Payomet Lives! Cinco de Mayo is a great time to celebrate

Seth Rolbein's A Cape Cod Voice - Payomet

A CAPE COD VOICE - A rejuvenation is coming this summer. Places like Payomet will lead the way.

By Seth Rolbein - April 27, 2021

This damned pandemic could have destroyed a beautiful expression like the Payomet Performing Arts Center in Truro, but it didn’t. Payomet lives.

That’s a great thing for everyone who loves live music, gasps at a circus show, and believes that strong theater and deep cultural connections deserve to occupy the beating heart of Cape Cod.

Most summers Payomet’s eclectic mix speaks for itself. One night it might be Arlo Guthrie or Roseanne Cash packing the tent, a reggae band, a Siberian throat singer, a Haitian ensemble, Los Lobos or another kind of Wolf, Peter. Next morning it might be circus camp for scores of local kids, many on scholarship, followed by a professional circus performance later in the day. Next morning it might be a conversation with Sebastian Junger on storms or war, Elizabeth Cohen on urban renewal, Marty Garbus on Cuba.

COVID put an end to almost all of that. The tent didn’t go up, but even so Payomet improvised and keep its candle flickering. An old ballfield at the Seashore site was converted into a drive-in venue; the crowds were small, socially distanced by cars and spacing, but music played, acrobats swung, a gentle creative hiatus offered respite.

That Payomet survives is to the credit of a wonderful small band of committed people, staff, and volunteers, led by “Ringmaster” Kevin Rice, supported by a great relationship with the Cape Cod National Seashore, where Payomet lives. There was COVID relief money, foundation grants. It hasn’t been easy but it has been satisfying. I know because I have a catbird seat on this remarkable effort, serving on Payomet’s all-volunteer, deeply engaged board of directors.

But it all courses back to broad community support. Without that, there’s no point. With it, there’s big hope.

As we claw our way out of this disaster, my strong feeling is that this summer will see a rejuvenation, a spiritual renewal, a return to opportunities to get together and celebrate our collective humanity. Places like Payomet will lead the way.

In typical Payomet fashion, they’ve fashioned a creative opportunity to make that possible -- and have a great time.

On Cinco de Mayo, May 5, an online dance party is coming together featuring one of the hottest bands in Los Angeles, Las Cafeteras. They’ve played Payomet a few times over the years with their mix of great musicianship and deep political commitment; their version of “This Land is Your Land” would make Woody Guthrie smile, dance, and cry all at once. Mexican, African, hip hop, folk, their music coalesces and then soars.

Las Cafeteras will kick out a set and also virtually drop in from LA for a Zoom meet & greet before the show. The Payomet team even will deliver a party package right to your door (if your door is from Brewster to Provincetown). Wonder what might be in the package? If it ranges from margarita mix to Cape Cod chocolate, I wouldn’t be surprised.

Ticket sales will help Payomet bridge from now to normal. The distance is getting shorter all the time, but there’s still a ways to go and support to offer. Here’s how: