The Scene: July 2020

The Scene
By Jane Harrison
July 2020

Can you think of anything worse than having your phone die AND your brakes ‘feel funny’ all in the same week? Welcome to my last week of June. Many heartfelt thanks to Sherman’s in Loch Sheldrake and Sasha at the Verizon Store in Liberty for making these panic-worthy events far less painful.

And a shout out to THE NEVERSINK GENERAL STORE for their donation of 100 meals to the food pantry at the Methodist Church in Grahamsville.

Equally, I wish to thank Judy’s Jams for the rhubarb jelly and friends John and Diana from Story’s Neversink Plant Company for the stalks of rhubarb. I love this stuff! But have only found it once up here since I became part of upstate NY.

As this region moves slowly through the phases of reopening, a few of the music venues are gingerly testing the waters. The first to offer the very first scheduled (to my knowledge) live music event was CABERNET FRANK’S in Parksville in late June. They have the perfect space for doing this, outdoors, including a large stage which last year was utilized exclusively for their ‘Brunch Series’ of live music on Sundays. The tables had been brought out from the inside…only one picnic table…and each was strategically placed and well socially distanced. The band? Favorite, THE JOHNNY JULES BAND (JOHNNY JULES, DAVE D’ARCY, BOBBIE D) joined by JIMMY SWEETWATER out of New Orleans.

Let that sink in…New Orleans. Turns out this absolutely amazing harp (harmonica) player had come north back in January as he with the band had a packed performing schedule through the end of the summer….and then the virus hit full force. He was stuck here. When asked how he has coped through the lockdown and these tenuous reopening times, he told me he just tried to stay busy, the latest project being the painting of a friend’s house because it gave him the chance to be outside for a change in the nice weather.

Those who came out that afternoon, for the most part, wore masks and respected the social distancing, which made this fraidy- cat feel far more comfortable. I did chat with fellow attendees, and found that they, like me, KNEW that owners Wade and R.J. would do the right thing for their safety which reduced their own anxiety in venturing out.

Another venue I visited was the very first scheduled Open Mic in Sullivan County at HEARTBEAT MUSIC HALL OF GRAHAMSVILLE, also in late June. This was what I consider to be a ‘soft opening,’ as it was not so much for an audience, since it is an indoor venue, but more for those musicians just itching to play live with other musicians. This stage too, has ample room for up to five people to stand and one drummer on a drum kit while observing the rules of distancing.

One could see immediately upon entering that they, too had been hard at work, beginning to organize the floor space to observe social distancing. As I said before, this night was not really for an audience so only a few tables were set up against one wall and an antique church pew against the other.

All in all, seven showed up to perform. And, because an open mic is just that: ‘open,’ one singer was WAY too loud, slightly off key and tempo at times, which made a Patsy Cline song sound more like heavy metal. This was no damper, however, as the joy and the enthusiasm of the musicians at being on stage was palpable and infectious. I found myself readying to leave then realizing that it was the end of the night!

The owners of each of these venues are as obsessive about tracking the virus in Sullivan County as I am. This is one of the reasons I ventured out. They are fully prepared to close up tight again, if they feel it is becoming unsafe again.

Other venues have chosen to remain closed or not open at all. The flood of people from downstate coming into the area, the non-maskers, major slowdown in testing, and yes, the influx of snow birds is all worrying. BETHEL WOODS has cancelled its season. THE ROCK HILL MUSIC SERIES is cancelled for the summer. Bars and restaurants in the area that usually offer live music in their indoor settings for their diners and drinkers are still on the fence.

It’s going to be a very strange summer.
Until next time….