Seasons Magazines

Seasons Magazines

Everybody Remembers Their First Outdoor Concert



It was July 14, 1979, a concert called Sunfest ’79. Randall Beach, the then-29-year-old rock and roll writer for the New Haven Register was covering the event.

“It was a sunny, hot Saturday afternoon,” Beach recalled. “About 40,000 people were there at the Yale Bowl to see the Beach Boys, Eddie Money and the Cars. Mike Love said it was like baking in 95-degree weather. Everyone had a good time unless you had sunstroke. I was up in the press box.”

The Beach Boys played all their hits like “Barbar’ Ann” and “Fun, Fun, Fun.” The crowd was in a good mood, drinking beer and having fun. “It wasn’t just another assignment. It was such a spectacle,” Beach said. “Everyone wanted to hear medleys. It’s quite possible they played 29 songs. It was almost like Woodstock.”

This particular concert was a big deal because it was the first in 5 years at the “Bowl.” Neighbors in the Westville area of New Haven had complained about noisy rock, and so rollers and concerts were put on hiatus.

Summer Jam ’80 on June 14, 1980, was another noteworthy concert for its era. The Eagles, Heart and the Little River Band played the Yale Bowl to a crowd of 67,000. Produced by Jim Koplik and Shelly Finkel, it was the biggest concert in the United States at that time.

“I was amazed by what I was seeing,” Beach said. “Some people in bathing suits, sitting on blankets. It was a big scene. The Eagles were so big and here they were playing at the Yale Bowl. “

Beach covered music at the Register from 1970 to 1984; he saved all his clips. Yes, he was there in 1989 when the Rolling Stones unexpectedly played Toad’s Place. He went on to write, “The Legendary Toad’s Place: Stories from New Haven’s Famed Music Venue” with Toad’s owner Brian Phelps.

While that was a fabulous experience, there’s something special about listening to live music under the stars or the hot sun.

Beach remembered going to Edgerton Park to hear folk artists Nanci Griffith and Dave Van Ronk on September 15, 2001, just four days after 9/11. His wife, journalist Jennifer Kaylin, was just back from covering the attacks.

“Everyone was just traumatized,” Beach recalled.  “It was important night for everyone, a chance to get together and a sense that we will all be OK. Folk music brings people together. There was a lot of camaraderie.”

Beach also loved walking around the New Haven green during their free concerts, like the time the Temptations appeared. Beach attended with his family, enjoying the “wonderful vibe” of the all ages and races audience.

“When you’re indoors, you don’t have the freedom to move around, and have a big party with tens of thousands,” Beach said. “I was lucky to live in Connecticut at that time and experience that music. It wasn’t just Toad’s but all these other venues.”