Comeback time for Jones Beach, more venues

The Nikon at Jones Beach Theater in Wantagh

The Nikon at Jones Beach Theater in Wantagh suffered flood damage after superstorm Sandy but the amphitheater has been repaired and is ready for the summer concert season. (Credit: News12)

This will go down as the year of comebacks.

David Bowie has released "The Next Day," his first album in 10 years and his best since 1983's "Let's Dance." My Bloody Valentine finally followed up its landmark 1991 album "Loveless" with "mbv." And Justin Timberlake took time away from his acting and fashion careers to release "The 20/20 Experience," his first album since 2006, which will be followed by a stadium tour with Jay-Z that stops at Yankee Stadium on July 19 and 20.

However, 2013's biggest musical comeback actually belongs to all the area venues damaged by superstorm Sandy, from the bars on the Jersey Shore and the Rockaways to MCU Park at Coney Island and Nikon Theater at Jones Beach in Wantagh.

"We had some damage," says John Caracciolo, president and CEO of JVC Broadcasting and Long Island Events, which operates the Pennysaver Amphitheater at Bald Hill in Farmingville. "But I think it's going to be even better."

It's an optimism that's shared across the region's music venues, especially those that count on the summer concert season for the bulk, if not all, of their business.

"We've had our best presale to date," says Jim Faith, co-producer of Long Island's biggest music festival, the Great South Bay Festival at Patchogue's Shorefront Park July 19-21. Faith says that even though this year has an eclectic roster -- including headliners the Doobie Brothers, Dark Star Orchestra and Electric Hot Tuna, as well as Billy Squier, Carolina Chocolate Drops and Steve Forbert -- it was important to him to keep ticket prices down.

"We know how hard it is out there," Faith says, adding that the festival will have an art installation that pays tribute to the victims of Sandy and will offer charities like Long Island Cares space to collect donations. "We know Long Island has been badly hit -- by the economy and then Sandy. Our crowd is not the Waldorf crowd."

Caracciolo says affordability also was important to booking the Pennysaver Amphitheater schedule this summer. And when Sandy damaged the building that housed the theater's bar and VIP area, Caracciolo says they rebuilt it to offer better views, without raising prices significantly, even for first-rate shows Counting Crows and The Wallflowers (June 14) and Hunter Hayes (July 5).

"My goal for this place is to keep prices low and to make sure everyone has the opportunity to experience a VIP seat," he says.

The positive reaction to the initial Pennysaver shows has encouraged Caracciolo to go after more concerts this summer.

Even at Nikon Theater at Jones Beach, where Sandy did millions of dollars in damage to the theater, which, famously, has Zach's Bay as a backdrop, promoters are proceeding full speed ahead with plans for the summer. The theater is expected to open on schedule Friday for the Rascal Flatts concert, and 32 nights already are booked for the summer, ranging from One Direction (June 28-29) to Bob Dylan (July 27).

Faith says that given the additional stresses in the lives of everyone affected by Sandy, this summer's concerts give them a way to escape their troubles for a while. "It's a way to help," he says. "We want to give people a place to hang out for the weekend."

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