What do Graham Nash and Gordon Lightfoot have in common besides being music legends?
Both will be performing in separate events at the thriving Ocean City Music Pier this summer.
Nash, 80, is a founding member of the Hollies, along with Crosby, Stills and Nash (and, later, Young), and he is a two-time Rock and Roll Hall-of-Fame inductee as a performer with both groups.
He is in his seventh decade of performing and is still going strong. As is Lightfoot, 83, who was one of the most gifted singers/songwriters of the 1960s and ‘70s and continues to be an influential performer.
Ocean City’s Music Pier, located on the Boardwalk at 8th Street, will welcome Lightfoot on July 18, and Nash on Aug. 8. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster, the Ocean City Music Pier box office, and at brepresents.com. (While in the area, Lightfoot is also performing at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, Pa. on July 21.)
The summer schedule at the Ocean City Music Pier included a Beatles tribute on June 20 that featured Todd Rundgren, who went into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year, Christopher Cross, Jason Scheff (formerly with the Hall-of-Fame band Chicago) Joey Molland of Badfinger, and Denny Laine, who was with the Hall-of-Fame group the Moody Blues and Wings. Dave Mason, another Hall of Famer, performed in Ocean City on June 28.
In addition to Lightfoot and Nash, the remaining schedule will also feature a tribute to Queen on July 11; the Moody Blue’s John Lodge on July 25; the Happy Together Tour, which includes the Turtles, Chuck Negron (formerly of Three Dog Night), Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, the Association, the Vogues, and the Cowsills, on Aug. 1; the Bacon Brothers, Kevin and Michael, on Aug. 2; Girl Named Tom on Aug. 15; and the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band on Aug. 22.
The Music Pier has been booking events since 1994, and some of the “name” performers over the years have included Boz Scaggs, the Beach Boys, Jason Mraz, Dave Mason, Arlo Guthrie, The Hooters, Leon Russell, The Temptations, Joan Osborne, America, and George Thorogood.
The list also includes Judy Collins, the Indigo Girls, Little Feat, Bruce Hornsby, Lightfoot, Nash, and many other marquee performers.
Lightfoot is arguably Canada’s most successful folk artist. Some of his legendary hits include “Sundown,” “If You Could Read My Mind,” “Early Morning Rain” and “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” He has had four Grammy nominations and 17 Juno Awards (the Canadian equivalent) and has been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the U.S. Songwriters Hall of Fame.
He last played in Ocean City in the summer of 2018 and is looking forward to returning to the Music Pier.
“That was the last of a 10-run show of dates,” he said. “It was a sold-out concert and a fun audience.”
Asked what inspires him to still perform at an age when most people are retired, Lightfoot gave a simple but heartfelt answer.
“It’s what we do, and we love the work,” he said.
In other words, performing doesn’t seem like a job to him and his crew.
Nash, whose performance with David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Neil Young at Woodstock in 1969 was the second show the new super-group had ever done together, had similar sentiments. Even at 80, he said, he is still learning.
“I want to stay curious,” Nash told the Miami Herald earlier this year. “I’ve seen a long and interesting life. I’ve seen and taken pictures of incredible moments, and I want to share them.”
He shares them with the magical words he writes, the powerful songs he sings, like “Our House,” which was about his romance with singer Joni Mitchell.
Ocean City teams with Rose Productions and BRE Presents to put together the shows on the Music Pier.
The city began the series in 1994, and, over the years, more big names have made appearances.
“One year, I remember someone from the city saying, ‘Can you get the Beach Boys?’ It was sort of tongue and cheek,” said Bob Rose, the owner of Rose Productions. “I looked at him like, ‘Are you (crazy)?’ ”
But then Rose mentioned it to a colleague at BRE Presents who happened to have a working relationship with the iconic Beach Boys. Before you knew it, the Beach Boys appeared in Ocean City in 2015, starting a four-year run at the 900-seat Music Pier.
“We originally booked them for one night and two shows,” Rose said. “They sold out instantly.”
By popular demand, the schedule was adjusted. Another night and two more shows were added.
When the Beach Boys’ Mike Love scanned the audience and the historic building that night in 2015, he sounded amazed.
“This place has been here since the 1920s, and we’ve been performing over in Atlantic City almost that long,” he joked as the crowd laughed. “It took you until now to invite us here!”
The Beach Boys and Ocean City, known as America’s Greatest Family Resort, were naturals at the Music Pier, which overlooks the Atlantic.
“They took things to another level,” Rose said of the concert series. “They loved playing here, and in this Jersey Shore market, there’s a lot of options for them. This summer, they’re playing in Wildwood” on Aug. 27. (Tickets: www.ticketmaster.com.)
Rose said he was particularly proud when he watched a PBS special on the Beach Boys.
“Mike Love mentions Ocean City, N.J., in it, and I’ve never forgotten that,” Rose said. “He mentions two towns in the country – from the beaches of Ocean City, N.J., to Malibu.”
The prices of Music Pier shows vary, depending on the artist.
Tickets to see Graham Nash, for instance, range from $49 to $85. For Gordon Lightfoot, they range from $49 to $89.
Since 1994, locals or folks on vacation in Ocean City “have had a chance to see nationally known acts in a small-sized venue that they normally would not play in,” Rose said. “And I think one of the things that helps us is that we’re (primarily) a Monday night series, which gives people something to do at the beginning of the week rather on the weekend, when they are already jammed – whether with traveling or checking out or checking in.
“That’s the philosophy we’ve had and it’s worked,” he added.
Over the years, the series “has tried to offer a diverse series of performers, whether it’s legendary performers like Gordon Lightfoot and Graham Nash or the Beach Boys, or newer artists being exposed to people in Ocean City for the first time, like Trombone Shorty, or Kenny Wayne Shepherd from New Orleans,” Rose said. “It’s also given us a chance to bring in acts that normally wouldn’t play in a small room, like Jason Mraz and Boz Scaggs, over the years.”
Rose said he gets a kick out of seeing social media postings about those who perform at the Ocean City Music Pier. He mentioned one photo where Mike Love was on the Boardwalk eating ice cream with his daughter, and another where Kevin Bacon’s brother, Michael, was eating chocolate-covered bacon in town.
“I think,” Rose said, “the marketing between the artists and the venue has been great.”
But not as great as the legendary acts that have been resonating with Ocean City audiences for close to three decades—specially given the glitzy Atlantic City competition for some of the most adored entertainers.