As seen in NEWSDAY, Friday, August 3, 2001

Cover Story : Music to Your Ears:  Free

by Ian D'Giff

From city to shore, you'll find a windfall of live music

 

Country and bluegrass star Ricky Skaggs, left, performs in Central Park, while Mary Lamont and her band play the Jones Beach Bandshell

Perhaps those pockets don't feel as deep as they did at this time last summer, and your entertainment budget has been downsized because of it.  Well, have no fear, from Manhattan to Hampton Bays, free live music abounds this weekend, and it comes in many forms -- you just need to know where to look.  Audiences and performers alike cherish free shows played out of doors, and this weekend seems like the right time for dancing in the streets.

City dwellers have long known that Central Park is the place to find gratis music.  Throughout the warmest months, the Summer Stage posts a veritable revolving door of free concerts presenting the biggest names in music.  Tomorrow afternoon, country and bluegrass superstar Ricky Skaggs will treat crowds to what he calls, "in-your-face bluegrass with an attitude, played at thrash dash metal volume."  

Skaggs, an industry heavyweight who easily sells out his paid shows, explained the idea behind his involvement with free shows:  "It's really nice to be able to let people who can't afford sixty or seventy bucks to come and see us play Carnegie Hall, come and enjoy the show for free," he said.  "It's sort of a blessing to be able to do that.  I think it allows us to draw people who normally wouldn't necessarily come out and see a bluegrass show."

"Also, my heart is in it to educate," Skaggs continued.  "Last year, we did 20 dates with the Dixie Chicks, and played for thousands and thousands of kids.  These kids had never heard Bill Monroe or the Stanley Brothers, especially in places like Chicago and New York.  These kids need to hear it and know where bluegrass music comes from, and who the elders and architects were."

Head into Nassau County, and the complimentary listening opportunities continue.  Country music and line-dancing fans will surely want to catch The Mary Lamont Band's performance tomorrow at the Jones Beach Bandshell.  Her five-piece band, which includes her husband, Jim Marchese, on guitar, has been a favorite on the local music scene for the past six years, and specializes in traditional, up-tempo country originals and sassy covers, such as Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots are Made for Walkin'".

"I love that people are able to come for free and see good entertainment and really get something for nothing," said Lamont, who frequently performs at free shows and charity events.  "People come to hear music under the stars and we have a ball, plus the Jones Beach Bandshell is such a fabulous environment to be in.  The moon is out, and people are dancing.  It's a thrill-and-a-half to see people dancing to stuff that you wrote.  That's unbelievable to me, and I'll never get over that."

Photo of Mary Lamont by Jim Marchese, 2001

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