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Band squares off for outdoor concert at Sarasota Fairgrounds

Reverend Barry and the Funk will perform a socially distanced show Sept. 26 at Sarasota Fairgrounds.

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  • | 2:02 p.m. September 17, 2020
Reverend Barry and the Funk will perform to a Sarasota crowd seated in reserved, socially distances squares.
Reverend Barry and the Funk will perform to a Sarasota crowd seated in reserved, socially distances squares.
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Barry Nicholson and his funk band have been having a good time. They just weren’t ready for it to end.

After eight years of performing at live concerts and venues, Reverend Barry and the Funk had amassed a sizable following and were playing six to ten shows a month across the country while attracting the attention of talent scouts. It wasn’t bad at all, which made it sting all the more when the COVID-19 pandemic brought live performances to a screeching halt.

“We had a lot of momentum, and then it all just came to a crashing end just like everybody else,” Nicholson said.

And while the time away from the stage allowed for plenty of opportunities to write new songs for a new release,  Nicholson said he missed playing original songs and funky covers for cheering crowds more than anything.  

His options have been simple: change or disappear.

Nicholson has picked the former, and is attempting a new kind of performance for the pandemic era. The Reverend Barry and the Funk band plan to perform at a socially distanced outdoor concert live at the Sarasota Fairgrounds on Saturday, Sept. 26. 

Nicholson and and his seven bandmates will perform at the fairgrounds behind Robarts Arena to an audience who have been separated into painted boxes in a grid system. Attendees will be paying for squares on the field, in other words, and can bring out lawn chairs to sit in and relax.

Each square will be able to have up to four people and will be distanced 8 feet away from other guests. Prices go up the closer attendees get to the mobile stage and Nicholson figures around 300 will turn out to see the show. 

Reverend Barry and the Funk have been playing for 8 years. Courtesy Photo
Reverend Barry and the Funk have been playing for 8 years. Courtesy Photo

“This is not something that we created or invented,” Nicholson said. “This is something that's been done in other markets that we just kind of heard about and have adapted. It's just a way for people to get out of the house, enjoy some live music, which we've had a massive shortage of for the last six, seven months, however long it's been now.”

Reverend Barry and the Funk returned from a months-long in-person hiatus to play live music in Key Largo, and the small, spaced apart concert gave Nicholson the idea to play live in Sarasota.

Nicholson is friends with Sarasota Fairgrounds President and CEO Rory Martin and the two discussed a way of doing live entertainment. The fairgrounds already had experience with hosting parking lot concerts earlier this month. Nicholson works in marketing when he’s not jamming — he would handle the tickets, the Fairgrounds would provide the venue, and the plan was set. 

Guests won’t have to wear masks in their stations but Nicholson urges people to be considerate of others when leaving their boxes when going to get drinks or use the bathroom.

"The people who are not compliant (with masks), frankly, they're not going to be interested in a concert like this anyway,” Nicholson said. “ We do have a little older crowd, you know, and they're more comfortable in this situation.”

Though he figures the members of the band will need to shake off some rustiness, he's confident his band is ready to go.  Nicholson is ready to play for audiences again.

“I do believe that people love live music,” Nicholson said. “They want to see it again. There are people scraping and clawing to get out of their houses … I think there’s a market for this.”