Entertainment-starved Alexandrians can grab their lawn chairs on Thursday, June 25, for the first Concert on the Courthouse Lawn of the season.
Delayed by six weeks because of the pandemic, concert organizer The Red Willow Arts Coalition will launch its annual summer series with Holy Rocka Rollaz, a high-energy trio that plays the music of 1950s-era rockers such as Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash, the Everly Brothers and Patsy Cline.
"We’re starting the season late but at least we’re starting!" the coalition announced on its website, adding that it has created a plan to prevent the further spread of the virus.
It asks those who are not feeling well to stay home, and those who attend to wear face masks and follow social distancing, including performers. Red Willow staff will make sure that guidelines are being followed. There will be four self-serve popcorn areas with closed boxes and water stations to avoid lines, as well as two portable toilets that will be sanitized weekly. A change in parking will allow more concert-goers to listen from their vehicles.
Concerts start at 7 p.m. and end by 8:30 p.m.
Without county fairs canceled throughout the state, weddings postponed and nightclubs shuttered, many of the acts have lost gigs and are as hungry for an audience as audiences are hungry for live music.
"We're deliriously happy to have someone to play for," said Peter Bergman, manager and bass player for Big Fat Groove, which performs July 9. "The way it looks, this may be the only gig we have this summer."
Holy Rocka Rollaz manager and guitarist Mark Flora said the coronavirus pandemic shut them down 10 days into what was supposed to be a month-long gig in Florida, and they haven't played together since March 13.
"We're going to be so excited to play that we're going to jump right into it," said Flora, who performs with his wife, Lisa Lynn Flora, and drummer Matt Alexander.
During the lockdown, the Floras played free concerts in their front yard, and people were able to gather across the street in a school yard, making sure to distance themselves from each other. They also played some virtual concerts, but it's not the same, he said.
The Holy Rocka Rollaz calendar is in flux right now, with gigs booked for a year that are canceling and other venues saying they were tired of the lockdown and wanted to party. They'll be playing at Freedom Fest in Goodridge, Minnesota, as well as some county fairs in North Dakota.
"It's a weird time right now," Flora said.
Alexandria's courthouse concerts draw from an older crowd, the age group most at risk for coronavirus. However, the number of cases and deaths have been falling recently in Minnesota, which might make people in that age group more comfortable in coming out for a concert.
"If they call and cancel I kind of expect it," said Joe Rudd, guitarist and manager for The Front Fenders, which is scheduled to bring its rock 'n' roll cover band to Alexandria on July 30. "I wouldn't blame them."
Last weekend, his band performed for the first time since the second week of March, he said. It was at a bar, and it was crowded.
"Everyone I talked to last weekend said, 'I can't do it anymore. I can't stay home,'" Rudd said.
The 2020 Concert on the Courthouse Lawn lineup
- June 25 Holy Rocka Rollaz: Twin Cities trio that plays the rock 'n' roll music of the 1950s.
- July 2 WoodPicks: The five members of this Thief River Falls band perform gospel, bluegrass, country and Americana.
- July 4 Special July 4 Concert: Features sing-alongs to patriotic tunes and a salute to veterans.
- July 9 Big Fat Groove: Old school R & B, rock, blues, soul and jazz from these Twin Cities-area musicians. Expect familiar Motown hits.
- July 16 White Sidewalls: These musicians from Minnesota and Wisconsin teamed up more than 45 years ago. They perform classic doo-wop and rock & roll and have shared the stage with The Drifters, Bo Diddley, Carl Perkins and others.
- July 23 Shalo Lee band: A high energy, female-fronted southern rock band from Minneapolis that promises four-part vocals and "screaming guitars."
- July 30 Front Fenders: Fargo-based group featuring rock 'n' roll hits from the 1950s through the 1980s, plus some country tunes.
- Aug 6 Crows Feet: Quintet from the western Twin Cities metro area perform classic rock and rockin' blues
- Aug 13 Honky Tonk Stardust Cowboys: Traditional, classic country music with hits from artists such as Loretta Lynn, Rosanne Cash, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings.
- Aug 20 Salty Dogs: No stranger to the courthouse concerts, these local musicians offer bluegrass, Cajun, country, blues and ballads.
- Aug 27 Doc's Dixieland: "Doc" Paul Engebretson and his band perform traditional Dixieland and gospel music.