Live music has become scarce on Long Island these days because of the pandemic. While the fall is typically a fruitful time filled with festivals and fun, COVID-19 has significantly lowered the volume on the Nassau and Suffolk music scene.
With big concert halls like Nassau Coliseum, the Paramount, NYCB Theatre at Westbury and Tilles Center for the Performing Arts remaining dark for the rest of the year, smaller venues are feeling the pinch from restrictions the New York State Liquor Authority has put on them. Not allowing ticketed events, cover charges or advertising for live music in addition to reduced capacity, social distancing and mask wearing (when not seated), venues, many are finding it very difficult to operate moving forward.
“While New York is willing to open up casinos, gyms and schools, we are suddenly getting hit with more and more restrictions at a time when the New York COVID case numbers, especially on Long Island, have been under 1% consistently for weeks,” says Brandon Altman, co-owner of Eleanor’s Lounge in Bohemia. “It makes it impossible for a business owner or employees to plan for the future.”
Members of the local music industry are willing to work to keep the curve down, however venues are rapidly bleeding money.
“A lot of these owners are making an effort and they deserve a shot,” says West Islip singer/guitarist Jim Moran of WE-GA CHEW, American Kids and the Sunday Funday Open Jam at the Station Pub in Sayville. “If they don’t get it, many venues are going to drop out of sight and be gone forever.”
One venue that recently shuttered its doors is Revolution Bar & Music Hall in Amityville after nearly 19 years in business.
“I hope us closing opens people’s eyes to realize what’s happening,” says Revolution owner Pauline Lercara Damiani. “I don’t want to see more venues closing, but that’s what is going to happen because we are not getting any help.”
Many view Revolution’s closure as a sign.
“It’s a shame and I have a feeling that’s not going to be the last one,” says Kevin Sheehan, owner of The Warehouse in Amityville and K.J. Farrell’s Bar & Grill in Bellmore. “Everybody is holding on for dear life here trying to figure out when this is going to be lifted.”
Musicians are striving to encourage each other through this difficult time.
“We are tired of this but we are sticking together,” says guitarist/singer Gary Sellers of the Gary Sellers Band, who lives in Islip Terrace. “Nobody knows what’s going to happen. That’s the scariest part.”
Here are seven places offering live music this fall while remaining COVID-compliant:
Although the theater has no inside programing due to the pandemic, this nonprofit organization has had great success with its outdoor “Music Under the Marquee” series, which serves as a new fundraising campaign. Each event takes place during the Patchogue Chamber of Commerce’s “Sundays in the Street” program. Artists perform underneath the theater’s marquee as dinner and drinks are served to nine tables of four socially distanced on the sidewalk. Past acts include Cassandra House and Kerry Kearney. Next up is “Mardi Gras Under the Marquee" on Sept. 20 with the New Orleans blues of Jack’s Waterfall and food by Cajun Claws of Patchogue.
For more information, call 631-207-1313 or visit: patchoguetheatre.org.
The art bar next door to the Paramount will be open serving dinner and drinks outdoors with music from Kendal Conrad on Sept. 17, Enrose on Sept. 18, Scatterbrained on Sept. 19, Brian Ripps on Sept. 23, Greg Cap on Sept. 24, Rocco of the Snow on Sept. 25, Mama Juke on Sept. 26 and Melanie Morin on Sept. 30.
For more information, call 631-637-1225 or visit: spotlightny.com.
THE NUTTY IRISHMAN + 317 MAIN STREET
Farmingdale’s famous watering hole will be featuring live bands Wednesday-Saturday on its outdoor patio (6-8 p.m.) that seats 120 people and indoor backroom (7-9 p.m.) holding 80. All tables are socially distanced and reservations are encouraged. See Urban Rodeo and Contraband on Sept. 18, Black Ice — Sept. 19, Whiskey Road — Sept. 24, The Electric Dudes and Gold Dust Woman (Fleetwood Mac tribute) — Sept. 25, Fivestone and 45 rpm — Sept. 26, Radio Riot — Oct. 1, The Remedy — Oct. 2, Spectrum and Foreign Journey — Oct. 3 and more.
For more information, call 516-293-9700 or visit: thenuttyirishman.com.
Celebrate Halloween in style at 317 Main Street in Farmingdale for “The Rocky Horror Picture Dinner & Show” with Decadia on October 30 followed by a Halloween night dinner, show and costume party to the sounds of Lovesong on Oct. 31.
For more information, call 516-512-5317 or visit: 317mainstreet.com.
MULCAHY’S PUB & CONCERT HALL
The newly renovated Wantagh pub is holding seated dinner packages followed by live entertainment. Catch the Big Italian Dinner on Sept. 18 with Disco Unlimited or Sept. 26 with Michael DelGuidice. Plus, don’t miss the Country Dinner with the Zac Brown Tribute Band on Oct. 2.
To make reservations, call 516-783-7500 or visit: muls.com.
This amusement park in East Farmingdale spent the summer selling a different kind of ride — concert drive-ins. The music will continue throughout the fall season with bonus free movies.
David Clark and Bill Connors will celebrate the 26th anniversary of Billy Joel and Elton John’s “Face to Face Tour” with their tribute show on Sept. 18 including a screening of “Rocketman.”
“We will likely open on stage together, then do separate segments alone, then come back together and sing each other’s songs to close it out,” says Clark of Joel tribute band Songs in the Attic.
Connors aka “American Elton” adds, “We try to present Billy and Elton on their best days, at their peaks packing the most punch.”
Decadia and O El Amor unite for a double bill followed by a showing of “Dirty Dancing” on Sept. 26.
After a sold out show in August, 45 rpm returns to celebrate the 50th anniversary of “The Partridge Family” and the 60th anniversary of WABC radio on Oct. 3. Stay after the show for “American Graffiti.”
Get out your mirrorball and polyester suit on Oct. 10 for Disco Unlimited paired with “Saturday Night Fever.”
“Fall into Freestyle” will feature TKA, Sweet Sensation, C-Bank and the “King of Freestyle” George LaMond plus post-show movie, “Purple Rain” on Oct. 17.
LANDMARK ON MAIN STREET
The theater is not open but the lights are on in the parking lot as Landmark goes live on Main Street in Port Washington Saturday nights through Oct. 24 for free (limited capacity — reservations required).
Check out the rootsy Americana music of Dave Diamond Band on Sept. 26. Catch the New Orleans vibe of Lil’ Sammy and the Funked Up Daddies with special guests The Brass-A-Holics horn section on Oct. 3, Toby Walker blends blues, ragtime, country, bluegrass, jazz and rock on October 10 and jazz legend KJ Denhert returns on Oct. 17.
For more information, call 516-767-6444 or visit: landmarkonmainstreet.org.
NITO TO THE RESCUE
When the pandemic hit, independent managers and talent agencies banded together to form NITO (National Independent Talent Organization) with the goal to obtain a COVID-relief package for the independent live music industry.
“We are fighting for our lives and decided to take action,” says NITO founding board member Steve Schenck of Lido Beach, who is also a partner at TKO (The Kirby Organization). “We realized no one is going to take care of us so we better take care of ourselves.”
Currently, NITO is actively trying to get legislation passed in Congress.
“We’ve hired a lobbyist and we are pushing very hard on a couple of legislative initiatives,” says Schenck, who represents Long Island-based artists Blue Öyster Cult, G.E. Smith, Billy Squier and Vanilla Fudge. “Hopefully we will get a look when Congress comes back and starts to address the next relief bill.”
One bill that is on the table is the Save Our Stages Act, which authorizes the Small Business Administration (SBA) to make grants to eligible live venue operators, producers, promoters or talent representatives to address the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on certain live venues. Another one is the RESTART Act, which proposes to extend the 8-week covered period to a 16-week period to allow the hardest-hit businesses that have seen revenues decline by at least 25% additional time to deploy Paycheck Protection Program funds and meet the requirements for loan forgiveness.
“I think the only out is going to be some support and relief at the federal level. I don’t think New York State has the deep pockets to rescue all the businesses involved here,” says Schenck. “We are hanging on by a thread. What’s going to happen in a minute is the entire independent music infrastructure will collapse.”
The small venues comprise the ecosystem that feeds the music industry as most artists began their career in the clubs.
“If there isn’t some relief, we are going to lose a lot heading into 2021,” says Schenck. “I could see barely 10% of venues surviving and it could happen pretty quickly. The culture loss is going to be massive.”
For more information, visit: nitolive.org.
- DAVID J. CRIBLEZ