Almost 7,000 fans turned out for the opening concert at the Ironstone Amphitheatre June 9 featuring country music star Toby Keith.
“It has been our largest venue to date,” said Steve Woodruff, Ironstone security and safety manager.
Fans from far and wide filled the amphitheater in anticipation of a great show, and they were not disappointed.
Grass Roots Revival kicked off the show and then Keith began his set with a few songs, bringing the crowd to its feet. He stopped for a moment and with his signature patriotic move, thanked all emergency services personnel and military, as well as the families who support the men and women who serve.
Keith transported the crowd with a simple song to memories: a beach or a great neighborhood bar. His voice deep and scratchy, eyes twinkling, his passion to perform created an almost physical connection to his audience.
“This is our first time here,” said Mary Seehafer from Morgan Hill, who was excited to finally see Keith in concert. “It’s an amazing venue, so luscious and green.”
Seehafer’s night was a very special one as she and her sister Shannon brought their father, Ruben, along for the fun, as he is also a Keith fan.
“He’s a good sport,” said Mary. “We took line-dancing lessons for a whole month getting ready for this concert.”
Los Banos farmer Pete El Gorriaga also enjoyed the venue for the first time; he made a weekend of it by staying in the Murphys area.
“The people are so nice here and the atmosphere is so pleasant, such a unique spot. … I think I’ll come back.”
He hopes to return for the Willie Nelson concert on Aug. 18.
The season’s lineup features many returning musicians.
“It’s a really good lineup,” said Sam Mando of Modesto. “I’m looking forward to Steve Miller (Aug. 13) and Willie Nelson.”
Residents also enjoyed time under the stars with great music.
“I’ve lived here since 1962,” said Cindi Castro, who spent a few years away to travel and work. She enjoys the concerts at Ironstone with her husband Eddie, a drummer who performs with many area bands.
“My favorite part of the pre-concert experience is the people watching,” said longtime Ironstone concert attendee Larry Ainsley of Sonora, who always makes a weekend of shows, “staying in Murphys, enjoying the dining and the town.”
He looks forward to quite a few of the concerts this season.
John Mellencamp’s “Sad Clowns and Hillbillies” tour, with Emmylou Harris and Carlene Carter, comes to the amphitheater at 7 p.m. Saturday and the Moody Blues performs at 8 p.m. Sunday. Tickets for the series are sold at ironstoneamphitheatre.net, or call 551-8497 or 800-745-3000.