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BELFAST, Maine — For a quarter century, musician Ando Anderson has filled downtown with the sounds of bluegrass, rock-and-roll, folk, jazz and more during Belfast Summer Nights, the weekly outdoor summer music series he founded.
But this spring, Anderson was in a funk as he despaired how to make the event both safe and fun in the era of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I didn’t know that we were going to be able to have it,” he said, adding that he and co-organizer Annadeene Konesni Fowler thought of idea after idea, but none stuck. “We always came away thinking it’s just not very appetizing — or it’s going to be too hard.”
But the funk lifted after a friend suggested they move the concerts to the Armistice Bridge that connects downtown to East Belfast. With musicians playing from the middle of the footbridge, and their songs amplified and broadcast to the audience floating in boats on the river or spread out along the beach and waterfront, well, that sounded both safe and fun to him.
“I’ve been excited ever since,” he said.
This Thursday will mark the first night for the reimagined event, which Anderson and Fowler are calling “Belfast Summer Nights Presents: Keeping Our Friends and Neighbors Healthy Concert Series.” At 5:30 p.m., musicians from the local band Muskeg will take to the bridge and fill the air with their Americana tunes, followed by Shirt Tail Kin, a Maine alt-country rock band that features seasoned musicians Curtis Russett and Ezra Rugg, among others.
Local radio station WBFY-FM, which is lending speakers for the event, will record the show and broadcast it at a later date.
The bridge will be closed during the concert, but Anderson envisions a flotilla of kayaks, canoes and other boats on the river and bay, and camp chairs on the beach below, all filled with music fans. Social distancing shouldn’t be a problem, he said, with such a wide area to utilize. Boaters are encouraged to decorate their vessels in the theme of “keeping friends and neighbors healthy.” Prizes for the most creative watercraft will be awarded.
The organizers are taking the theme seriously.
“We don’t want people to get sick. We don’t want Belfast summer nights to be Miami Beach. We don’t want people to act stupid or get hurt,” Anderson said.
Other bridge concerts are scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 6 and Thursday, Sept. 3.
“If it works out good, I think Summer Nights next year will have at least one bridge concert, to get people out there in boats and to celebrate a different part of our town,” Anderson said.