Andrew McConathy & The Drunken Hearts gear up to play first Hot Summer Nights concert in Vail
Show marks first concert at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater since reopening
Andrew McConathy & The Drunken Hearts just played the Vilar Performing Arts Center’s Ghost Light Sessions concert series, and now they’re back for another show at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater.
The band’s sold-out concert on Tuesday, July 14 at 6:30 p.m. marks the first Hot Summer Nights concert of the summer. Normally, the free concerts attract hundreds to the venue every Tuesday night, but with COVID-19 restrictions outlined when The Amp announced it would open last week, tickets are limited, and a waitlist will be implemented for all sold-out events.
Safety is at the forefront of The Amp’s mind, which has outlined policies here, but it’s also very important to the band’s frontman Andrew McConathy.
“While we are able to do these things safely, the rules have to be enforced to make sure that it goes off without a hitch,” he said. “Just because we’re having concerts doesn’t mean that things are normal and that we can go back to the way it was. We want to be very clear that we’re not out of this yet and we all have to play safe.”
Even with social distancing, this show means a lot to McConathy, who grew up in Vail and attended the Vail Mountain School.
“My mom texted me and asked if I remembered seeing John Denver play ‘Rocky Mountain High’ there. I was probably in fourth of fifth grade. We saw Bob Dylan there. I remember my dad talking about seeing Jerry Jeff Walker there. We went to a billion Hot Summer Nights growing up,” he said. “I can’t think of a safer place to have a concert at this time than the Ford Amphitheater.”
“Playing the Amphitheater is basically a dream come true for me.”
He’s bringing in special guest Reverend “The Rev” Matthew Rieger, guitarist for The Lil Smokies. McConathy’s family will be at the show, and afterward, everyone will celebrate his recent engagement to his fiancée.
From the band’s beginning days as a group of Vail ski bums, who would get back from après “buzzed enough to be making semi-coherent noises that we thought sounded good,” the Drunken Hearts have evolved tremendously. Now, the band has plenty of festival credentials under its belt – WinterWonderGrass in Steamboat and Squaw Valley, CA; Electric Forest; Mumford & Sons’ Gentlemen of the Road Fest and the McConathy’s own Yarmony Music Festival – and has shared stages with Greensky Bluegrass, Deer Tick and Leftover Salmon among others.
But this Hot Summer Nights concert might be the band’s last hurrah.
The music industry was naturally one of the most hard-hit during the pandemic. Artists make the vast majority of their income from tours, and without live shows, there is no paycheck. The Lil Smokies announced on their website:
“These are undoubtedly the strangest days we’ve ever met; a teeter totter of hopefulness, stress, fear and uncertainty. We’ll get through it though. Truly, we will. Like many of you, our livelihoods have been wholly yanked out from under us. Nearly our entire income is predicated on playing live shows to crowds and festival gatherings. This, for the unforeseeable future, is now on hiatus,” they wrote, announcing the band’s indefinite end.
While the bandmates are offering virtual concerts with “your favorite Smokie,” status quo for the band as an entity has been shattered. And even though live concerts are coming back in the Vail Valley, that status quo has also been smashed.
The Amp will enforce social distancing, and all guests should bring masks to wear when not seated and enter from either the East or West side, depending on which tickets they received. As for the broader picture of concerts-post-COVID, McConathy thinks they serve a purpose.
“It totally functions, but it has to be regulated, and people have to follow the rules,” he said. “We’ve had people try to approach the stage without masks on. Just because we’re the first act doesn’t mean that we’re going to let anything slide,” he said.
Still, the band hopes to put on a great show, and provide people with a much-needed break from stressful news cycles.
“We really can’t wait to play such an iconic venue that I’ve seen so many awesome, legendary acts at over the years. I wish it was under different circumstances. We honestly do not know when we will be able to play music beyond Tuesday,” he said.
“We’re looking forward to it because it might be our last time, for all we know.”