Exuberant Long Islanders headed back to Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater Friday night as the 2021 concert season kicked off with country trio Lady A. This marked the venue’s first show since 2019 after last year's season was canceled because of the pandemic.
"This feels great," said Sue Massa, 58, of Smithtown spreading her arms wide open from her beach chair in the parking lot. "You can’t go any place better than this to see a show."
Taylor Ferreira, 24, of East Northport hasn’t been to a Jones Beach concert since she saw Jason Aldean in the summer of 2019.
"I’ve been really looking forward to this," she said. "I like Lady A but any excuse to get here is fine with me!"
The celebratory mood was contagious across the parking lot, which was filled with people in party mode.
"All of us are ready to roll," announced Allison O’Leary, 29, of Kings Park who was enjoying a drink with her fiance Michael Camenzuli, 30, of Hicksville and friends. "We are not scared of COVID!"
However other attendees were more cautious reentering a crowd. (Proof of vaccination was not required of concertgoers.)
"I’m a little apprehensive because COVID numbers are going up therefore I’m going to wear my mask walking in even though I’m vaccinated," admitted Sarah Brandwin, 28, of Seaford. "The Delta variant makes me nervous."
Country music is the dominant theme this year at Jones Beach which is featuring seven more shows in the genre including Jason Aldean (August 7), Luke Bryan (August 13), Thomas Rhett (August 26), Zac Brown Band (Sept. 2, 3), Brooks & Dunn (Sept. 10) and Dierks Bentley (Sept. 24).
"The country crowds are a little more together and friendly than rock crowds, which tend to be angsty," said Alex Vavas, 42, of Centereach. "At a country show, everyone hangs out and just enjoys each other."
When Lady A took the stage, the band was not only coming back from the pandemic but also from appendicitis recently suffered by vocalist Charles Kelley. His sudden hospitalization sidelined the start of the band's "What A Song Can Do Tour." But that didn’t stop Kelley and singer Hillary Scott from delivering their signature harmonies.
"It’s been too long Jones Beach," said Kelley, 39, who looked healthy and sounded at full vocal strength. "Sure feels good to be back. We are all out and together again. Let’s make some memories!"
After the one-two punch of new hit, "Like a Lady" and old hit, "Love Don’t Live Here," it seemed Jones Beach was back in business despite the crowd only being about 70% filled.
"Lady A’s music is so easy to get into," said Sam Kern, 27, of Medford. "Because their type of country is not as twangy as the old country it pulls in a broader demographic."
Fans were singing and dancing side-by-side to the sounds of Lady A songs, "Downtown" "Compass" and "Heart Break." Social distancing and mask wearing was nowhere in sight.
"We have been waiting for this for a long time," said Paul Poulos, 24, of West Babylon. "It’s time to get back to enjoying our summers and just life in general."