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Bands Backing the Blue music event postponed due to COVID-19

TUPPER LAKE — A “Bands Backing the Blue” drive-in concert planned for next month has been postponed until the spring due to the state government tightening restrictions on live music events and musicians worrying about the consequences of playing.

Local music promoter Scott Gravlin has been planning an ’80’s rock-and-roll drive-in concert at the village Municipal Park to support — emotionally and financially — the village police department.

He said he thinks the current national discussion of “defunding the police” is an absurd idea, and he wanted to show law enforcement support the best way he knew how, through music.

Gravlin said the event was a “go,” with bands and staff scheduled, COVID-19 safety plans drawn up and support from village trustees, when his friend in Rochester who was helping him plan the event told him the state would not allow this sort of event to go on.

The state Liquor Authority last week issued an updated guidance on live music, saying advertised or ticketed shows are not permissible, and that venues in violation could face fines or liquor license revocation.

There have been several lawsuits and petitions against these rules filed by venues and musicians in New York.

These rules have been in action throughout the coronavirus pandemic, but as more events are planned the state has made more clarifications and cracked down more. A Chainsmokers concert, hosted by a Goldman-Sachs CEO in the Hamptons drew the ire of Gov. Andrew Cuomo in July.

Gravlin said he believes his event would have been just as safe as the drive-in movie events that are allowed.

“Our governor has kind of declared war on live music,” Gravlin said.

“Incidental music” is still allowed at venues, such as music meant for background listening, but events where the sole purpose is musical have not been allowed to be held.

Gravlin said he plans to postpone the event until Memorial Day 2021, but he was disappointed he cannot hold it now.

“I was doing everything I could to try to find every gray area around on this,” Gravlin said.

He said he wanted to show support for the police, who have been in the national spotlight recently after the filmed killings of several Black men by police led to protests around the country.

“Those who want to defund (police) have lost their minds,” Gravlin said.

Gravlin grew up in Tupper Lake, and said he likes the local officers.

“I wasn’t a perfect kid,” Gravlin said. “The local cops always handled me with much respect.”

The band Northmen from Watertown, and Blindside Justice from Rochester were scheduled to play. Gravlin said they were worried about the state taking action on bands playing concerts, too. He said with more time to plan the spring show he hopes to book a “national act” to play.

Gravlin asked the village board for approval last week, and though board members were mostly positive about having the event, Mayor Paul Maroun said they should see what the North Country Regional Control Board had to say about it first, before approving it.

On Wednesday, Maroun said they had still not heard from the board, which he said probably means the answer was “no.”

“They only like to give you good news,” Maroun said.

Gravlin said he was planning the concert to be similar to drive-in movies, which have been permitted through the past couple months. Maroun said his diagram of how the stage and seating would be set up was “better than most.”

The diagram shows a seating area in front of the stage with a 50-person limit and mask requirement. Behind that, the rest of the park would be used to stagger cars 12 feet apart.

Attendees would be required to wear masks if they were not distanced from others by 6 feet. Hand sanitizer would be provided, and police officers would control traffic or patrol the area for compliance.

There would be no charge, but donations to the Tupper Lake Police Department would be accepted.

The Lake Placid Center for the Arts and Songs at Mirror Lake tried to stage drive-in concerts in Lake Placid earlier this summer, but were stopped by state regulations. Other music festivals around the state, including moe.down in Turin were also canceled.

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