Jit might be the northeast, but if you walked into the Nutty Irishman in Farmingdale on a Tuesday night, you’d think the bar was in the south. Men and women wear jeans, plaid shirts, tank tops, Daisy Dukes and cowboy boots as they dance together on the parquet floor. It’s true, Long Island has become a little country.
“The country community is almost like the TV show ‘Cheers;’ you’re welcome no matter who you are,” says DJ Neil Wrangler, who spins at Nutty’s Country Tuesdays. “There’s an aura of southern hospitality about it.”
Long Island has become a country music hub. In fact, the genre made up a third of Jones Beach and Bald Hill’s gig rosters last summer.
“Country artists know the passion of the listeners here,” says Phathead, program director and morning DJ at My Country 96.1 FM in Long Island. [WJVC]. “Most country artists come from rural areas, so the lyrical content of their songs lends itself to being connected to the suburbs rather than the city.”
WHY IS IT POPULAR?
The appeal of country music is its inclusiveness. The age range of the crowd is quite wide ranging from 20s to seniors.
“We all mingle and mingle. There’s no age barrier,” says Brianna Sanzotta, 31, of Holbrook, who is a regular at Nutty’s Country Tuesdays. “It’s almost like a family event.”
Part of this close unity is due to the linking activity of line dancing. At Country Tuesdays, not only is this encouraged, but there are even free classes offered on the open dance floor to accommodate newcomers.
“You don’t have to know everything up front,” says Ryan Finlay, 31, of West Babylon, who attends weekly with his girlfriend. “The crowd is filled with friendly people who are always ready to teach you a new dance.”
LIVE COUNTRY MUSIC
Those looking for a country concert experience can head to Mulcahy’s Pub and Concert Hall in Wantagh, which has booked national headliners like Rodney Atkins, Easton Corbin, Hunter Hayes, LoCash, Drew Baldridge, Mitchell Tenpenny and Craig Morgan. One of Mul’s biggest draws is ZBTB, the Zac Brown Tribute Band, who have filled the pub since 2013.
“Zac Brown’s music is so seaside. He almost sounds like a country version of Jimmy Buffett,” says ZBTB vocalist and acoustic guitarist Pete Frank. “The closer we get to the beach, the better off we get.”
Whenever ZBTB is in town, 29-year-old Emily Baron from North Babylon makes it a point to be in the crowd.
“I love their vibe. ZBTB shows are always a guaranteed good time,” she says. “It’s my therapy.”
Alyssa Lindenmeier, 30, of Carle Place, agrees: “The artists set the tone by being very interactive with the fans and really getting the party started. The guys have such energy on stage that you’ll never see anyone on stage. ‘Sit.”
Every December, My Country hosts a Secret Holiday Show on Long Island where they give away and sell tickets, but the crowd doesn’t know who the headliner is until the entertainer arrives on stage. Former surprise guests included Darius Rucker, Dan + Shay, Maren Morris, Kacey Musgraves, Brett Young and Luke Combs.
“This year, we’re going to have two secret holiday shows at Mulcahy’s on December 1, featuring all female performers, and December 15, featuring all male performers,” Phathead promises.
Another element of the country community’s popularity is the fashion for it all. Go west! in Bohemia has been Long Island’s outpost for countrywear for 24 years.
“We sell cowboy boots, hats, belts, buckles, shirts, bandanas – you name it,” says owner Ellen McGarvey. “We even have spurs.”
Sanzotta keeps it simple with a tank top, shorts and boots. “It’s casual but comfortable,” she says. “Makes dancing easier.
Finlay goes with a similar vibe by donning a T-shirt, jeans and boots. “I can’t do the cowboy hat,” he admits. “I’m too hot to dance.”
It is clear that boots are the most popular country items that everyone wears. “We sell 200 different styles,” says McGarvey. “Men generally like square toes while women tend to go for a more pointy toe.”
Once a month, Go West! teams up with next door neighbor Eleanor’s Lounge where they host an outdoor line dancing event with a live country band in the parking lot.
“Country fans come out strong every time,” says Brandon Altman, co-owner of Eleanor’s Lounge, which also offers monthly country karaoke. “They are very lively, fully dressed and always looking to have a good time.”
WHEN | OR 7-11 p.m. every Tuesday, The Nutty Irishman, 323 Main Street in Farmingdale
NEWS 516-293-9700, thenuttyirishman.com
ZBTB – ZAC BROWN TRIBUTE BAND
WHEN | OR 9 p.m. October 23, Mulcahy’s Pub & Concert Hall, 3232 Railroad Avenue in Wantagh
NEWS 516-783-7500, muls.com
ADMISSION $20 ($15 in advance)
REARDON GOES TO COUNTRY
Long Island is developing a new country star – Dan Reardon. The 40-year-old singer-songwriter from Bayville has taken weekends to Nashville to record his original songs, which are currently streaming on Spotify.
“Country music has an authentic quality to it,” says Reardon, who typically plays Spotlight in Huntington and Craft Kitchen and Tap House in Wantagh. “Whether the concept is simple or deeper, each song has a heartfelt story.”
Growing up, he was raised on the music of Alabama, Alan Jackson, George Strait and Garth Brooks.
“I’m looking to bring back traditional country,” says Reardon. “My style is more rock based with old school instrumentation. Think Toby Keith meets Aaron Lewis meets Jason Aldean.