Reviews > Shows
Toots & The Maytals on Fire Island
Toots & The Maytals
Ocean Beach, Fire Island, NY
Fire Island is the barrier island that separates the South Shore of Long Island from the Atlantic Ocean. And for those that cross the Great South Bay every weekend to walk around barefoot and fancy free while pulling their supplies in little red wagons, live music generally means little more than the occasional cover band. But the regulars on the island love their music. So whether it’s the Disco/Club beats of the Fire Island Pines or the regular mix of Classic Rock, Reggae & Hip Hop heard in Kismet & Ocean Beach, the bars are always jumping. And amongst the songs you will always here on any given night: “Pressure Drop” and “54-46 That’s My Number.”
Spending your summers in Ocean Beach can feel like living your own personal version of the Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day. Walk into a bar on any Friday or Saturday night, and you are basically guaranteed to hear the same “classics” you’ve been grooving to since you used your first fake ID to gain entry may years ago. So when word went out the week before Memorial Day that a special early evening show was set up for the legendary Toots Hibbert to bring his band to The Sandbar in Ocean Beach on Memorial Day, the 170 tickets sold out in no time. And when 6pm rolled around at the end of an unusually warm and beautiful official start to the Summer of 2011, those with tickets started to gather in town as the last of the overwhelmingly large throng of visitors got on the ferry back to the mainland.
One could tell this would be a special show from the moment you saw Toots sitting across the street on the deck of The Albatross eating chicken fingers for dinner with his small group. Once done, he walked across the street, smiling and shaking hands with all the gathered locals that wanted to meet the legend and thank him for playing our small community.
Toots and the Maytals played a two-hour set that included all of his classics. The show started off with the band backing his daughter (one of his two beautiful back-up singers) on several songs. But when the side door to the club opened, the sunlight streamed in and Mr. Hibbert took the stage, it was a magical moment. Instead of starting the show with “Pressure Drop” like he does for almost every performance, Toots changes it up as a special request to someone in the crowd. And throughout the set, he kept thanking the locals gathered who knew every word to every song making the show closer to a night at your local karaoke bar than a concert. Repeatedly he assured the crowed he would be willing to come back. And one could see that unlike most big festivals or larger clubs he plays in cities across the country, Mr. Hibbert could tell that this place with virtually no cars and little kids roaming the streets freely with ice cream cones in hand is something special.
From “One Eyed Enos” and “Sweet And Dandy” to “Time Tough” and “Funky “Kingston” Mr. Hibbert played them all. When they paused between songs and I yelled out that he had to play “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” he didn’t hesitate to launch right into the John Denver classic that he re-imagined as his own. And before it was all done, we heard “Monkey Man,” “Pressure Drop” and an encore of “54-46 That’s My Number.”
When you spend your summers playing frisbee, surfing and walking around barefoot in a place where everybody knows your name, you expect little more than a great BBQ for dinner, a beautiful sunset and the sounds of the children playing in the streets. But when your night morphs from the usual iPod and DJ playlists of the bars into two hours with a man who was one of the first to use the word “Reggay” in a song, that truly qualifies as a Memorial Day miracle.
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