While the 4th of July didn’t feel quite as festive this year and most of the Mid-Ohio Valley’s summer festivals have been canceled or postponed, downtown Marietta came alive with the sound of music for July’s First Friday, the first non-virtual First Friday held since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to extended shopping hours, special in-store events, and United Way’s Kid Central at the Armory – all First Friday staples – the evening invited local residents to get down.

From 5:00 to 9:00 pm on Friday, July 3rd, Marietta Main Street hosted local musicians at the fountain on Front Street, at Gateway Park, and on McKenna’s Market’s back patio on Butler. Downtown businesses like Jeremiah’s Coffee House, Over the Moon Pub & Pizza, and The Buckley House also welcomed shoppers to listen to local live music inside. Physical distancing was required at each venue and tipping was highly encouraged.

Austin Alexander and Chip Goble of SOMP at Jeremiah’s Coffee House

“I thought it went great,” said Bobby Rosenstock, owner of Just A Jar Design Press and banjo player in local band, OYO. “We had a great turnout at the OYO show and folks were social distancing.” Before his band took the stage on the Butler Street patio, Rosenstock said he had an opportunity to listen to the Ohio Valley Opry at the Armory, Chip and Austin of SOMP at Jeremiah’s Coffee House, and Levi Westfall and Hannah Miller at Gateway Park. “Everybody sounded great, and folks visiting town seemed to enjoy all of the live music.”

Live performances included Austin Alexander, Logan Reynolds, The Last Minute Honky Tonk Band, Matt Petty, Jake Binegar, Justin Arthur, Jesse Forrest, Levi Westfall and Hannah Miller, OYO, John Walsh and more.

Hannah Miller and Levi Westfall

Nate Shahan, a member of the Marietta Main Street Board of Directors as well as a member of The Last Minute Honky Tonk Band, coordinated the line-up and was excited for the opportunity to uplift local music.

Musicians really appreciate seeing people enjoying their music in the flesh.

“Musicians got hit really hard with all of the forced closures due to COVID-19, as music venues and bars were some of the first to get shut down and some of the last to reopen,” said Shahan. “I was impressed with the number of artists that were streaming performances, but nothing compares to seeing music in person, even if you are doing it from a safe distance. Not to mention, musicians really appreciate seeing people enjoying their music in the flesh.”

The Ohio Valley Opry gave a special performance at The Armory

Michelle Waters was one of those people enjoying their music. While the heat may have kept a few folks away, Waters said the vibe downtown was upbeat and supportive and fellow onlookers were friendly and courteous.

“It was so nice to be able to see and hear so many of our awesome local musicians and be able to support them in-person again!”

With few opportunities to engage with a crowd, Drew Tanner, who plays the upright bass in OYO, said it’s been strange to not be playing more these past few months and stare at an empty calendar.

Nate Shahan on guitar with his bandmates in The Last Minute Honky Tonk Band

“Spring and summer are usually our busy seasons with outdoor festivals – and of course, we’d normally have our typical First Friday’s at Just A Jar and monthly gigs at the Parkersburg Brewing Company,” said Tanner. “But we’ve all been taking the health concerns seriously.”

For the first few months of the pandemic, Tanner said the band took a break from practicing and only resumed jamming together when the weather allowed them to do so outside with some space. “Even now, we’re staying pretty cautious and have only played out these last couple of times when we’ve been confident there’d be plenty of outdoor space and the audience would be respectful.”

Matt Petty at Gateway Park

For a band that usually sings their closing song crowded around the mic, this was a change.

“Admittedly, this is a shift for us, where we’re more used to a raucous time and an energetic exchange with the audience,” said Tanner. “But it has still felt great to play and the folks in the audience have been appreciative. It’s also worth noting that this isn’t our livelihood as it is for some musicians we know, so it hasn’t been nearly as painful at that level.”

OYO performing on the patio behind McKenna’s Market on Butler Street

The band’s next gig is a virtual one – a livestream performance on Friday, July 17th as part of the Peoples Bank Theatre’s “100 Days for 100 Years” fundraiser. “It’s such a tenuous time right now for venues,” Tanner said. “We’re grateful to have been invited to help our local stage and hope everyone who has come out to see us in the past will contribute to the cause.”