track tapes and CDs. I think I have a version of Let It Be on all those platforms.

But the original performers, they lived it. This was their life. This was our life. And for a few hours every now and then, it’s nice to forget about your second mortgage or your prostate exam scheduled for next Thursday.

Sure, you can pay $150 to see Hall and Oates at Forest Hills in a few weeks (I did) or Billy Joel at MSG every month, but what would stop you from coming down to Burns Park and seeing Mike Delguidce and Big Shot play “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant” note for note?
It’s time to lug that lawn chair and cooler down to Burns and carve out a little spot on the grass where you can laugh, sing and maybe even tear up a little when the sentiment hits you without warning. You get to be yourself again, to the complete and total embarrassment of your children.

It’s the first week of June and it’s time for the TOB “Music Under The Stars” schedule to be released. Maybe we get a classic band or two squeezed in between a tribute band every now and then.

“The new phone book’s here, the new phone book’s here.”

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