Our concert series has always been known for its diversity in sound and the calculated risks we take with bands like Gjallarhorn, Cello Fury and Dr. Draw.
Those of our fans with discerning, eclectic taste let us know when we’ve intrigued and inspired them. And in our 20 years of music perhaps no band has struck a greater chord with fans that expect the unexpected than Toubab Krewe.
Begun by two teenagers from Asheville, NC, Justin Perkins and Drew Heller, Toubab (meaning stranger, foreigner, traveler in different African languages) came from Heller’s and Perkins’ burgeoning interest in West African rhythms and percussions. Their fascination led them to travel to Guinea and Mali, where Perkins was drawn to the kora, a 21-string harp-lute formed around a large gourd. He became a student of Lamine Soumano in Mali, and while traveling back and forth between Asheville and Bamaki, Mali, their band, Krewe, emerged, becoming regulars at Bonnarroo, High Sierra and other jam band sanctuaries.
This is music that requires attention and a suspension of some of the usual expectations of rock. Patience is essential, to absorb a slowly building melody, on kamelongoni or kora or guitar, while a rhythm of kit and percussion rolls, and pushes the melody on. Or, sometimes, the beat starts and leads the rest. There are echoes of African greats like Ali Farka Toure, or Seattle greats like Jimi Hendrix, that inform and instruct this Krewe. When you hear a band so well versed in what African music can do, you will understand what fascinated Paul Simon so much that he recorded “Graceland.”
Pre-show music by George Rouse & Rob Nichols
Sponsored by Rotary of Greensburg
Leonid & Friends
In the process of booking shows, Gene and I sometimes send each other performance videos of promising acts, discoveries, recommendations. YouTube has certainly made this task both easier and harder, given the sheer number of performers out there.
A couple years back, Gene sent me a video of a group of Russian musicians performing “25 or 6 to 4” by Chicago, note for note, arrangement to arrangement, the only slight difference being the occasional slip towards a Russian accent. I thought “Wow, great group, too bad they’re in Moscow!” And Gene kept sending me these videos, one after the other, “Beginnings,” “Saturday In The Park,” … he just kept sending them.
Then, he went right around the bend and started talking about bringing them to Greensburg, to SummerSounds. Ten musicians, plus road crew and a manager? Not only did he fantasize to me about it, he sent emails to Leonid Vorobyev in Moscow, suggesting it to him. And Leonid thought it was a great idea too! (I thought I was in the middle of a Cold War espionage thriller, without a code word.)
While Gene and Leonid were becoming BFF’s on the ‘net, a phenomenon was occurring on YouTube: millions of views of these Russians doing Chicago’s songs, people dissecting their skills, their spot-on performances, and the fact that they were appreciably better than the current lineup on tour.
Suddenly, they were here for a short tour in January! The former USSR in the USA! Leonid & Friends sold out shows in LA, New York, and, yes, Chicago, celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Chicago Transit Authority with “Chicagovich!,” an album of music from our seminal horn band.
And now they’re coming back. Back In The USSA, and to SummerSounds.
So, what are they like? Don’t just take my word for it; they’re marvelous, stupendous, and tremendous. They’re mostly conservatory trained players and they’re just plain killin’. YouTube and their website are full of videos. Focus on the live videos first, which are proof of their capabilities: not finely tuned studio magic, but the real thing. I recently spent a long evening watching, and before I knew it bedtime had come and gone. They’ve done what no other tribute band has ever done: faithfully present some of the best and most complex rock music of the 70’s, out of love and enthusiasm.
Don’t miss this once in a lifetime opportunity to experience Leonid and Friends!
Pre-show music by Henry Bachorski
Sponsored by Sendell Subaru
Swift Technique, Philadelphia’s fiery funk extravaganza, is sprinting into its tenth year at full speed! The band’s unique blend of funk, soul, rock, hip-hop and relentless showmanship has propelled the group into their most successful period to date. Featuring the powerhouse vocals of Chelsea ViaCava, bombastic horns, thunderous bass and drums, driving guitar and keys, and more dance moves than you can shake a booty at, Swift Technique knocked us out when they played SummerSounds in ’18. And with their recent appearance on the award-winning Netflix series, Orange is the New Black, the group is commanding national attention.
After forming in 2007, Swift Technique has steadily toured, performed, and recorded all over the country. The band’s sound has evolved at every step, with the members constantly pushing their performing and musical limits. They have shared the stage with all varieties of world-class acts including: The Meters, Wu-Tang Clan, Snarky Puppy, Fishbone, The Disco Biscuits, The Motet, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds, and Sophistafunk. They have successfully played at top-tier venues in some of the most musically rich cities in the country such as New York, Boston, Baltimore, New Orleans, Nashville, Chicago and of course, our hometown, Greensburg.
For Swift Technique, every show is the craziest basement party you’ve ever been to. Swift’s mission is to get you grooving, get you grinning, and fill you with the positive energy that the world so sorely needs. With the hype around Swift Technique building at lightning speed, look for these gritty groove masters to take large leaps forward in coming years! Especially after they get “the SummerSounds bump!”
Pre-show music by Brandon Crawford
An interesting aspect to booking bands is to discover their history, their genesis in the music business.
Kam Franklin started out as a backup singer for various bands of various genres, sampling most of what there was available while maintaining her day job as an analyst in an investment banking firm. She did her weekend and weeknight gigs with a swamp pop band, a Latin/Punk band, even gigging as a dub step DJ. Without much progress and injuries that prevented her from dancing, she quit The Biz.
True talent will always win out though. Former bandmates Pat Kelly, keys, and Adan Castenada, bass, called to tell her they needed her talent at the head of a ska, reggae, dub step band that had an impending wedding booking. Instead of following her instinct to go in the opposite direction, Kam showed up, and kept showing up until it became obvious that the band wasn’t ska/reggae/dub, but, rather, was R&B, the next iteration of Gulf Coast Soul, periodically a thing in the Houston area. Ska/reggae/dub makes some subtle and not so subtle appearances in their songs, but make no mistake, this is Kam Franklin’s band and they play Soul. Brothers Nick and Alex Zamora do the music and Kam does the lyrics, and it’s all great.
Like the late Sharon Jones and her Daptones, Fitz and His Tantrums, and our own Commonheart, this is the real downbeat, the vocal-centric, horn-driven Sound of America, circa 2019. SummerSounds shared them with the rest of the country in 2015, along with Newport Folk Festival goers, NPR Tiny Deskers, and David Letterman Late Nighters. Letterman looked genuinely stunned as he proclaimed “If you don’t do that, get out of the business!” after watching Kam and band totally rock his audience with “G’wan.”
They are back, they are better than ever, and they are all yours! Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome The Suffers!
Pre-show music by Ryan Woods w/ Tim Woods
Sponsored by TribLive
Selwyn Birchwood Band
Mr. Birchwood first graced our stage in 2016 and rightfully earned his nomination as one of the best artists in the two decade history of SummerSounds. Why? Well, we sure can’t say it better than Rolling Stone magazine:
“A powerhouse player and emotive performer…his band, his material and both his skilled guitaring and soulful vocals are the essence of fully-formed. Birchwood is a major player. Highly recommended.”
Or The Washington Post:
“Selwyn Birchwood is an indelibly modern and original next-generation bluesman; his tough vocals, guitar and lap steel touch on classic Chicago blues, Southern soul and boogie.”
His fiery guitar and lap steel playing and his trailblazing, instantly memorable songs and gritty, unvarnished vocals make Selwyn Birchwood among the most extraordinary rising stars in the blues world. His deep familiarity with blues tradition allows him to bust the genre wide open, adding new sounds, colors and textures, all delivered with a tent revival preacher’s fervor and a natural storyteller’s charisma.
Birchwood’s meteoric rise from playing small Florida clubs to headlining international festival stages is nothing short of phenomenal, as he continues to set the contemporary blues world on fire. His 2014 debut album Don’t Call No Ambulance received the Blues Music Award and Living Blues Critics’ Award for Best Debut Album Of 2014, and he won the 2015 Blues Blast Rising Star Award. Selwyn and his band have since crossed the U.S. and Europe, delivering unforgettable live performances. With his new album, Pick Your Poison, Birchwood, along with his band—saxophonist Regi Oliver, bassist Huff Wright and drummer Courtney “Big Love” Girlie—takes a major step forward, crafting visionary blues for a new generation of forward-looking fans.
Birchwood, who attacks his guitar and lap steel with searing intensity writes and performs his cutting-edge songs that are made all the more impactful by his gruff vocals, his untamed musicianship and his band’s seemingly telepathic accompaniment. “I write and sing what I know,” says Birchwood, whose innovations are as expansive as his influences.
Thanks for sharing that knowledge with us Selwyn!
Pre-show music by Willow Hill
Sponsored by West Penn Power Co.
Man, she was amazing!” said Buddy Guy, after singing and playing with Vanessa Collier, on The Legendary Rhythm And Blues Cruise. So, let that roll around in your ear for a while!
Unfortunately, those who let a little precipitation get in the way of a great time missed a transcendent performance by the splendid Ms. Collier last year at SummerSounds. Those who didn’t mind getting a little moist enjoyed the closer view, onstage with her and the band and her grandmother and various other family and audience members. Not to be outdone by Buddy, our greatest living blues artist, my grandson proclaimed that he really liked her too. It was a great night to be a part of the show!
Still in her 20’s, Vanessa is not that far removed from captaining her high school basketball team yet she’s received honors at the renowned Berklee College of Music, toured the US and Europe with Joe Louis Walker, and impressed the aforesaid Mssr. Guy enough to earn the “Amazing!” (It’s true! Check out her website!)
The best thing is, you’d never know she “had” the blues if you hadn’t heard her yourself. She lit up our stage, and our backstage, last summer, despite the rainy weather. All of our male volunteers were smiling and all of our female volunteers were making a new friend. Our only disappointment was that we couldn’t share her with more of you.
She IS amazing, talented, soulful, full of energy and sass, audience focused … and did I say talented. She goes effortlessly from vocals to sax and back, plays a pretty mean laptop, and writes the hell out of a song.
So drag out your rain gear and bumbershoots just in case. Vanessa’s back, hopefully high and dry this time!
Pre-show music by Joe Scheller
Sponsored by UPMC Health Plan
SummerSounds votes Bach best in genre!
No, not Johann Sebastian, but David, and his Consort, a roving and revolving band of some of the best jazz musicians the metro DC area has to offer. He, the Consort, and his well-tempered keyboards, double-stacked, front and center, have graced the stage at SummerSounds a record four times now and surely earned his being voted our favorite smooth jazz artist in our two decade history.
We’re not the only ones who’ve named him a winner: he also won the 2016 Maryland Music Awards’ “Best Jazz Artist” honor. He’s received airplay at major smooth jazz stations worldwide and his recording Otherworld reached #28 in the CMJ National Jazz Chart and #4 in the Canadian Earshot National Jazz Chart.
Bach has received two Gold Records, one for a song he co-wrote for Crystal Waters and the Basement Boys and another with Thievery Corporation for keyboard work he did for Everything But The Girl.
With a natural onstage energy and charisma and an eclectic style that incorporates jazz, world music, rock, ambient music, European, Latin and classical influences, The David Bach Consorth has been a powerhouse performer for discerning live performance venues across Maryland, DC, Virginia and, of course, Pennsylvania. We have always found his refreshing and comfortable stylings to be the perfect accompaniment to a gathering in St. Clair Park with your family and friends.
Pre-show music by Luke Weltz
Sponsored by Redstone Highlands
When Kirk McLeod first formed his band, it didn’t have a bagpiper or fiddler or someone on the Uillean pipes. It wasn’t named after Ireland, Scotland, Brittany, Wales, Cornwall, Galicia or The Isle Of Man
Soon enough, though, Kirk and Co. realized that the only true way to honor and emulate the music of the great Gaelic tribes was to blow up the bladder, finger the chanter, and let the drone go, producing the sound of the angels (at least to those full of Scotch or Irish whiskey, which would be any authentic 7 nationer.)
The band started out as Clan Na Gael, but were soon run off that name by an identically named band that didn’t last, but not before they were fully embraced by the vast majority of Scottish Game Goers, who still refer to them by their former name. The Scots were always stubborn that way.
A look at their busy touring schedule reveals their popularity among St. Patrick’s Day celebrants and Highland Gamesters, where the rock n’ skirl (the shrill sound made by the chanter pipe of a bagpipe) crowd hang out. They’ve been SummerSounds favorites since 2003, making them pioneers, but we’ve also featured The Tartan Terrors and Enter the Haggis, a clear indication that most of our ancestors spoke Gaelic as their first language. Some of our male attendees have been known to wear heavy woolen kilts in 90 degree heat and some of the women have been seen sporting “Official Kilt Inspector” badges.
Load up the Guiness and Dewars, the scones and haggis, don your tweeds or tartan and welcome back the descendants of the Seven Nations for a jolly auld time. Slainte!
Pre-show music by Same Moon
The Bumper Jacksons
Roots, jazz, country and swing. Stories and songs of Appalachia. Come on down to Greensburg town, take a seat and be woven into a musical story that never stops being told.
From the video of “I’ve Never Met A Stranger” it looks like the Jacksons have gained a drum kit, a whole convoy of 2,3 and 4-wheeled pedal vehicles, and a bunch of like-minded bicyclist fans/friends.
When last they visited, their rhythm section consisted of an upright bass and a suitcase filled with percussion-type items. This old, old, old-timey band (even live, they look like they’ve been filmed, or dressed, in sepia) was begun a while and a half back, by Jess Eliot Myhre, she of the woodwind and custom DeeLuxe washboard section, and Chris Ousley, who looks like he inherited Meththusaleh’s beard. They often toured aboard bikes in the beginning, whether to save money or to be very different from the average Ford Econoline-riding band, they won’t say.
They love SummerSounds, because it’s all-natural, outdoorsy, and a hop, skip and a jump from their stomping grounds in the Baltimore-DC metro area. They’ve kept asking, very politely “When can we return?” and we’ve finally said, quite gratefully, “It’s our anniversary, it’s time!”
Be assured, swing dancing will probably break out, just when the BJ’s bring to bear the knowledge glarnered from their access to a large trove of 78 rpm records.
Jess and Chris have recently added to their repertoire, with Monk, their first child, and are happier to play gigs closer to home, and also closer to Southwest Pennsylvania, where Chris attended college.
Oh, and that name, Bumper Jacksons? Named after Chris and Jess’ next door neighbors when they lived in New Orleans, and their black lab, Bumper, who attended Jess’ practice sessions in the backyard and accompanied her by howling. Would that our canine fans might join in the chorus!
Pre-show music by Corey Carrozza
At some point we all have to admit to aging, to the inevitable passage of time. All of us except Willie Nile, that is.
He’s probably old enough to be on the SummerSounds stage crew, but you couldn’t prove it by his present career arc, or his current resurgence of popularity.
This is a guy who moved from Buffalo to NYC in 1980, busked for a living on Bleecker Street for a few months, did his first gig with a band at the Bottom Line, signed with Arista records immediately thereafter, and opened for The Who on their concert tour a month later. After the release of his second album he went back to Buffalo to raise his family, but returned to New York and back to the Bottom Line.
Not so easy come - easy go this time around. He labored with his love, live performing, from then on, in bars, clubs and the occasional short tour, not a big hit this time around, but he made everybody’s Springsteen’s, Bono’s, Lou Reed’s, Pete Townshend’s, Little Steven Van Zandt’s list of severely underrated artists.
His most recent renaissance, among his many other renaissances, is in his recording career, where he’s released five new albums in the last five years. Based upon his visit here in 2015, he’s out-performing his septuagenerian contemporaries, with sustained energy and his love of every gig.
Our fave rocker for two-decades of SummerSounds, Willie Nile is here to stay!
Pre-show music by Alan Getto
Sponsored by Dollar Bank
The billowing curtains of sound from virtuoso indie-folk band S.H.E.L. will be both familiar and far-out to fans who remember S.H.E.L. from their 2016 visit to SummerSounds. The classically inspired mandolin, violin and piano will be there, along with the band’s glowing vocal harmonies. But we’ll also hear dense, ethereal textures that hover between the digital and the analog. Grooves are deeper, emboldened with electronic ambience and beat-boxing.
The Sisters S.H.E.L., Sarah, Hannah, Eva and Liza Holbrook, are artists, certainly musical artists, but also visual and design artists, producers of their own videos, designers of their own stage costumes and creators of their cover art. Sometimes their “other” art pulls them away from the stage, as it had for a time recently, but they’re back!
Siblings have a built-in advantage when it comes to vocal performances. The Everly Brothers, The Bee Gees (the brothers Gibb), and The Beach Boys (the brothers Wilson) all have demonstrated that, because their voices don’t wander too far from their siblings’, that harmonizing is almost effortless when you’ve all cried from the same cradle, so to speak. Squalling and harmonizing follow naturally. And when all is said and done, blood IS thicker and who loves you better than your sis or bro.
What a sweet and varied sound is S.H.E.L.. Of course, there are harmonies galore, but there are musical talents galore, too, honed by years and years of being the band for their singer/songwriter father, Andrew. Leadsinger Eva can play seemingly every instrument, or at least guitar, mandolin, banjo and cello; Sarah handles bass and fiddle; Liza handles the beat with beat box , djembe and anything else that holds the bottom tight; and Hannah does the keys, including some pretty neat accordion, in my opinion the unsung hero of Rock n’ Roll
Welcome back, S.H.E.L., to our Family Reunion!
Pre-show music by Jake Polcha
Sponsored by Seton Hill University
That's all for 2019 folks,
These were our 2018 Bands:
There are less than 100 words, by our count, in the song “Seven Bridges Road” by Steve Young, yet it has its own Wikipedia article, and a damn good tribute band named after it, in the bargain. All because of the Eagles.
It seems that when these Eagles first began playing arenas and stadiums they warmed up vocally on the song a cappella, in a shower room, and then opened the show with it. Monkee Mike Nesmith took offense at them lifting the arrangement directly from Iain Matthew’s version that Nesmith produced and arranged.
Perhaps the Eagles take offense too, when 7 Bridges does their tribute to them, what with the arrangement by arrangement, song by song, note by note. Yet, our experience has been that works out just fine, because you get Eagles and nothing but Eagles with 7 Bridges … and without a hefty MasterCard invoice in July! You’re treated to that famous 4 and 5 part harmony, echoes of the late Glen Frey, and the very much alive Don Henley, Don Felder, Timothy B. Schmidt and Joe Walsh.
Just as Frey and Henley were the mainstay leaders of Eagles, so are Jason Manning and Keith Thoma the glue and talent that hold 7 Bridges together after many years of touring in tribute. As many of our 7 Bridges fans know, it’s worth sitting in the rain to see and hear our favorite tribute band.
Every show features one brilliant hit single after another. The perfect blend of songs, musicianship and onstage charisma has earned 7 Bridges their glowing reputation as one of the finest tribute acts in the country.
".....best EAGLES tribute on Earth" -ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE
And call yourself lucky, we get to enjoy 7 Bridges on the last tour of this great band in its present form. We’ll sure miss you guys!
Pre-show music by Sean Howard
Birds of Chicago
Ida Maeve, the daughter of Allison Russell and JT Nero, is five years old now. That tiny little baby girl, who graced us with her presence in the summer of 2014, has spent her tender years seeing the USA with her parents, formally known as Birds of Chicago, time well spent.
Since their first time in Greensburg the Birds have grown and flown, from CHI to the kingdom of Roots music, Nashville, TN, one of the hardest working towns in Americana.
You could tell, the very first time that they were here, that this band was headed up. They already had their own sound, a neat amalgamation of Allison’s sweet, soaring voice and JT’s rasping, from-the-throat soulfulness. When Allison treated us to an a cappella rendering of “Barley”everyone’s spine.
They’re tour-aholics, as most bands must be these days, in order to progress and survive. But they’ve also been sure to spend plenty of time in the studio, producing Real Midnight, American Flowers and Love In Wartime just in the last three years and attracting such producing talent as Joe Henry (Midnight) and Luther Dickinson (Wartime) to the tasks. Obviously, the presence of such stellar producers tells you all you need to know about the upward trajectory of their burgeoning success. They’ve recently returned the favor to Dickinson, appearing prominently on his latest release, “Sisters Of The Strawberry Moon.”
Some of our favorite shows with SummerSounds have been those with weather, 5000 people huddled under umbrellas for 7 Bridges, and hundreds jammed onstage with Birds Of Chicago to escape a sudden cloudburst, Allison Russell visiting each of us and singing us on home.
That is truly the power and the glory of music.
Pre-show music by Adam Fitz
Rock and Soul
It used to be, that an encore was an accolade earned by a stellar performance, where an audience would call an artist out for a bow, to thank them for a great show. Some artists responded in kind, taking up their instruments and thanking the audience.
Somehow, the encore changed, becoming the crowd’s call for more show because they wanted more.
Then there’s the SummerSounds encore. We’ve been graced by a lot of great shows by a lot of great artists over the years, and sometimes we’re logistically able to return the favor, by having them back in the year following their first appearance. Chris Smither, The Glenn Miller Orchestra and A Silent Film come immediately to mind.
Last summer we had a very late cancellation. We scrambled, really scrambled, to fill that date. We came up with The Commonheart, a Pittsburgh band on the verge of their first extended national tour. Anyone who attended last summer will tell you that they were absolutely terrific! So terrific that they’ve earned their ‘Encore.’
Obviously, they’ve got an excellent front man, the incomparable Clinton Clegg, who belongs right up there with Nathaniel Rateliff and John Moreland, those who have taken up the mantle of James Brown, and Joe Cocker, and any other vocalist who literally gives us a piece of their heart and their throat when they sing for us. Heck, Clinton even took out a piece of our concrete stage with our heavy mike stand, he got so emotionally involved.
The best part, though, was that The Commonheart is the complete deal -- a band that can more than keep up with their leader. Every single component part, from an Aretha rock steady rhythm section, to the backup singers, to a horn section with tasty arrangements, sweet solos and talent to spare. Oh, and did I forget to mention the tasty lead guitar and soul-deep keyboards? Collectively, they set the tone and the beat and the note for Clegg’s extraordinary vocals, all wrapped up in a sweat-busting, richly deserved encore.
This is what this concert series is all about, the discovery, by you and me, of a constellation of major talent that we can only hope will be recognized by the larger world.
Pre-show music byJasonGamble
Yeah, she’s John Hiatt’s daughter, but so what? All you’ve got to do is give her a listen, and all comparisons to Sean Lennon, Harper Simon and Chazz Bono go out the window. Oh, and comparisons to John Hiatt, too.
Without dwelling on it (well, yeah, so?) she’s her own girl, from her own psyche and experiences and demons. She started out in a college band, with influences of Dinosaur Jr., The Breeders and Pearl Jam, and bounced around for awhil e, from Denver to Nashville to Austin and back, to East Nashville, the most fertile Delta of today’s music scene, where she took up residence on Trinity Lane, not coincidentally the title of her latest album, a watershed of her life, and her sound.
The songs on Trinity Lane reflect, as she says “putting my faith in something I can’t see,” namely music. Relationships, substance abuse, long-simmering emotional issues are all addressed, as if the album is her catharsis. She’s still working on it.
Expect lyrics of great thoughtfulness, singing of great tone, and rock music drawn from her own influences. Ultimately, her songs are about the ever-healing power of music, of songs that explore the self.
Pre-show music by Meredith Holliday
When we first heard Butcher Brown they were truly rock-jazz fusion in sound and set-up: drum kit, bass, lead guitar, keys, centered on guitar and organ, a strong, straight-forward band. Then along came Marcus Tenney. Then came JAZZ!
Don’t get me wrong. What they were playing before was jazz, but Marcus and his horns, sax, trumpet, whatever, transformed it all into caps: JAZZ!
There’s a live performance on YouTube where the Butchers invite Tenney onstage to join in. Right there you see the transformation.
They all come out of the Virginia Commonwealth University jazz program; Tenney a bit older than DJ Harrison, keys and producer; Corey Fonville, drums; Andrew Randazzo, bass; and Morgan Burrs, guitar, where they’ve created a healthy, growing jazz scene in Richmond and Charlottesville. All around us the culturati declare the impending death of jazz, but VCU, and North Texas State and Duquesne just keep proving them wrong. Do what we did, wrap your head around it slowly and recognize the genius of jazz.
Christened somewhere as hip-hop Mahavishnu, Butcher Brown’s muscular, funky, rock-centered and jazz-flavored sound is bottomed on echoes of Weather Report and Return To Forever, but goes so much further, in each progressive, inventive, adventurous performance. Come and hear for yourself the genius that is jazz.
Pre-show music by Angry John Stangry
In acknowledgement of the rather sizeable contribution that she makes (singing lead vocals, writing the songs, co-producing albums and midnight snacks) to The Honeycutters, Amanda Anne Platt is up front in every way on their fifth album, including her name .
This is what New Country should sound like. Grounded in traditional country ways, with all the torch and twang, as k.d lang called it, with a greater introspection and turn of phrase, a la Sturgill Simpson. There’s Nashville, and then there’s East Nashville, not just a different spot on the compass, and there’s everywhere else, like Asheboro, NC, where Amanda A is from. She’s got a big, heartache of a voice when necessary, and the lilt of humor when it occurs. She deals in the ordinariness of life, and death and birthdays, with a wisdom and wit well beyond her 30 years.
She’s got a terrific band behind her, a real country band: tasty pedal steel and all, sometimes upright, sometimes Fender, bass, and a real nice, minimal drum pocket, just enough for a country beat. Country music fans, not hat-band country, but real country, will appreciate the attention to rhythm this band has, how it’s right there throughout, a perfect platform for Platt’s words and voice.
Pre-show music by Willow Hill
Somewhere east of Pea Ridge, on Highway 60 just outside of Huntingdon, WVA, sits Ona, WVA, an unincorporated spot where Ona, the band, got it’s name and it’s inspiration. Just remember, if you get to Hurricane or Nitro, you’ve gone too far.
While hailing from Huntingdon, the guys in Ona derive their essence from Ona, a tiny, nearly non-existent hollow nearly in the middle of nowhere— sort of like Brigadoon, with moonshine whiskey substituting for Scotch.
Brad, Bradley, Zach, Zack and Max (last names Goodall, Jenkins, Johnston,Owens and Nolte) have been friends for longer than they’ve been band, but not by much.
Their motto is What Would Neil Young Do? The answer is, be moody, along with dreamy and guitar-y, but with traces of Dawes and Duane Eddy, Great Lake Swimmers and Sufjan Stevens. They’re not at all derivative, but rather proto-evolutionary, trying to bring rock to a place like Ona.
They’re at work on an album, said to be a worthy successor to American Fiction, both of which will be sitting on a table at the gate to the park, to be added to your collection of Albums-I-Got-At-SummerSounds-And-Can’t-Stop-Listening- To. After all, what could be better than reminiscing about live outdoor music? Maybe a beverage?
Pre-show music by Zak Blose
When last we were graced with the presence of Dr. Birchwood he was 6’3” without the height of his Afro or his shoes, and he had just brought another audience to his allegiance. This is a guy who can work a space, with a swooping strut and an easeful way with a guitar, hooking and landing them with a soulful way with words and the growling, roughened voice of a bluesman.
He’s from Orlando, Home of the Mouse, where he was lucky enough to have Sonny Rhodes, Texas bluesman, as a neighbor. Still a teenager, he was allowed to sit in at some practices and Rhodes was so impressed he put him in his band, taught him advanced blues and lap steel guitar techniques, and the ways of running a band on the road. Rhodes also insisted that the blues would not prevent Selwyn from getting an extensive education, college and an MBA, while still touring on a limited basis with the legendary bluesman. Last year the opportunity presented itself for Birchwood to bring Sonny Rhodes on with his band, a reversal that pleased the young bluesman to no end. That’s just the kind of art form the blues are, a generation unto generation passing of the axe, so to speak, where echoes of the roots never cease to reverberate.
We at SummerSounds just happen to have a bunch of blues afficianadoes in our audience, who don’t sit silently without blues on the menu. As soon as Selwyn Birchwood plays his last note this summer I’ll hear the refrain. “When are you going to have some more blues?” To which I’ll reply, “You’re giving me the blues, or heartburn or whatever. Patience.”
Pre-show music by East Coast Turnaround
Rolling Stone magazine has a thing for Christian Lopez. In “22 Best Things We Saw At American Music Fest,” they cited Lopez as Best Newcomer, alongside observations regarding Patty Griffin, John Moreland and Rhiannon Giddens. That’s when he was all of 19. In “10 New Country Artists You Need To Know” he was listed For Fans Of John Denver, James Taylor and Jackson Browne. Why not just throw the Beatles in there for good measure and really make his quest for stardom more daunting. He was 21.
He’s handsomer than Justin Timberlake, sweeter sounding than a bird (not a Byrd, a bird), and has a better spit curl than Elvis ever did. At least, that’s according to his grandmother and Rolling Stone.
Enough. Can’t we just let him sing and play and prove himself. Sometimes Great Expectations get in the way. (Aren’t you glad they made you read that novel in 10th grade, so you understand the reference. Otherwise, what is it good for? Absolutely nothin’.)
Truth be told, Chris Lopez is a better than fair-to-middling guitar player, singer/songwriter and performer, with charisma to spare. He’s a dynamic and passionate performer. He comes up with some pretty, pretty, pretty good hooks. He works hard at his profession. He’s somebody that you’d better see before Rolling Stone (and Grandma) drive up the cost of tickets to see him in to the Stratosphere, almost to the equivalent of a vintage Stratocaster. Then you’ll know the price of hype.
Pre-show music by Angela Autumn
The last time Chuck Prophet played SummerSounds was the first time I heard him play a note or sing a line. Back then, I was a groundling like you, drawn down Maple Avenue by an otherwise boring Friday evening to listen to whatever discovery Gene James found for Greensburg. What I got for that slight exertion was my introduction to the sound of one of the great unsung heroes of rock n’ roll.
I admit to a certain laziness to my rock writing, the laziness of comparing those I write about to their forebears. But isn’t that one of the things that rock n’ roll is all about? It’s an evolutionary system, where, if you didn’t have Chuck Berry you wouldn’t have The Beach Boys, and if you didn’t have Jimmy Reed you wouldn’t have The Stones. Those references are often necessary mileposts to explaining the genre.
I won’t make such references to Chuck Prophet. He’s his own, original model. On his recent Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins album he makes his own reference in the title, but I don’t see the basis for that, anymore than I see the basis for his comparing himself to my favorite redhead actress in “If I Were Connie Britton,” from that same album.
That’s because he’s the essence of incomparable. He’s a greatly under-appreciated original, with a unique blend of his own style of guitar, and an observational lyricism that makes you, momentarily, wish you were Connie Britton too.
When bluegrassers Chatham County Line appeared here a few years back, they were delighted to observe Prophet’s name on the back of a volunteer’s T-shirt, exclaiming about his masterpiece, Temple Beautiful, his ode to his hometown of San Francisco. In that album, he evokes an instant feeling of recognition in that city by the Bay … even for me, who has never been there.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a rock show you are going to love, but it’s also your opportunity to enjoy an original, the Prophet of Rock n’ Roll.
Pre-show music by Sean Howard Duo
A long time ago, in this galaxy and on this planet, although who can be really sure, we began a quest to sign Dawn of the Buffalo to play at SummerSounds. That was our first mistake. No such band exists.*
Our second mistake was booking a band called The Last Bison. After all, a bison is not a buffalo. According to website Lunchbreath, bison are native to North America and Europe, and buffalo are native to South Asia and Africa. As Lunchbreath puts it, bison play baseball and buffalo play futbol. By the way, having The Last Bison here turned out to be quite a success. What a great band! I wonder where we put their number?
Our third mistake was trying to book a band that is such a fast-moving target. Although you wouldn’t think so to look at them, buffalo (and bison) can really move it on out of here, there and everywhere, and so can Donna The Buffalo. They’ve got a big, old, psychedelic tour bus, and they use it — a lot. Their suitcases and amp cases are literally all stickered over with those of nearly every festival ever, and they also host a few of their own: Finger Lakes Grass Roots, Shakori Hills and The Great Blue Heron Festivals.
Finally, we put 2+2+2 together (pesos, not dollars) and Jeb Puryear and Tara Nevins and company will be here, in all their neo-hippie glory, bringing The Herd along, the hoopers and trancers and dancers and all that make a jam band jam. With DTB, it’s all about rhythm powered spirit music, a little rock, a little cajun and zydeco, a little reggae beat, sometimes fiddle, sometimes accordion, sometimes Hammond B-3, meant to get a crowd up and about and going with the flow, for all night long. And then you’ll hear for yourselves why a Buffalo is not a Bison.
Pre-show music by Henry Bachorski
British Rock Invasion Tribute
On December 26, 1963 “I Want To Hold Your Hand” was released in the United States to very little advance fanfare. It was the shot heard around the music world, the beginning of an all-out assault on the country of origin of Rock n’ Roll. For whatever reason, 4 shaggy haired Liverpudlians captured the eardrums of Young America, soon to be followed by legions more of their kind. This sneak attack changed popular music from “How Much Is That Doggy In The Window” to “Paint It Black” in a veritable merseybeat.
Fifty-five years later The Beatles are still Number 1, their hairstyles are still de rigeur, and The English Channel is, once again, making its pilgrimage to SummerSounds. If you’re reading this guys, I’d love to hear “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying,” Gene wants some Renaissance and Debbie wants a T-shirt for her next quilt. Because, as far as I’m concerned, when they come to Greensburg, it’s Boxing Day !
Ancestry.com estimates that the vast majority of Americans have some British DNA. That could explain our affinity for this music; after all, folk and bluegrass are directly derived from Celtic forms. That and the fact that if The Queen awards MBEs and Knighthoods to it’s practitioners we should sit up and take notice.
So dig out your Union Jack bell bottoms and mini skirts and give tribute to the rejoinder to our Revolution. As The Sex Pistols proclaimed, “God Save The Queen!"
Pre-show music by Flying Blind
Blues / Rock / Soul
On our way to Macchu Picchu several years ago, we visited a site outside of Cusco, Peru, called Saksaywaman (pronounced by our guide as Sexy Woman, I kid you not) which met with a great deal of junior high tittering from the tour group. Fast forward to February, 2018, and a telephone conversation with a booking agent for Vanessa Collier, who described her as a saxy woman (once again, I kid you not,) perfect for our concert series. No, I did not get high altitude sickness, but I did throw caution to the wind and booked her.
I’m not being saxist when I tell you that you’ll be delighted by Vanessa Collier. Another one of those musical talents that the Berklee College of Music seems to produce endlessly, she has moved from the horn section touring with Joe Louis Walker, to touring with the Ruf Records Blues Review, to fronting her own blues/soul/jazz band with a voice that continues to strengthen and mature, with her ubiquitous sax and with a National steel guitar. While still doing blues classics like Chris Smither’s “Love Me Like A Man” and “I Can’t Stand The Rain”, she’s also written most of the songs on her last two albums. While her touring schedule grows and grows, she still finds time to give saxophone lessons. She’s a performer of endless energy, as well as endless grace and an endless smile.
Pre-show music by Stevie B. Duo
ABBA Tribute Rock
My wife and daughter took me to a movie, in 2008, where only one other man was there, and he was the projectionist. It was Mamma Mia, starring Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth; it grossed over $600 million and proved that both 007 and Mr. Darcy can’t carry a tune.
IT’S BACK! Or rather, it has a sequel, Mamma Mia 2— Here I Go Again!, which premieres in July, 2018, and just because and just in time, the best ABBA tribute band ever, Dancing Dream, is back as well, returning to SummerSounds in August, to keep this Swedish juggernaut going.
The 5,000 of you who were here last time will probably be back as well, along with a few friends, family and neighbors, to dance and sway and join in, to “Waterloo,” “I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do”, and “Fernando” (SPOILER ALERT! Cher comes out of retirement to sing that in the new movie - ( How many times will Cher come out of retirement anyway?) Talk about the magic of music, be it over-the-top romantic and Sugar Pops in a great big bowl, Dancing Dream will bring it to you and show you a dance step or two in the process.
So here’s your big summer plan girls (and guys)— 1) Binge the original Mamma Mia; 2) Take those old records, or cassettes or CDs off the shelf and sharpen your dance steps; 3) See Mamma Mia 2, as many times as you can, with lots of popcorn, 4) Come to SummerSounds in in August, for the Grand Finale, Dancing Dream!
Pre-show music by Aubrey Burchell
Born in West London, Nana Kwame Biney Asiedu Agyemfra was sent to Ghana at a young age to be cared for by his grandparents there. He absorbed African culture, including traditional music forms and Ghanian rock, taking it back to London and then to the US. While he’s had a broad exposure to R&B and funk and reggae, he’s most true to rock n’ roll, be it British, American, or West African.
After finishing college in a music major at William Paterson University, Binea moved to Harlem, to experience American Black culture before it’s been gentrified away. Obviously the soul of Sam Cooke and Otis Redding have influenced him, as well as funk artist Sly Stone and bluesmen Buddy Guy and Robert Johnson, but outside of Hendrix and Berry, his rock influences are white Britishers Mick Jagger and Robert Plant and African rocker Fela Kuti. The roots of rock are well covered, organic and down to earth in this group, with college classmate and guitarist Justin Wilcox as his songwriting partner. No less a renowned genre jumper than Vernon Reid of Living Color produced and guests on their album Roots Rock N Universal Love.
All toted up, expect an evening full of high energy, danceable and positive rock from a frontman and band that have travelled a long way to here.
Pre-show music by Nathan Zoob
Did you know that 8 US presidents and 20 US Supreme Court Justices went to Harvard? Did you know that Jocelyn and Chris Arndt graduated from there too? Chris just this spring? Did you know that a Harvard type of future is just “Plan B” for them?
When Jocelyn was in 4th grade she started piano lessons to go with her birthday present keyboards. Not long afterward, younger brother Chris took up the guitar. Since then they’ve been in band after band together, written a myriad of songs together, and performed and recorded together. Oh, and attended and graduated from Harvard, almost together. If we didn’t know better we’d think they were twins..
It helped that their parents have a huge album collection that provided a broad and eclectic soundtrack to their lives. Rock has always been their mainstay, a strong, big-voiced, guitar-centric rock, Aretha AND Led Zeppelin, Janis AND AC/DC. Sister Jocelyn’s voice is one of those natural wonders, with a scale and a range that can seduce, and implore, and implode, all in 12 bars. Brother Chris’ notes and chords are the perfect complement, working over and under that voice to perfection. Jocelyn has it, a voice that will join Nicole Atkins, Maryanne Redmond and Kam Franklin of The Suffers in our SummerSounds Voices Hall Of Fame, Female Division.
Amazingly, they’ve found the time in their Ivy League schedule to produce 3 albums and 2 EPs, tour heavily in support and show up on Billboard and Relix charts. “Plan A” is working just fine.
Pre-show music by Hayley Daily and Joshua Carns