The gates opened at 3 p.m. yesterday afternoon at the Wood Park Festival Commons, and even though the headline act wasn’t scheduled to appear for another four and a half hours, a line had already formed along West Brook Road. That the Lake George venue can attract national acts isn’t particularly news, but the size of the audience at The Marshall Tucker Band’s debut appearance in Lake George is worthy of note.
“Three years ago when we started to build this park,” said Village Mayor Robert Blais as he stood on stage overlooking a sea of fan-filled camp chairs, “the naysayers said ‘It ain’t gonna work.’ They ought to be here tonight to see this crowd.” Nearly every square foot of the two-acre grounds was occupied, and like an evening on the lawn at SPAC, to find your seat once you’ve left for a trip to the concession stand required superior navigation skills.
As of press time, show producer Dave Ehmann didn’t have exact attendance numbers, but says, “I'd say it was very close to a sellout crowd for sure. Finally, after four years of persistence and tons of hard work, we have established Lake George and the festival space as a legitimate music destination and venue.”
The show opened with New York City-based Country Fresh. They bill themselves as modern country and put on a high-energy performance as the Festival Commons began to fill. Country Fresh delivered a set of country covers, and a few originals, appealing to Lady Antebellum fans with a little bit of Country Fried thrown in. The music got people up and dancing in the hot September sun.
The 518-area favorite Skeeter Creek followed. Lead vocalist Dave Ahl surveyed the crowd asking, “Can you believe this many people came out on a Sunday Night? Imagine if it was Friday!” The band then launched into Eric Paslay’s “Friday Night.” The Skeeter Creek set covered LoCash, Luke Bryan and Lady Antebellum before taking a genre detour to “Play that Funky Music,” “Hard to Handle” and “Highway to Hell.”
This is not the first time Skeeter Creek has opened for The Marshall Tucker Band. They were onstage at the Albany Times Union Center in May 2014 when Charlie Daniels and Marshall Tucker performed a benefit concert. The 2014 concert was a fundraiser for an Albany County project to convert the vacated Ann Lee Nursing Home into housing for returning veterans.
Between The Marshall Tucker Band’s sound check and performance, Mayor Blais came on stage with Lake George Veteran, a former Marine Scout Sniper, Sergeant Eddie Ryan to express appreciation for The Marshall Tucker Band’s support of U.S. Military veterans. At the request of the City of Albany, the Mayor presented The Marshall Tucker Band with a citation thanking them for their fundraising efforts at the 2014 Albany show.
The Marshall Tucker Band opened with “Dog Eat Dog World,” closed with “Heard it in a Love Song” (which became a crowd sing-along) then an “I’ll be Loving You” encore. In between, the band performed songs spanning their decades-long existence with plenty of extended jams, twittering flute, some blues and a rockin’ drum solo. Although the names of band members has changed since the ‘70s, the feel is still the same — laid-back with a little outlaw.
Sole founding member Doug Gray expressed surprise at the crowd size saying, “I’m amazed you still turn out after 45 Years!” Though he performed much of the show seated on a stool, he didn’t appear to lack energy, and he engaged in friendly on-stage banter with the Village Mayor.
The Marshall Tucker Band show was presented by Improv Records and co-sponsored by The Village and Town of Lake George, Warren County Department of Tourism, WillJam Productions and King Neptune’s Pub. Terri Allen of King Neptune’s, who tended the VIP tent during the show, says she is impressed with Marshall Tucker and the Festival Commons as a venue. “The sound quality was great, and there were good views from everywhere in VIP… I really liked the fact that even though there were lots of people at the show, it was much more intimate than if they were playing at a large venue.”