‘Cooped up too long’: Many concertgoers go maskless at Frank Foster gig

Druid City Music Hall reopened to an eager, largely unmasked crowd.

Druid City Music Hall tried to prioritize safety on its opening night, but concertgoers had other plans. 

The venue was operating at 50% capacity and sold roughly 400 tickets to a live concert headlined by country artist Frank Foster, Druid City’s first act since March. As fans poured in, security guards checked bags thoroughly and enforced masking rules. But once inside, the masks came off. 

The scene, save the staff members abiding public health guidelines, was almost pre-pandemic: Hundreds of concertgoers, mostly maskless, danced and enjoyed live music. Country classics played overhead as groups searched for a spot in the newly renovated music hall. Though the lights were dim, it was clear that attendees were smiling.

GALLERY: Frank Foster performs at Druid City Music Hall

According to a notice on Druid City Music Hall’s website, concert organizers said they were taking “enhanced health and safety measures” to ensure the safety of patrons, staff and performers. But the notice acknowledged that, even with safety measures, an in-person concert posed risks.

“An inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present […] By visiting Druid City Music Hall, you voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to communicable diseases including COVID-19,” the notice said. 

The crowd was sparse but rowdy as they waited for Foster to take the stage. Much of the pit and balconies were empty, but fans still clung to the edge of the rails in anticipation. “Dixieland Delight” played on the loudspeakers and the room readily sang along. 

“I absolutely want more live music, and every college student would agree with me,” said Stephen Toomey, a junior majoring in business. 

Foster took the stage and the bass dropped, shaking through every cheering fan’s body. 

Foster smiled as he strutted toward the middle of Druid City’s stage. His four-piece band followed, unmasked and ready to perform. 

“Y’all been cooped up too long,” Foster asked. “Who’s ready to get rowdy today?” 

Foster’s clean-shaven face glowed in the spotlight. He wore a wide-brimmed cowboy hat, steel-toed boots, light-washed jeans and a simple black tee.  

The crowd yelled in excitement. Fans stood shoulder to shoulder in the front row, singing along – unmasked – to Foster’s first songs. 

The crowd grew, and a few fans raised their cowboy hats during “Red Neck Rock N’ Roll.” Red spotlights weaved through the venue while young and middle-aged adults swayed side by side. Foster sang to the front row and reached his hand out to Druid City’s first audience in months. 

A Louisiana native, Foster is a country artist through and through. He blends a classic twang with Southern rock guitar riffs. 

“Make a little noise if you proud to be down South tonight,” Foster said. 

At one point in the set, Foster picked up an acoustic guitar and began a brief solo performance. The crowd went quiet, determined to hear every moment of their first live show in months. 

Foster’s band also had a powerful presence. Foster’s drummer played with force, anchoring each song. Some boys in the balcony tapped their cowboy boots along to the beat. The three guitarists on stage were equally important in making Foster’s country take on a life and energy of its own. They added a complexity to Foster’s melodies. 

“He has a sound that takes me back to genuine country music,” said Aleah Byers, a University of West Alabama student. 

Fans throughout the venue expressed a love of Foster’s sound, an excitement to be back and, seemingly, an indifference toward an enduring pandemic. Numerous fans went the entire show without donning a mask. 

The set drew to a close, and a guitar solo echoed through Druid City Music Hall. Unmasked concertgoers watched Foster’s last songs with looks of hope for the return of live music. 

“This feels good y’all,” Foster said, proclaiming the end of a monthslong hiatus. “It’s been way too long.”