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Live music should see the sunlight

I wear a mask when I leave the house.

Instead of running into the grocery store nearly every day to pick up something, I’m shopping once or twice a week.

Even though restaurants are starting to open for indoor dining, I’m content to stick with the occasional carryout order for the time being, at least until I can gauge what impact the “reopening” of the state has on COVID-19 numbers.

I think Gov. Mike DeWine and his team have done an impressive job handling a challenging crisis, and let’s just say I never was his biggest fan before this happened. If anything, I think the state moved too quickly in lifting many of the restrictions in the last month.

But if Ohio is back in business, one thing that should be part of that reopening is outdoor park concerts.

Clearly, there is some confusion whether those gatherings are allowed. Austintown believes it can go forward with its Summer Concerts in the Park series and had its first event on Tuesday. Other communities are not so sure. They’re waiting until at least July and hoping for more guidance from the state in the meantime.

Austintown couldn’t have asked for better weather for its first night, and a crowd approaching 200 people followed the social-distancing guidelines. There were some small group of six or eight people sitting together, but there was plenty of distance between the groups. Most people weren’t wearing masks, but they were far enough apart that it didn’t seem necessary.

I even took my mask off for the last 10 to 15 minutes I was there, because I wasn’t within 15 to 20 feet of another person.

I’m not saying Blossom Music Center should be back in business with 18,000 people filling the pavilion and lawn. I’m not convinced River Rock at the Amp is feasible at the Warren Community Amphitheatre without being able to determine whether the current policies lead to a second spike in coronavirus cases.

But community park concerts draw crowds of a couple hundred, not a couple thousand, and are held in wide open spaces that allow for plenty of social distancing.

As the description of my behavior above indicates, I’m trying to err on the side of caution these days, but I felt safer Tuesday at Austintown Township Park than I would doing many of the activities clearly allowed under the current guidelines.

The best thing about Tuesday’s concert was how normal it felt. It was nice to see so many people enjoying a beautiful almost-summer evening and the music of the Sunshine Riders, who played songs by Van Morrison, Steve Earle, Bruce Springsteen and others. There also were a few oddball mashups, like a fusion of “Friend of the Devil” and “I Want You Back,” which Steve Vuich said was either by the Grateful 5 or the Jackson Dead.

It was nice to listen to live music again and seeing so many others doing the same.

Yes, keep encouraging social distancing. Tell the dancers to sit and listen, at least for the time being. But let the music play.

Andy Gray is the entertainment editor of Ticket. Write to him at agray@ tribtoday.com

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