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By Connie Leinbach
A live, multi-artist concert Saturday night outside at the Berkley Barn afforded a little bit of normalcy during a global pandemic.
The concert, featuring six bands in half-hour time slots, was a fundraiser for the Ocracoke Interfaith Relief and Recovery Team, which is the long-term recovery group that was formed last year to help Ocracoke continue to deal with the aftermath of this storm following the initial surge of help by county and state agencies right after the storm.
The socially distant concert on Sept. 5 commemorated the one-year anniversary of the storm that devastated Ocracoke Island on Sept. 6, 2019. The island remained closed to visitors while undergoing repairs until early December. Then, as this year’s season began, the COVID-19 pandemic hit shutting down the island again until mid-May.
Alicia Peel, the OIRRT administrative assistant, organized and emceed the event, and said that from Sept. 1 to 6, raised $7,478 for the OIRRT, exceeding the $5,000 goal set.
The OIRRT became a nonprofit this year to continue its work helping the island recover and prepare for future disasters.
“We had a really great response from so many people,” Peel said after the marathon day of work. The lineup featured numerous island musicians that in a typical season would be playing every night somewhere on the island.
“It was almost cathartic the night before (the anniversary of the storm) hearing that music and getting back to that energy,” she said. “A big part of (this event) was to not let the anniversary of the storm just come and go.”
Doug Tanner, a part-time island resident, was among the audience for the Coyote and Molasses Creek segments enjoying the balmy evening.
In-person attendees could purchase any number of time slots, all of which had their own color of wrist band and 35 slots were sold for each band, Peel said.
“It was great,” he said about the live music. “It felt so good to be sitting there hearing them. The sound was super, and they sounded as good as ever.”
Katy Mitchell, Gary’s daughter, joined Molasses Creek for her signature “Clam Rake” song and one about Blackbeard after “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”
Along with these two bands, other bands were Barefoot Wade, who kicked off the evening, nobody circuit, which is a duo from Raleigh that plays vintage songs for free for charitable causes, and Toaster Oven, composed of Jon Lea and Adam LaVigne
Kim France, bassist for Molasses Creek, was so thrilled to play live—something she hadn’t done since mid-March while sitting out the COVID-19 pandemic in Asheville.
Raygun Ruby capped off the evening with their rousing ‘80s rock-n-roll tunes.
“We played at Dajio for years and this year we had to miss the whole year,” said April Trueblood, the lead singer and bass player, from the stage. “So, thank you for letting us play for y’all tonight and we hope to be back to it soon.”
Their virtuosity and crowd-pleasing numbers belied their rare performances this last year, and no one knew that drummer Rich Corbin, formerly of Ocracoke but now of Wilmington, hadn’t even rehearsed with them.
Corbin, who played with the band in years past, filled in at the last minute for the band’s usual drummer, said Marcy Brenner of Coyote in a later interview.
“They called Rich and he came all the way from Wilmington to play the gig,” Brenner said. “They didn’t practice. All they did was they stood outside and talked through the set.”
Brenner and her husband, Lou Castro, the other half of Coyote and who plays guitar for Raygun Ruby, were thrilled to play in front of a live audience.
It was more normal since Hurricane Dorian upended their lives by destroying their Coyote Den music venue and severely damaging their island house. And it was a change from their new venue–virtual concerts every Tuesday and Wednesday nights from living room.
“We were together but apart,” she said about the “different dance” the bands had to do for social distancing and keeping masks on between sets.
Volunteers sanitized the few tables and chairs provided and Dave Tweedie of Molasses Creek sanitized microphones.
The success of the event, Brenner noted, can probably be attributed to the fact that it was outside and had a marshaling group to keep everyone separated.
What came to mind, as she looked down on the audience and watched her friends singing along, was community.
“It was very special,” she said about the bit of community for a few hours that night that has been missing from peoples’ lives since the pandemic hit.
“My face hurt the next day from smiling so much,” she said, “even though it was behind a mask.”
The entire concert was live streamed and can be viewed on the OIRRT Facebook page.
The event was sponsored by Ocracoke Alive with funds from the Don & Catherine Bryan Cultural Series..
Point of disclosure: Connie Leinbach is the secretary of the OIRRT.