All (40,000) eyes on Luke at record-setting Y-Live concert
YOUNGSTOWN — A light rain fell on the crowd Saturday evening at Y-Live, but the sun came out before the first act hit the stage.
Luke Bryan headlined the fourth Y-Live concert with Riley Green and Mitchell Tenpenny opening, but it was the first one at Wean Park. The first three concerts were held at Youngstown State University’s Stambaugh Auditorium.
Bryan started his set just after 9 p.m. with “I Don’t Want This Night to End,” but some fans might have wondered “Will this night ever come?” Bryan originally was booked to play Y-Live in 2020, but the show was postponed and finally canceled when shifting COVID-19 protocols made promoter JACLive decide it could go forward with the show in 2021.
Saturday’s attendance of 20,000 was the largest-ever Y-Live crowd, near the event capacity of 22,000. The crowd had been expected to match the 20,000 fans who turned out to see Blake Shelton for Y-Live 2019.
Fans who had tickets in the pit Saturday sprinted when the gates opened in order to get the best spots in front of the stage. Many linked up in front of the main stage or along the T-shaped runway that extended from it.
Rhonda Burton and Valarie Kopeck of Dubois, Pa., perched themselves at the upper left point of the T based “on past experience,” Burton said.
She should know. Saturday was her 39th Luke Bryan concert. Kopeck guessed it was her 35th. They’ve traveled as far as Mexico and Nevada to see Bryan live. Driving less the two hours from Dubois is nothing.
“People think we follow him because he’s cute, but that’s not why,” Burton said. “He’s a very genuine human being. He interacts with his fans and remembers his fans, and that’s what makes him a great guy.
“He’s cute too, but that’s just a bonus.”
With many of the downtown lots sold for prepaid parking, concertgoers were encouraged to park at YSU Wick Avenue deck and use the shuttle buses that dropped off concertgoers about a block from the main gate.
Those who took the shuttles early said it worked well, although they said drivers had little information about what to do after the concert for the return trek to the parking deck.
Despite the warnings earlier this week, some downtown lots were open for day-of parking (for as much as $30), and street parking was available for those who arrived in the afternoon.
Downtown businesses were prepared for big crowds on Saturday.
Ken Vigorito, co-owner of Gringo’s on Phelps Street, said everyone on his staff was working a double shift Saturday.
“I’ve talked to a lot of the other business owners,” Vigorito said. “Their reservations are full, the hotel is full. I think it will be a good night.”
With the pre- and post-show crowds, Vigorito said business could surpass St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco De Mayo at the restaurant / bar.
“Cinco De Mayo is everywhere,” he said. “Y-Live is only down here.”
Sophia Martini, owner-operator of The Federal on West Federal Street, agreed.
“It’s all hands on deck tonight,” she said. “We’re excited about it being downtown.”
Aspasia Lyras, co-owner of Penguin City Brewing, said the event was a good opportunity for folks to visit their newly opened tap room.
“We just hope they embrace what we’ve done,” Lyras said. “This is a huge project and we’re excited to invite people in.”
The only downside for Penguin City is that it scheduled a boxing event for the new space back in February, before Y-Live’s date was announced. With the parking issue and road closures, she was worried that boxing fans would have trouble getting to the event, but they already have additional matches scheduled for Sept. 17 and between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Many concertgoers did head downtown early to beat the traffic. By 3:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon, every table inside The Federal and on the patio was full.
Lesley Groubert of Boardman said she’d seen Bryan several times before and it’s always fun.
“It’s great to go to the show, have a few drinks, unwind and have a good time,” she said. “It doesn’t hurt that there’s a little bit of eye candy.”
“He interacts well with the crowd,” Lydia Fiest of Howland added.
R.C. Altaffer of McDonald said he likes Bryan, but he was looking forward to seeing one of his opening acts, Riley Green, and hearing “Grandpas Never Die.”
“His lyrics and his songwriting is very good,” Altaffer said.
Katie Krawchyk, Nikki Mansfield, Becky Dutton, all of Columbiana, and Brittany Kominak of Poland were having dinner and drinks at Gringo’s before the show.
“We did this last year for Nelly (at Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre), Krawchyk said. “We hung out during the day and then went to the concert that night.”
Kominak said she enjoys Bryan’s music, “But I really like him as a person. He’s family-valued, just a hometown country boy.”