‘I could almost cry’: Audience is rejuvenated by open air concert

Sparta. Last weekend’s Sparta Summer Music Series breathed life into a Covid-weary crowd that gathered in social-distancing circles at Dykstra Park. Peter Karp and the Roadshow and Don Elliker rocked the audience, which was grateful for the music, the fresh air, and the happy people around them.

Sparta /
25 Aug 2020 | 05:40

“Ladies and gentleman, welcome to the Sparta Music Series,” said Peter Karp of Peter Karp and the Roadshow. “This is the first time I have felt alive now for four months. We’re going to have some fun here. I’ve got my boys. I’m back in New Jersey. I have not slept. I don’t care. A – 1-2-3-4!”

It was a beautiful evening in Sparta’s Dykstra Park, when a full audience gathered last Friday to listen to music in their Covid-safety-approved chalk circles.

People swayed and danced. Children ran and played.

Everyone was glad to be outside doing something so normal. Audience member Pattie Murphy said it was her first time out, having a social experience, since March 16, other than trips to ShopRite. She said she was overwhelmed to be among people, chatting, hearing music.

“I’m so, so happy right now, out in the fresh air, so overwhelmed and joyful,” she said. “I could almost cry.”

Like the spectators, the musicians were having great fun. After a long, Covid-induced hiatus, they were playing in front of a live audience once again. The Roadshow did not miss a beat, though, and sounded as if they had been playing together for the last four months. They sang tight harmonies and played the keys, rhythm guitar, bass, piano, and drums.

The band let loose a funky blues beat when they started the show with “Sitting on the Edge of the World.” This, and other songs that followed, are from their new album “Magnificent Heart.”

Karp said their European tour was canceled because of the pandemic. “The next gig got canceled, and things just started going down” he said. “But this one little gig – one little gig on the schedule would not die. That one little gig – and it figures – it was in New Jersey.”

The audience let up a Jersey cheer punctuated by “yeah!”

“New Jersey, where miraculous things happen,” said Karp, a New Jersey native, as are the other members of his band.

Karp’s wisecracks and funny stories lifted spirits throughout the evening. He introduced his band. “This is my family – highly dysfunctional family,” he said.

They’ve played gigs around the world, including at a maximum security prison. They have a three-camera video shoot in Blairstown planned for September -- without an audience.

While they played the blues, Karp recalled how his RV Volkswagon broke down on his way from Tennessee to New Jersey for the concert “Air, Fuel, & Fire.”

The cicadas joined in as they sang another new song, “This World.”

Karp is known for his phenomenal guitar playing, but he’s also a great keyboard player. His fingers flew up and down the keys when he was taking turns with player Dave Keyes.

“Man, this is nice out here,” Karp said. “Even outside. I’ve been outside alone. I’m not used to people. Are you the same way? Strange. Feels good that I’m out.”

The audience cheered. “Yeah, bring it on!”

Upcoming in the Sparta Summer Concert series:

Aug. 28: Danielia Cotton

Sept. 4: Big Funk with Karl Latham and Don Braden

Sept. 11: John Byrne Band (Celtic music)

A magical night
Sparta native and guitarist Don Elliker opened the evening with his masterful finger-picking. He is also a singer and songwriter. He played everything from happy go-lucky tunes to beautiful guitar chords to a little rock and roll and rhythm and blues. He can also be heard performing with the Blue Country band.
Roadshow bass player Niles Terrat said they were happy for the good weather and grateful to be playing. Terrat has been with the band for 17 years, and that evening was their ninth time playing in Sparta. Drummer Mike Catapano said, “These are strange times. None of us have every been in this situation in our lifetimes.” Dave Keyes, who played accordion and keyboards, said it was “great to play live music in a setting where all the protocols are being followed.”

Stewart Liebman, the MC and a very active member of the Sparta Cultural Affairs Committee, said he appreciated the town council and sponsors’ help with funding for the concert series. He said the committee is committed to bringing high-quality music local audiences every week. “We bring local, regional, and national musicians,” he said. “It’s a free show. Come out and enjoy some great music.”
For more information ob upcoming shows, see Spartaarts.org/events. In case of poor weather, shows will be pushed back, depending on availability.