By Zach Mosca
Live entertainment across the world came to a screeching halt in March at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, live concerts are making a comeback in Youngstown with the official reopening of the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre.
Starting Saturday, Sept. 19, the amphitheatre will host live music events every Saturday. Youngstown Mayor Jamael “Tito” Brown permitted the amphitheatre to open after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine allowed for outdoor entertainment to continue.
“The governor and his team made an announcement that they would allow us to do entertainment at outside venues,” Brown said. “So we’ve been following and waiting for the governor’s guidelines on this and they recently gave us a green light on what that would look like for large, outdoor venues.”
According to Phoebe Breckenridge, the marketing manager of JAC Management Group, the amphitheatre staff is going to have special guidelines to comply with social distancing. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own chairs to the events and will be asked to social distance and wear a mask at all times.
In addition to performers, local food trucks will be present with a limited menu, allowing lines to move quickly.
“We’re going to have expedited concession lines at the food trucks … so there won’t be any congregating in line. We’ll have stuff set up for that, marking it off on the ground, as well as a smaller menu to make less choice,” Breckenridge said.
The amphitheatre is kicking off its first weekend back with a performance from Cleveland disco band, Disco Inferno. Lead singer and guitarist David “Sonny” Maffei is excited to be able to perform to a live audience again.
Maffei enjoys seeing audiences give live feedback to the music by dancing or cheering, and the feeling can’t be replicated via alternatives such as live streaming or drive-in concerts.
“It’s great that you can play, but it’s not the same even from a musician’s point of view,” Maffei said. “We’re playing to a camera as opposed to playing in front of live people and getting a response and seeing people smiling or singing along or dancing. You can’t replace that.”
Aside from Disco Inferno’s performance, the amphitheatre has events every Saturday starting at 7:30 p.m. This includes the Jazz in the Park series, a local hip-hop artist showcase powered by local radio station Loud 102.3, featuring a performance from The Vindys.
Mayor Brown hopes this outdoor venue reopening can pave the way for reopening indoor venues as well, like the Covelli Centre.
“As anything else, we start slow, and then we kind of expand that and we’re hoping that if maybe we’re at a certain point between now and the end of this season for the amphitheatre, we can focus on next year’s events and then we can talk about indoor events,” Brown said.