Don Campbell is all smiles in the Clambake parking lot in Scarborough on June 6. Photo by Aimsel Ponti

I’ve lost track of how many shows I’ve livestreamed from both local and national acts since March. I’ve truly enjoyed all of them and will continue to do so because, honestly, most music venues in Maine face an uncertain future for the remainder of 2020. A few spots, however, are slowly starting to reopen, albeit with limited seating, like Jonathan’s in Ogunquit and next month the Boothbay Opera House, but for the most part, live music as we know it has been eviscerated by the pandemic.

And boy do I miss it. I’ve kept ticket stubs in a gigantic jar for decades, and I always love the ritual of unscrewing the lid and dropping the latest one in there. It’s been months since that has happened, and although I haven’t lost sight of the big picture, there’s a hole in my heart that can only be filled with a live performance that’s not viewed on an iPhone or computer monitor.

So you can imagine my joy when I saw on Facebook that the Don Campbell Band had figured out how to make live music happen in a way that felt safe and included french fries. Campbell is one of Maine’s veteran singer-songwriters. He’s well-loved and rightfully so. With both originals and wisely-chosen covers, his voice has been a solid presence on Maine stages for many years. He’s also the consummate performer and a heck of a nice guy.

Campbell shared on Facebook that he and his fiance ventured to The Clambake Restaurant in Scarborough several weeks ago when they heard it was open for takeout. While sitting in the parking lot awaiting their order, they noticed that everyone in the dozen or so cars around them looked really bored, and in that moment, an idea took root. Fast-forward to June 6 and the Clamstock 2020 show that was pulled off in spectacular fashion with the help of a flatbed truck and a huge crowd of parking lot concert goers, including me.

All spots were marked off with cones and every vehicle had two spots: one for our car and one to the right to put out lawn chairs. The 4 p.m. start was delayed by an hour, courtesy of some rain, but then the sun came out and the music started and for those couple of hours, the pandemic wasn’t in the forefront of my mind. Campbell and his four bandmates stood atop a flatbed trailer not far from the entrance to the restaurant and tore through three sets of tunes, playing until about 8 p.m.

Among my favorite moments was three songs into the show, when Campbell and company played a quintessential childhood song for me: “Garden Party” by Ricky Nelson. It was more than “all right,” as the lyrics go; it was perfect. All told, the Don Campbell band played nine originals and a whopping 25 covers, including ones from Prince, Amy Winehouse, Neil Young, Steve Earle and The Eagles. But just as important, they brought people together. So many in fact that they spread well beyond the Clambake parking lot. My only complaint is that, when I went inside to place and then pick up my order, I saw a number of customers not wearing the required face coverings.

Dot Fournier, Diane Petit and Jean Gagne waiting for the Don Campbell Band show to start on June 6. Photo by Aimsel Ponti

But other than that, it was a fun way to spend an evening, and I’m not the only person who thought so. Longtime friends Dot Fournier from Old Orchard Beach, Diane Petit from Saco and Jean Gagne from Biddeford sat in their chairs in a row not far from my spot. Keeping my distance, I asked what they thought of the idea of a parking lot show, and they all agreed they were comfortable with the setup. It was the first live show that any of them had attended in 2020. They had seen Campbell last year at the OOB Pavilion and quite liked the show, so they decided to venture out to see him again.

Barbara and Kevin McDonald of Scarborough, along with their Yorkie, Daisy Tyler Moore, also had a blast. Barbara McDonald told me that her husband grew up with the Campbell family in Gorham, and they’ve seen him play live for many years. The couple shared a fried clam dinner, and Kevin McDonald planned to snag a socially distance selfie with his old friend Campbell.

“Overall, it was excellent and felt like the perfect summer night with the sun, the music, the fried clams and the happy crowd,” Barbara McDonald said. “Making The Clambake into a drive-up experience on a warm night felt like classic Maine summertime. It was nice to be out in a gathering yet stay safely apart.”

As for Campbell himself, he told me that his favorite part about the show was the kindness that everyone conveyed to each other. He also appreciated the patience that people maintained waiting for the weather to clear and that attendees honored the social-distance request without any conflicts or incidents. Campbell was also pleased for another reason: “I’m very happy that I never heard a word about politics of any kind.”

Campbell said the event required the cooperation of many, including the town of Scarborough, The Clambake, Risbara Construction (which loaned the flatbed trailer), Saco & Biddeford Savings, the listeners, his bandmates and eventually even Mother Nature. Campbell was also bursting with gratitude over the generous amount of tips he and his band received during and after the free show.

Congrats, Don, for pulling off a much-needed concert. I didn’t get a chance to purchase a commemorative Clamstock 2020 T-shirt, but the show will be filed in the ticket stub jar in my heart for sure.

As we wait for more live shows to get scheduled, I’ll continue to support local venues however I can and hope the ones I love will be still be there when they do. A recent survey by NIVA (National Independent Venue Association) revealed the alarming statistic that 90 percent of independent venues reported that will close permanently in a few months without federal funding and that current Paycheck Protection Program funding isn’t sufficient. If you’d like to contribute your voice to this issue, head to saveourstages.com where you can use a form to tell Maine legislators how important it is to help save our music venues.

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