John Ginty‘s band had one hell of a horn section on Thursday at Fosterfields.
About 140 horns, give or take, and they honked their approval after every song.
“It’s wonderful. It feels liberating,” said Randolph resident David Mair, who watched the drive-in concert with his wife Stefanie in their 1957 Beck Speedster convertible.
Those sentiments were echoed by many audience members, who paid $100 per carload to get reacquainted with live music — and the sight of other human beings — after three long months of pandemic lockdown.
“It feels absolutely fabulous,” said Sylvia Bayard of Randolph, “just to see people, even at a distance, doing something normal.”
John Ginty & Friends at Fosterfields. Slideshow photos by Kevin Coughlin. Click/hover on images for captions:
A field at the Fosterfields Living Historical Museum in Morris Township was marked with chalked parking spaces affording ample room between vehicles. Rows of cars were separated by broad grassy lanes, enabling masked concert-goers to picnic or stretch their legs while keeping their distance.
Proceeds from the 90-minute performance benefited the Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), known as the Community Theater when Ginty saw movies there as a youth.
The coronavirus crisis has forced MPAC to cancel dozens of shows, and it’s cost Ginty a chance to play his Hammond B-3 organ in Europe with the Allman Betts Band.
Another casualty was Ginty’s 30-year reunion at Morristown High School, where he is remembered as a formidable drummer.
When MPAC called to ask for help, Ginty did not hesitate.
“Are you kidding? I’m there. Six feet apart? Can do. Masks? Can do. Get a bunch of special guests to join me? Yes, please,” he said. “Anything to help keep that theater open…sign me up.”
Ginty’s seven-piece group included a masked bass player, and drummer/lap steel guitarist Marcus Randolph of the Robert Randolph Family Band.
The program included a Santana cover — Ginty has performed with Santana–and originals such as Ginty’s Damage Control and Marcus Randolph’s Lift Me Up, from his debut album, Transplant.
A transplanted kidney, donated by his wife, saved Randolph in 2011.
While Thursday’s sound system was sufficiently potent, attendees had the option of tuning their car radios to an FM simulcast. Video screens flanked the stage. (Happily, no Zoom meetings were streaming.)
“This is great,” said Harding resident Janice Ganning, surveying the scene with daughter Megan through the moon roof of the family SUV.
Megan, a 2018 Bucknell University graduate, moved back home from New York City during the pandemic.
“It’s not as bad as I would have thought,” she said of life with mom and dad.
Thursday’s MPAC drive-in was the Gannings’ first night out since everything closed in March.
“I hope they do it again,” Janice said.
That’s a possibility, according to MPAC President Allison Larena.
“We wanted to see how tonight went,” she said, thanking Ginty, the Morris County Park Commission, and MPAC’s Kadie Dempsey for their efforts.
An encore may prove tricky, however. Federal Payroll Protection Plan relief has run out and MPAC faces a round of furloughs next week.
Ginty, who compares the lockdown to forced retirement, clearly enjoyed the outing, on as fine a summer evening as June can offer.
“I just wanted us to be together,” he told spectators, distanced a long wiffle ball clout from the stage.
“I don’t care if it’s like this. I don’t care if it’s in the car. I don’t care if it’s six feet. I don’t care if it’s the mask thing. I don’t care. I just want to be together. Because with the virus and everything that’s going on, man, it’s just piling on, right?
“But I promise you this,” Ginty continued. “No matter what happens out there, no matter how hard this gets, music will be there for you.”