Until March 2020, Michael Johnathon used to make his Mondays talk. It was then that he and a group of dedicated volunteers brought WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour to life.
For audiences around the world, the live music program was one that they could listen to online, on television and, of course, on the radio. For its Lexington base, however, WoodSongs was a Monday night tradition. You can head to the Lyric Theater and Cultural Arts Center, where the show was presented, and witness a live recording with an array of artists ranging from unknown to internationally renowned.
In short, WoodSongs was the hottest Monday night post you could hope for in central Kentucky. Until it doesn’t.
When the COVID-19 pandemic ended live music in March 2020, WoodSongs signed on. The show was not canceled as repeat programs were still available for airing and streaming. But production of the new shows had to wait for COVID-19 restrictions to ease.
On August 16, roughly 18 months after its last recording, WoodSongs will be back. For Johnathon – the veteran Lexington folk singer who is the show’s founder, host and producer – and his team, it’s the best news of the year.
“I think every musician, songwriter and artist in general, after going through this for a year and a half, appreciates the idea of being in front of an audience again so much. More than ever, really. You loved him before. You need it now.
“You used to take this for granted because it was what you did for a living. But now, the preciousness of this honor to be allowed to do this? After all that happened? I mean, it’s irreplaceable. It is truly irreplaceable.
How hard is it going back to the routine of performing WoodSongs every week after such a prolonged and unexpected hiatus? Not really. For starters, Johnathon and his team embarked on a massive re-entry into the live music world in June by presenting 15 concerts over a 30-day period at the Cardome Renaissance Center in Georgetown for a musical series designed to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations. Entrance to the shows was free but required either proof of vaccination or to be vaccinated on site.
Several of Cardome’s performers are returning to the area to perform WoodSongs in the coming months, including bass guitar star Victor Wooten and veteran R & B / soul singer Bobby Rush. Other established artists include Texas blues guitar giant Jimmie Vaughan and Grammy-winning stylist Paula Cole. Bluegrass pioneer Rhonda Vincent, who kicked off the Cardome series, will star in WoodSongs’ live audience return on August 16.
“It’s a joyous rebirth like it used to be,” Johnathon said of the series returning to production. “This week the team is spending two days at the Lyric Theater going over all the gear, making sure the cameras are good, making sure the audio equipment is good, resetting the lights.
“The crew is the best community in the world to do something like this. Everyone is so excited and willing. Look what they did in Cardome. Where do you find this? Where is it? And they are volunteers. These are people who do it with their hearts, and they are just as anxious and excited as before. Maybe more, because they really missed it.
From now on, WoodSongs will operate without any capacity restrictions or masking, but Johnathon has said that with the growing number of COVID infections, that could change.
“We will be watching very closely whatever the governor suggests. But from this conversation, there are no restrictions. As we get closer to the opening, we can narrow the audience down to 300 so that there is space between the seats (normal speaking capacity for WoodSongs is around 500).
“We will be ready. I mean, look who immediately lined up to come to Lexington to be on WoodSongs. It’s an enthusiastic group of truly stellar artists who really want to be in front of an audience again.
WoodSongs Old Fashioned Radio Time
Or: Lyric Theater and Cultural Arts Center, 300 E. Third
When: Start time is 6:45 p.m. on Monday
Tickets: Prices vary
In line: lexingtonlyric.tix.com
August 16: Rhonda Vincent and the Rage / Dillon Massengale and the Melody Hart family
August 23: Merle Monroe / Grace Pettis
August 30: Linda Gail Lewis / Cédric Burnside
September 13: Joe Troop / Carsie Blanton
September 20: Bobby rush
September 27: Victor wooten
October 4: Paula Cole / Guy Davis
October 11: Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors / Jack Broadbent
October 18: Jimmie vaughan
October 25: Erin McKeown