Concert Reviews

A Fan’s-Eye View of the Bash On The Bay 2021

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Music festivals are such a treat on a number of levels. In the summer of 2021 this is even more the case as live music was taken away from us for the better part of a year and a half due to the pandemic. It was tough not having the option to enjoy a concert by a favorite artist, or even a local cover band at the neighborhood bar. Lot’s has been said about the pros and cons of lockdowns, mandates and the like. It’s not my intent to rehash any of the noise. I’ve had my fill of it, and I suspect that most of our readers have too.

But I do want to reflect on what I felt during last week’s Bash on the Bay event at the nondescript Put-In-Bay Airport, on that cozy little drinking island with a fishing problem in the middle of Lake Erie. One might say it was just another festival, but I’d argue that it was a whole lot more.

My significant other (lets call her Charlie Brown) and me have been to way more country concerts and festivals than we can reasonably count. It all began when she took me to see Gary Allan at a Cleveland Rib Burn-off in the mid 2000’s. That was the first country concert I ever attended, and I was hooked. I’m not sure if it was her hotness, the music, the crowd, the food or a combination of all of the above that captivated me. But something made me say: “I’m all in.”

We’ve been to Jamboree In The Hills numerous times, The Country Fest at Clay’s Park nearly every year that its been held, the Carolina Country Music Festival (absolutely amazing) and even Bash on the Bay the first two years it was held. All were fun. All had great moments (I’ll never forget ZZ Top and George Jones at JITH). And in some ways, all fell short to a degree.

Fast forward to August 24, 2021. We’re off to Bash on the Bay 4. As we pull into the line to board the Miller Ferry, wouldn’t you know it that we’re parked next to a tour bus. A slick and fancy tour bus. Blake Shelton’s tour bus. No, we didn’t get to meet Blake. But it sure was fun to ferry across the water with him.

Later that night we would enjoy the Cory Farley Band at the VIP Party at T&J’s Smokehouse. I wasn’t familiar with Cory prior to this. But when he climbed up on the roof of the stage like Neal McCoy in his younger years, I became a fan for life. He’s also a seriously good musician. To use his words, he likes to write songs about sexual intercourse. I like that. And he surrounded himself with some pretty amazing band mates. One in particular, 20 year-old Gummy Bear, did the fiddle part of “Devil Went Down To Georgia” on his guitar and played it to perfection. He did it again on Thursday when the band opened for Keith Urban. Don’t be surprised if Gummy cops the CMA award for Musician of the Year at some point down the road. He’s really that good…

And then came Day 1 of the Bash. Founder and event organizer Tim Niese went over the top in putting together a two-day event featuring two legendary country music superstars as headliners. Blake Shelton and Keith Urban playing the Put-In-Bay Airport? Don’t ask me how he pulled it off, but true story. And considering that the first three editions of Bash on the Bay were single day events, this was an ambitious undertaking. Tim and his team at 614 Events, Inc. did a heck of a job in putting this whole thing together. I mentioned early on that every festival event has a downside, and such is the case for Bash on the Bay. The Put-In-Bay Airport is an airport. It’s a small airport. And as such, it has no trees. There’s nowhere to run to find respite from the hot sun, so taking measures to stay protected and well hydrated is absolutely essential. But with that taken care of, the music and the crowd more than offset a little bit of annoyance with a whole truckload of enjoyment.

Wednesday’s lineup was solid. Cumberland Road, John King, Cole Dodd and Runaway June all turned in fine performances. Blake Shelton was exceptional. And when he brought out Gwen Stefani to sing her chart topping “Don’t Speak,” and then a heartfelt duet of “Happy Anywhere,” Day 1 was well worth the price of admission!

You’d think that Day 2 would almost be a let down after such a great first day. But that surely wasn’t the case. Supporting acts The Outliers, Cory Farley, personal fave Locash (a last minute addition for Walker Hayes who couldn’t make it) and Carly Pearce all brought their best. And Keith Urban, in his first live show with his band in over 500 days was off the charts spectacular. I don’t remember ever seeing an artist so humble and so happy to just be there making music. He put everything he had into his performance, and to use his word, it was magical.

Bash on the Bay 2021 was everything I could have ever hoped for. It left me and more than 12,000 other people feeling really good and glad to be alive, even as really bad things were going on in other parts of the world. Without a doubt, country music is good for the soul. It was nice to experience the BEST that life has to offer for a few days, and hopefully, all of us who were there can help to spread some of those good vibes around to those we encounter when we get back to our everyday life.

Make no mistake about it. At its root, country music is all about love. And love IS the answer. It’s the only answer.

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