It’s been over four decades since the Eagles put these lyrics and this song in our lexicon: “You can check when you want, but you can never leave.” “
And never, perhaps, has that key phrase to “Hotel California” been more true than in the past 18 months, as the coronavirus pandemic has left us all thinking along the lines of the classic album title. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, “Let Me Up (I’ve had enough).
This is what made Friday Night at Boarding House Park such a welcome sight and sound not only for music lovers, but also for anyone longing for a return to normalcy.
You see, the opening night of the Lowell Summer Music Series 2021 ostensibly featured a concert by Classic Albums Live, doing their rendition of the Eagles’ album “Hotel California”, but it really brought something else to light.
For the first time in 23 months, the human spirit was alive and well in downtown Lowell.
The pandemic may have canceled the last two Lowell Folk Festivals, but you can’t keep a good man or a good city and Friday night was proof that hard times don’t last, tough people do.
A group of longtime season ticket holders gathered just before the show to reminisce about and catch up on what they had been doing since they last saw each other in August 2019.
All fully vaccinated, they remain wary of the delta variant and what could happen in the weeks and months to come.
“Obviously, things are changing. We’ll see what happens, ”said Randy Kohlenberger of Lowell, who said that while he wasn’t wearing his mask on Friday, he had one with him as a precaution.
Like Kohlenberger, Paula Desmarais of Pelham, who works at D’Youville Life and Wellness as a physiotherapist, has been vaccinated since January but is afraid of the variants. Having said that, she came to have fun and enjoy the show. “I love live music. Where else can you listen to live music in a place like this? “
Echoing their caution, Jim Wilde, who lives and works in Lowell, predicted that “we’ll be wearing masks in a week. This variation is rough, ”but praised Lowell Summer Music Series general manager Peter Aucella for his work in putting together the lineup. “Peter is such a hero. We wouldn’t have this without him.
From the first notes of “Hotel California” to the biggest hits that ended the show, the spectators were in a good mood.
People were dancing in the aisles. Even a lone bunny who had clearly made himself comfortable with the park for himself alone had to scurry off into the twilight as people approached.
If you didn’t know better, it could have been any summer night in 2019 or before.
People were comfortably seated on chairs and blankets on the lawn. The Breakfast Club arrived early Friday morning to take center stage. And there was Aucella working her magic before the show, mingling with season ticket holders and running to and fro to make sure everything was ready to go at 7:30 p.m. sharp.
There were of course some differences compared to previous years. There is a small concession area, a vaccination kiosk (which remained unused all evening, although many people have asked questions of the workers stationed there), and disinfection stations dot the lawn.
Danika Connors, who led the Cataldo EMS team that ran the Friday Night Vaccination Station, said that even though people were not taking the vaccines, they were asking lots of questions about boosters and variations. She hopes that when the FDA fully approves the vaccines, it will allay people’s fears about the vaccine’s effectiveness.
It was difficult to find anyone wearing masks during the concert, although there were a few people wearing them throughout the evening.
Westford’s Chris Kandianis said that while she was comfortable being in public, the progression of the variant and the crowded nature of the show caused her to keep one. “I’m a little worried and I’ve heard things when you’re in a crowd of people whose immunization status you don’t know it’s good to wear a mask.”
Kandianis said that although she is fully vaccinated, she wears a mask in the grocery store, but usually not outside. Having seen shows at Boarding House Park before, she felt more secure with the mask on, just like her husband.
“I’m surprised there aren’t more people wearing them,” Kandianis said.
Once her work was done, Aucella planned to take a moment to reflect on the journey that led to the Friday night show.
“I got out my chair. I’m just going to sit there and look around at the people having fun and smiling. I am a volunteer in this work. What do I get out of it? That’s what I get out of it. Happy people. People are happy to be here, not just the first time, but they will be happy all summer long. They are here to see the music they want to see in a place where they feel safe, comfortable, friendly, warm and inviting. If this series wasn’t here, it would be a tragedy.
Your next chance to enjoy the good old days comes on Saturday night when the Colin Hay Band performs at Boarding House Park, but this year’s Lowell Summer Music Series lineup runs through mid-September. For more information, visit www.lowellsummermusic.org.