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LABOR DAY WEEKEND RECAP 9/4/07
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Jim Price
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 Post Posted: Wednesday Feb 27, 2008 
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LABOR DAY WEEKEND RECAP 9/4/07

SPIRIT LOST @ BLAIR COUNTY BALLPARK, ALTOONA 8/30/07

With the minor league baseball regular season winding down, I headed to Blair County Ballpark this night to take in one of the Altoona Curve's final home games of the season. Arriving early, I thought I could hear a band playing in the concourse area. Then I remembered - Spirit Lost was scheduled to play the warm-up before the game this night!

Originally, Spirit Lost was supposed to play on the Stadium's Party Deck down the third base side. But there was a threat for rain, so the band was moved into the concourse area near the concession stands. I arrived in time to catch their last few songs. The group received a rousing round of applause from passers-by and folks seated at the nearby tables; and sold some T-shirts to new fans after the performance ended.

Spirit Lost entertains under the concourse at Blair County Ballpark.

Again, Spirit Lost and some fans.

One more time, Spirit Lost.

JOHNSTOWN FESTIVAL WEEKEND 8/31-9/2/07

Next to Millennium Music Conference weekend in February, Labor Day weekend is my busiest weekend of the year for live music action; when the Johnstown area heats up with four different festival events. I spent time at three of them during the course of the weekend; Johnstown Folkfest, Cambria City Ethnic Festival and the Forest Hills Festival. (The fourth, the Log House Arts Festival in Westmont, is more arts and crafts geared).

CAMBRIA CITY ETHNIC FESTIVAL 8/31/07

It all kicked off on Friday night. After studying the schedules for both Johnstown Folkfest and Cambria City Ethnic Festival, I decided to kick off my weekend in Cambria City. After parking my car in the already jam-packed lot behind Sheetz, I made my way up Chestnut Street and soon found the first band of my Johnstown music weekend, Midnight Graffiti, performing under the tent at Holy Cross Lutheran Church. I caught a half dozen songs from them before they went on break; the group sounded good on renditions of Tom Petty's "American Girl," Meredith Brooks' "Bitch," the Melissa Etheridge double-shot of "Give Me Some Water" and "I'm Not the Only One," Aerosmith's "Last Child" and Janis' "Piece of My Heart." What I heard sounded tight, and singer Natalie Kurchak again dazzled with her remarkable and powerful voice.

Midnight Graffiti entertains under the tent during Cambria City Ethnic Festival.

Midnight Graffiti entertains under the tent during Cambria City Ethnic Festival.

Joe Yernaux and Bernie Kralik of Midnight Graffiti entertains under the tent during Cambria City Ethnic Festival.

I hadn't seen Johnstown party animals Yum in a while, and I hadn't seen them at Cambria City Ethnic Festival in a few years; so I next headed up to St. Mary's Church to catch Yum's annual street party. (Of course, an ulterior motive was at work here as well; I had to hook up with my annual smorgasbord of St. Mary’s pierohi, halupki and halushki!) The trusty Yum roster of singer Dan Vavrek, guitarist/singer Darren Buchko, bassist Shawn Mock and drummer Brian Scalletta again delivered the fun musical party, blending current and classic rock and pop favorites. Soon into their third set, the group quickly had multitudes from the large all-ages crowd happily dancing in the street. Yum kept the party moving with nonstop music with few breaks in the action. This set featured a wide-ranging, mostly 80's medley that strung together tunes from the Bangles, Prince, EMF, Frankie Goes to Hollywood and a snippet of the "Fat Albert Theme;" also a rocking take on Kenny Rogers' "The Gambler" into John Denver's "Take Me Home Country Roads," plus tunes from Hinder, Beastie Boys, Poison, Violent Femmes and more. Yum kept it all together pretty well, and injected their own instrumental signature into several of the numbers; I especially noticed some of the tricky moves Brian was doing behind the kit. This particular performance is always special because it is Yum performing in front of not just their hometown, but home neighborhood - a point not lost on Darren, who pointed at St. Mary's and said he grew up right here, at the corner of Power Street and 5th Avenue. It again brought home the fact that this wasn't just a festival, but a celebration of the special neighborhood it was taking place in.

Yum rocks the corner of Power Street and 5th Avenue during Cambria City Ethnic Festival.

Darren Buchko of Yum.

Again, Yum.

Dan Vavrek of Yum.

Shawn Mock and Dan Vavrek of Yum.

Again, Shawn Mock of Yum.

Again, Dan Vavrek of Yum.

Dan Vavrek of Yum rallies the fans in the street.

Again, Yum and some fansl.

Once again, Yum and fans.

Brian Scaletta of Yum.

One more time, Yum and fans.

After Yum's performance ended, I headed to Ace's Lounge to catch the last part of the Johnstown Classic Rockers' performance. Unfortunately, it was nearly over, and I only got to see the group keep the Ace's dance floor packed with their show-closing rendition of the B-52's "Love Shack."

JENNY DRUMMEY AND THE SMALL BAND @ HARRIGAN'S LOUNGE, JOHNSTOWN 8/31/07

With Cambria City Ethnic Festival concluded for the evening, it was time to explore what other live musical activities were happening in the Johnstown area this night. As it turns out, not much. Possibly because of the festivals, as well as the general downturn of nightspot live music activity in this town in recent years, options for live music in the Johnstown taverna this night were very few and far between. With the options so limited, I decided to get a preview of a group I had planned on seeing the following day at Folkfest, Jenny Drummey and the Small Band, performing at Harrigan's Lounge in downtown Johnstown.

Namesake Jenny Drummey on vocals and acoustic guitar, Dean Shumaker on guitar, dobro and mandolin and Chris Klym on drums presented a style and sound that took on a softer folk and jazz flavor. The group performed a number of their original songs, as well as select cover material from Little Feat, Kim Richey, Van Morrison, Joan Armatrading and others. This offered a more subdued, gentler aspect to the group's sound, with acoustic guitars and brush strokes on drum heads rather than the more electric flavors forecasted for the next day's Folkfest performance. Jenny displayed a calm, smooth and rangeful voice that served the song material well, and the variations between folk and jazz flavors kept the performance interesting.

Dean Shoemaker and Jenny Drummey, performing at Harrigans.

JOHNSTOWN FOLKFEST/CAMBRIA CITY ETHNIC FESTIVAL 9/1/07

I headed back over the mountain to Johnstown early this Saturday afternoon, ready to do maximum music overload as I checked out both Johnstown Folkfest and Cambria City Ethnic Festival.

Arriving at Folkfest first, I procured some initial food items from the "Community Kitchen" area (where local public service organizations staff their own food stands), and proceeded to catch a little of the McKay Brothers' performance on the Ameriserv stage. From Texas, Noel and Hollin McKay and their band did a selection of country and honky-tonk flavored original songs and select covers. I didn't catch much in the way of song titles, but heard them perform at least one Texas Tornadoes number and a few of their own selections, inspiring a few onlookers to dance in the aisles and in front of the stage. After taking in about 20 minutes of the McKays' performance, I continued on to explore of Folkfest's musical slate.

The McKay Brothers Band.

The McKay Brothers Band triggers some dance action.

Noel, one of the McKay Brothers.

I proceeded a short distance to the Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield stage where another performance was just getting started. North Carolina's Tres Chicas features three alt-country veterans; Caitlin Cary (ex-Whiskeytown), Tonya Lamm (ex-Hazeldine) and Lynn Blakey (Glory Fountain). The thing that immediately stood out about this group as they started into their set of country- and folk-geared sounds was vocal harmonies, these gals had 'em! Tres Chicas delivered thick and frequent two- and three-part harmonies as they sang their selection of original numbers. At one point, the group identified their bass player, Jesse Heaton, as being from Pennsylvania, which drew more applause from the large seated crowd. I stuck around for about 20 minutes of Tres Chicas' performance, but departed because there was another performer starting at 3:30 who I wanted to see.

Tres Chicas kick off their Johnstown Folkfest performance.

Again, Tres Chicas.

With full band, Tres Chicas.

His name was Bill Kirchen, and he was performing not too far away at the Conemaugh Health System stage. Bill is the former guitar player for Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen, who scored a big early 70's hit with their rendition of "Hot Rod Lincoln." Bill and his band, the Hammer of the Honky Tonk Gods, opened with their title song and title to their latest album, "Hammer of the Honky Tonk Gods," and stormed through a set of rootsy honky-tonk, country and rock'n'roll. Bill did other songs from the new album such as "Rocks into Sand" and "One More Day," and also broke out numbers such as "Look at the World Through a Windshield," the "All Y'all Shuffle" and an uptempo rendition of Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are a Changin;'" showing off his dazzling guitar talents along the way. But Bill saved the best for the end of the set, though, closing the set with "Hot Rod Lincoln." Bill again dazzled on the guitar, creating car engine and car horn sounds on his instrument as the song proceeded along. Then, as the engines were revving, Bill and band took the audience on a wild and freewheeling rock'n'roll and country history lesson, firing through a rapid fire succession of riffs from a multitude of legendary rock, blues and country stars, spanning Hank Williams and Johnny Cash to Elvis, the Beatles, the Stones, Iggy Pop, Deep Purple and many more, before returning to finish out the song. Bill and his band were in perfect synch, with drummer Jack O'Dell and bassist Claude Arthur matching Bill on each riff and passage of this journey; simply amazing!

Former guitarist for Commander Cody & the Lost Planet Airmen, Bill Kirchen.

Again, Bill Kirchen.

Showing his mastery on the guitar, Bill Kirchen.

One more time, Bill Kirchen.

As Bill Kirchen headed into an intermission, I headed to see another Bill, former Gathering Field singer/guitarist Bill Deasy, who was commencing his first set at the Ameriserv stage. Armed with his acoustic guitar, Bill performed a selection of original songs and select covers. Bill did several songs from his new CD, The Miles, such as "Just Believe," "Judgement Day" and "Blue Highways;" performed two songs from his Gathering Field past, "Lost in America" and "I'd Believe in God for You;" and played renditions of Van Morrison's "Sweet Thing" and Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." Bill was humble and cordial with the audience, sharing anecdotes along the way. He was well-received by the audience; I ended up purchasing his CD and his book, Ransom Seaborn.

Bill Deasy.

Again, Bill Deasy.

At this point, I decided to depart Folkfest for a little while to see what was happening at Cambria City Ethnic Festival. With free shuttle service now available between the two festivals, I took the bus down the pike to Cambria City. I headed up Chestnut Street to St. Columba's Church to catch my first look at Dead Irish Blues, performing under the tent. Featuring guitarist/singer Greg Faiers, champion fiddler Marty Faiers, flute, whistle and bagpiper Ed Hritz and percussionist Wayne MacEwan, Dead Irish Blues played a unique blend of traditional Celtic, folk and blues, including their own original compositions. Some of the selections the group did included "Irish Rover," "Ploughboy," their own original "Irish Volunteers," "Johnstown Mills," "Paddy Works on the Railroad," "Whiskey in the Jar" and more. I was impressed with Dead Irish Blues' overall skill, especially some of the fiddle fireworks offered up by Marty. At one point, a second fiddler, young guest Ryan Frederick, joined the group to contribute extra fiddle-sawing on "Flop-Eared Mule."

Dead Irish Blues entertains underneath the tent at St. Columba’s.

Again, Dead Irish Blues.

Greg Faiers of Dead Irish Blues.

Marty Faiers of Dead Irish Blues.

Wayne MacEwan of Dead Irish Blues.

Ed Hritz of Dead Irish Blues.

Marty Faiers of Dead Irish Blues with guest Ryan Frederick.

One more time, Dead Irish Blues with guest Ryan Frederick.

After catching a full set and a half from Dead Irish Blues, I headed back up Chestnut Street to see what else was going on. At Holy Cross Lutheran Church, I discovered John McDonald & the Mango Men performing. From Pittsburgh, John and his Mango Men - Victor Guthrie on steel drums and Mark Weakland on percussion - did tropical and island party tunes, including numbers from Bob Marley, Jimmy buffet, Harry Belafonte, a tropical spin on The Who's "Squeeze Box" and more. John stepped from under the tent and onto the street from time to time to play directly to the fans. I watched this group for about 20 minutes, before deciding to do the walk back to Johnstown Folkfest.

From Pittsburgh, John McDonald & the Mango Men.

Without his Mango Men, John McDonald.

Again, John McDonald & the Mango Men.

John McDonald brings his show out into the street.

Once again, John McDonald.

One more time, John McDonald & the Mango Men.

Trying to view Cambria City Ethnic Festival from above, this ultralight aircraft was buzzing over the festivities.

Along Chestnut Street, this unidentified country performer was playing tunes and hawking CD’s.

Arriving back at Folkfest, I headed to the Ameriserv stage, where Gigi Dover & the Big Love were performing. Lead singer and namesake Gigi Dover performed at Folkfest a few years ago in her previous band, Rank Outsiders. In this current project, Gigi and her band - guitarist Eric Lovell, bassist Dave Clark and drummer John Spurrier - blended funk, jazz, blues and rock into a soulful and moving presentation. Through the duration of the set I watched, their repertoire included songs from Gigi's latest CD, Nouveau, such as "Suburban Lady," "What's That to Me" and the harder-rocking "Deep Love;" other original songs such as "Wooden Headed Doll," a rendition of a Jim Lauderdale number and more. Gigi demonstrated a smooth, sultry and soulful voice, and her band stirred their pot of musical styles nicely, with a spirited, smooth and flowing presentation.

Gigi Dover & the Big Love.

Again, Gigi Dover & the Big Love.

Once again, Gigi Dover & the Big Love.

One artist I was especially curious about at this year's Folkfest was A.J. Croce, the son of legendary early 70's hitmaker Jim Croce. I next headed up to the Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield stage to discover what this younger Croce was about. I actually arrived late in his first set and only got to catch a few songs; but watched as A.J. on piano and accomplice Steve on guitar performed songs such as "Callin' Home," "He's Got a Way with Women," and a song from his latest CD, Cantos, called "Once Again." A.J. mixed elements of pop, folk, jazz, ragtime and more into his presentation. Unfortunately, in one of the few complaints I had with Folkfest, the Highmark and Conemaugh Health System stages were situated a little too close to each other, and the rumbling of a band starting on the latter stage hindered my (and the audience's) ability to fully enjoy A.J.'s performance on this one. I knew I could catch A.J.'s performance the following night at Folkfest, so I headed to the Conemaugh stage to see who had just begun performing.

That would be Too Slim & the Taildraggers. From Washington state, Too Slim & the Taildraggers did scorching blues and country rock. A trio, these guys were excellent as they tore through their selection of original songs and select covers. Namesake/frontman Tim "Too Slim" Langford was constantly on the attack as he scorched solo after solo with his guitar, and demonstrated some mean and nasty slide work as well, backed by a tight and supercharged rhythm section. Too Slim & the Taildraggers did a number of original numbers including "Cowboy Boot," "Fortune Teller" and "She Gives Me Money;" as well as renditions of Link Wray's "Rumble," Otis Rush's "Double Trouble," and the combination of Jimi's "Voodoo Chile" into "I'm Going Down" to close the set. Too Slim & the Taildraggers delivered constant energy and velocity, and kept the onlookers either on the edge of their seats or standing and yelling approval as they went along. This group was easily one of my favorites from this year's Folkfest.

Too Slim and the Taildraggers.

Tim “Too Slim” Langford of Too Slim and the Taildraggers.

Again, Too Slim and the Taildraggers.

Once again, Too Slim and the Taildraggers.

Again, Tim “Too Slim” Langford.

Once again, Too Slim.

One more time, Too Slim and the Taildraggers.

With Too Slim's set ending at 11:30, I still had time to catch part of one more performance before this day's Folkfest activitied concluded. So I headed to the Toyota stage, where Chicago's Tossers were throwing a Celtic/folk punk-rocking party in front of a huge crowd. Seven members strong, The Tossers merged traditional Celtic and folk melodies and instrumentation with driving punk rock for a frenzied, fiery mix. The crowd in front of the stage was cheering, rocking, and even stage-diving and body-surfing as The Tossers played tunes from their catalog, as well as traditional numbers. This was a charged party from the time I arrived til the end, and based on what I saw this night, I definitely wanted to catch The Tossers' second Folkfest show the following night.

The Tossers.

Tony of The Tossers.

With the Tossers' party ending shortly after midnight, I was hopeful of catching somebody live on the Johnstown nightspot scene. But unfortunately, as was the case the night before, Johnstown nightspots were devoid of live music after midnight on a Saturday night (What the ****!?), so I called it a night and retreated back over the mountain to the 'Toona. There was more festival music to be enjoyed the next day.

JOHNSTOWN FOLKFEST/CAMBRIA CITY ETHNIC FESTIVAL 9/2/07

After getting rested up, I was back on the road to Johnstown to do the last day of Folkfest and Cambria City Ethnic Festival.

I hit the road early this day because I wanted to see one of the early performers, Pittsburgh blues guitarist and singer Jimmy Adler. Jimmy and his band were excellent on their selection of traditional blues numbers, with Jimmy demonstrating a gritty, soulful voice and stellar skills on his guitar, executing remarkable solos and hearty slide work. His bandmates were quite impressive as well; particularly sax player Eric Spaulding and keyboardist John Burgh, supported by the sturdy rhythmic backbone generated by drummer Kenny Crisafio and bassist Harry McCorkle. Jimmy’s song selection included a variety of traditional blues, swing-flavored blues, shuffles and more, and included numbers from Otis Rush. J.B. Lenoir and others.

Here is some rough footage from Jimmy Adler’s Johnstown Folkfest performance:

http://www.rockpage.net/users/jprice/video/MOV00088.MPG


Jimmy Adler and his band.

John Burgh of Jimmy Adler’s band.

Again, John Burgh.

Jimmy Adler.

Again, Jimmy Adler.

Jimmy Adler, demonstrating his guitar skills.

Firing up the crowd, Jimmy Adler.

Once again, Jimmy Adler.

Jimmy Adler and his band, with his merch table open and ready for business.

More guitar fireworks with Jimmy Adler.

Eric Spaulding of Jimmy Adler’s band.

Once again, Eric Spaulding.

I ran into a little dilemma during Jimmy’s set, though…I was in so much of a rush to get to the Toyota stage to catch Jimmy’s performance, that I left my notepad and pen several blocks away in my car! So I had to test my mental skills to recall Jimmy Adler’s set list as best I could, before tracking down paper and a writing utensil after his performance. A nearby souvenir stand had no pens for sale, but a beer stand staffed by the Johnstown Kiwanis came to the rescue and provided me with a pen. Thanks much!

I next headed to the Ameriserv stage to check out the full band set from Jenny Drummey and the Small Band, after seeing their scaled-back acoustic show on Friday night at Harrigan’s Lounge. Jenny on vocals and guitar, Dean Shumaker on guitar, dobro and mandolin, former Grinning Mob bassman Brad Rhea, Chris Klym on drums and Ernie Pollack on pedal steel performed a selection of original numbers that blended elements of soft rock, Americana and pop. Song titles I caught included “Larger Arms” and “Forever.” Jenny sang with a clear and rangeful voice, bringing her often poetic lyrical themes to life as the rest of the band surrounded and colored in the backdrop around her. After seeing the Harrigan’s performance, I was glad I caught this one as well, as both performances gave a complete picture of the scope of what this band is all about.

Dean Shoemaker and Jenny Drummey.

Jenny Drummey.

Dean Shoemaker and Jenny Drummey.

Jenny Drummey and the Small Band.

Brad Rhea of Jenny Drummey and the Small Band.

Chris Klym of Jenny Drummey and the Small Band.

Dean Shoemaker of Jenny Drummey and the Small Band.

Ernie Pollack of Jenny Drummey and the Small Band.

Dean Shoemaker and Jenny Drummey.

Brad Rhea and Ernie Pollack of Jenny Drummey and the Small Band.

One more time, Jenny Drummey.

I then proceeded to the Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield stage for something a bit different, Druha Trava. From the Czech Republic, this five-piece group blended eastern European folk with American folk and bluegrass. Singer/mandolinist Robert Krestan, banjo player Lubos Malina, dobro player Lubos Novotny, double bassist Petr Sury and guitarist Emil Formanek played traditional American bluegrass, country and folk, including numbers from Bill Monroe, Johnny Cash and Peter Rowan, mixed with Czechoslovakian folk and bluegrass; or as Robert described it at one point, “bluegrass with a gypsy flavor.” Druha Trava’s performance enabled observers to hear American and European folk side by side, to note similarities and differences, and hear how the group combined elements of each along the way.

Druha Trava.

Petr Sury of Druha Trava. Check out that bass!

Lubos Novotny of Druha Trava.

Robert Krestan of Druha Trava.

Lubos Malina of Druha Trava.

Again, Robert Krestan of Druha Trava.

Next was a return to the Toyota stage to take in some of the Eric Lindell Band’s performance. I caught about 20 minutes of this performance, as namesake, singer and guitarist Eric Lindell and his band performed New Orleans- styled funk rock, blues and jazz. These guys kept it lively and interesting, enough so that one young lady donned a hula hoop and busted some of her best moves outside the tent on the lawn!

The Eric Lindell Band.

Eric Lindell.

The Eric Lindell Band inspires some hula-hoop action outside the tent.

More hula-hoopin’ fun during the Eric Lindell Band’s performance.

Again, Eric Lindell.

Again, the Eric Lindell Band.

Once again, Eric Lindell.

One more time, the Eric Lindell Band.

At this point, I exited Johnstown Folkfest to do the 15-minute walk to the Cambria City Ethnic Festival. Upon arriving, I extended the walk by about another 5-10 minutes to head to St. Columba’s Church tent, where Denise Baldwin and Roy Milstead were performing. I arrived fairly late into their performance, but got to see the last half-dozen songs they performed, including numbers from the Beatles, The Band, 4 Non Blondes and more. Roy played his 6-string guitar, while Denise played a 12-string; both sang. These two harmonized exceptionally well, and both could carry a tune individually as well. I wish I could have arrived earlier to take in more of it, but what I heard sounded very good.

Denise Baldwin and Roy Milstead.

Roy Milstead.

Denise Baldwin.

Again, Denise and Roy.

A bagpipe ensemble performs in front of St. Columba’s Church after Denise and Roy’s performance concluded.

A sunny Sunday afternoon at Cambria City Ethnic Festival would not be complete without an appearance by the Anabaptist sect, protesting the weekend of music and debauchery and condemning everybody to hell outside of St. Stephens’ Church.

I then retreated back up Chestnut Street to the Bottleworks Ethnic Center stage to take in some of Walt Churchey’s performance. Walt performed a mix of acoustic folk and country, including original songs and cover material, demonstrating a rugged, hearty voice. Walt did some songs from his CD, Somewhere, including “They Don’t Write ‘Em Like You Anymore” and “Love Has Left the Building;” as well as renditions of Garth Brooks’ “The River,” Roger Miller’s “King of the Road” and more.

Walt Churchey, performing outside Bottleworks.

Again, Walt Churchey.

One more time, Walt Churchey.

After Walt wrapped up his performance, I ducked into Ace’s Lounge to check out the reunion performance of Johnstown 80’s-era rockers Maiden America. I had barely missed this band when they were first together, as they were winding things down just as I was getting started in my career of covering local live music. With Rockpager Onetooloud running sound, I watched as the reunited lineup of lead singer Brett Shaffer, guitarist Jim Fetcko, drummer Jared Fetcko, keyboardist Matt Bost and bassist Bill Fornwalt played rock of the 80’s. Their setlist while I was there included Loverboy classics like “Working for the Weekend” and “The Kid Is Hot Tonite,” The Cars’ “Dangerous Type,” Modern English’s “Melt with You,” Tommy Tutone’s “867-5309/Jenny,” tunes from INXS, 3 Doors Down and more. The group sounded pretty on target for not playing together regularly for a while; and the band members seemed to be happy to be together and making music on the same stage again.

Maiden America.

Jim Fetcko and Brett Shaffer of Maiden America.

Matt Bost of Maiden America.

Again, Jim Fetcko and Brett Shaffer of Maiden America.

Maiden America, reuniting onstage at Ace’s Lounge.

Again, Maiden America.

Again, Jim Fetcko of Maiden America.

At this point, I returned to Johnstown Folkfest, arriving at the Toyota stage as Scott Miller & the Commonwealth was underway with their nightcap set. From Nashville, this band did a blend of folk, country and Americana rock; performing a variety of material from their discography. Scott and the Commonwealth did such songs as “Still People Are Moving,” “I Made a Mess of This Town,” “Bastard’s Only Child” (which Scott said was used in a movie), “Daddy Raised a Boy,” “Didn’t Take Too Long” and more. His band sounded good, often varying the flavor of their sound from song to song. A few times, Scott performed solo acoustic as well.

Scott Miller & the Commonwealth.

Again, Scott Miller & the Commonwealth.

Scott Miller.

Once again, Scott Miller & the Commonwealth.

Again, Scott Miller.

One more time, Scott Miller & the Commonwealth.

I then headed to the Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield stage to catch another look at A.J. Croce, hopefully this time without an adjacent stage performance overpowering him. I got to catch A.J.’s last several songs, as he and accomplice Steve on guitar showed their agility on a variety of styles, including pop, folk, rock, ragtime, blues and more. A.J. was friendly and conversational, talking about his musical background and even his famous father. This time, without his being overpowered by another stage, A.J.’s performance was more enjoyable, and I wish I could have arrived sooner to see more of it.

A.J. Croce and accomplice Steve, entertaining at Johnstown Folkfest.

Again, A.J. Croce.

Once again, A.J. Croce.

Again, A.J. Croce and Steve.

I then headed to the nearby Conemaugh Health System stage to catch another act I saw the previous day, Tres Chicas. This time I enjoyed an extended look at this group, and got to enjoy the lush harmonies of Caitlin Cary, Tonya Lamm and Lynn Blakey as they performed original country songs and select material from George Jones, Loretta Lynn and more. Midway through their first set, though, Tres Chicas found themselves falling victim to the loud adjacent stage syndrome, as beats from a commencing nearby performance could be heard in between songs. (This is something the Folkfest organizers really need to look at for the future, either relocating the stages further apart, or scheduling performances on the two stages so that they don’t coincide and interfere with one another. Or perhaps use those stages exclusively for the softer and more acoustic-geared acts that don’t utilize booming beats.)

Kicking off their Sunday performance, Tres Chicas.

Once again, Tres Chicas.

The source of the beats we were hearing during Tres Chicas’ performance was the Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Stage, where the Tossers had begun their performance. I took in the remainder of their performance, as they performed more fiery, often punk-driven, Irish and Celtic folk sounds. Included in their song selection during this performance were such numbers as “Buckets of Beer” and “The Zoological Garden,” as well as a tribute to the recently departed Tommy Makem which included singer Tony’s solo rendition of “The Wind That Shakes the Barley.”

Tony and Rebecca of The Tossers.

Tony of The Tossers.

The Tossers.

Again, Tony and Rebecca of The Tossers.

One thing that had been missing from my Johnstown Folkfest experience so far this weekend had been the annual Folkfest Louisiana zydeco party. After the Tossers’ set finished, I made my way to the Toyota stage one more time to get my Folkfest zydeco fix, courtesy of Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers. Their party was well under way, with ladies up on the stage and dancing alongside band members as Dwayne and his Hellraisers raised hell with a blend of zydeco, funk, rhythm and blues. Dwayne sang and played his accordion, frequently tossing beads out to the packed stagefront crowd, and even occasionally stepping off the stage to join the dancing crowd. Dwayne and the Zydeco Hellraisers fired through renditions of “Beast of Burden,” “Jambalaya” with an “Iko Iko” midsection, and a stormy rendition of “Hey Joe.” They also did one of Dwayne’s newer songs, “Where’d My Baby Go,” along with “Party On” (featuring a smoking bass solo from Glenn Sam) and “If You’re Gonna Leave Let Me Know.” This party rode at a constant and energetic high, with the musicians onstage giving all to keep this crowd partying. The crowd responded by cheering, dancing, crowd-surfing, and at the end, demanding an encore. During that encore, Dwayne actually went behind the drum kit and provided the beats during a song, and he and the Hellraisers brought the party – and Folkfest – to a close with “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

The party is on! The Johnstown Folkfest zydeco party, brought to you by Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers.

It’s a crowd-surfing frenzy during Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers’ Louisiana party at Johnstown Folkfest.

Again, Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers.

Dwayne Dopsie.

Showing his accordion-playing skills, Dwayne Dopsie.

More Louisiana partying with Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers.

Getting down on the accordion, Dwayne Dopsie.

Again, Dwayne Dopsie.

Glenn Sam of Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers.

Curnis Andrus of Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers.

Again, Glenn Sam of Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers.

Crowd surfing in front of Alex McDonald of Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers.

Once again, Dwayne Dopsie.

More Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers.

Dwayne Dopsie and washboard man Alex McDonald.

It’s an intense zydeco jam with Dwayne Dopsie and Alex McDonald.

Again, Alex McDonald of Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers.

During the encore, Dwayne Dopsie gets behind the drum kit.

One more time, Alex McDonald and Dwayne Dopsie.

Festival weekend in Johnstown was a great time! Good weather and decent crowds graced both festivals, and the musical and food highlights at both were constant. As is always the case, these cavalcades of music and fun flew by too quickly; I easily could have done this for another week! Hats off to the Folkfest and Ethnic Festival organizers for making it enjoyable again!

SPLINK! @ PELLEGRINE’S, ALTOONA 9/2/07

Just shy of midnight as Folkfest concluded, I headed back over the mountain to Altoona, arriving at Pellegrine’s in time to catch the latter stages of Splink!’s first Pelly’s appearance.

Since it was Labor Day eve, Pelly’s was enjoying a larger-than-usual crowd this night; I even noted a contingent Yum band members, visiting the ‘Toona from Johnstown after I had seen them perform over there earlier in the weekend.

Splink! was just into their final set of the night. Singer Ashley Bee, kilted guitarist Jimi Hatt, keyboard/saxman The BMC, bassist London Joe and drummer MoJo Smouse fired up the party with a mixture of current and classic hits from Kelly Clarkson, the Doors, Pat Benatar, No Doubt, Cheap Trick, Wild Cherry, KC & the Sunshine Band and more. Their presentation was bright and upbeat, and although the bulk of this audience seemed more content to just watch the band, at least a few people broke some dance moves during Splink!’s set. A few folks seemed dismayed when Splink! finished their show at the standard bar time of 1:30 (at Pelly’s the band usually plays til just shy of 2 AM). But otherwise, Splink! seemed to go over well for their first visit.

Splink! rocks Pellegrine’s.

London Joe of Splink!

Ashley Bee of Splink!

Splink!, rocking Labor Day eve at Pelly’s.

Once again, Splink!

Jimi Hatt of Splink!

One more time, Splink!

HOT WAX @ FOREST HILLS FESTIVAL, ST. MICHAEL 9/3/07

On Labor Day, I had one other Johnstown area festival to visit; the annual Forest Hills Festival in St. Michael. With the Right Honorable Guv’nor Jesse in tow, I headed to this festival to take in some sun, some food, a performance from a band I had not seen in ages, Hot Wax.

Mike Zerbee on lead vocals and guitar, Pat Boland on drums and Larry on bass kept the large festival crowd entertained over the course of three sets with a variety of rock, pop and country favorites from the 60’s to present. During the initial set, Hot Wax did popular numbers from Matchbox 20, Dobie Gray, Sister Hazel, Grateful Dead, Elvis, Alan Jackson, the Eagles and more. Hot Wax kept the mood jovial during the set, and Mike invited two young ladies onstage to help sing Bon Jovi’s “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” to end the set.

Hot Wax continued their diverse range of song material in the second set, as they did favorites from Tom Petty, the Beatles, Sam Cooke, John Mellencamp, Bob Seger, the Rivieras, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Garth Brooks,spans from Elvis Presley and the Rivieras to U2 and Sister Hazel, to Garth Brooks and Toby Keith and more. Highlights during this set included Bob Seger and Garth Brooks double-shots, and a guest guitarist, Pat, who joined the group onstage during a rendition of “Gimme Three Steps.”

Hot Wax’s third set opened with a repeat performance of Bon Jovi’s “Who Says You Can’t Go Home,” with not just the two young ladies from earlier, but a young boy singing along as well. This set continued with tunes from U2, the Eagles, Crosby Stills & Nash, more Beatles, Brooks & Dunn and more.

It was a fun afternoon of fun, sun, food and rock’n’roll. We stuck around afterward and caught a little of the annual Forest Hills Festival polka party offered up by Johnstown Buttonbox, which filled the stagefront dance area with lots of elderly polka fans. In all, a good way to spend a Labor Day.

Hot Wax.

Hot Wax with a young guests helping to sing.

Larry and Mike of Hot Wax.

Again, Larry of Hot Wax.

Mike Zerbee of Hot Wax.

Guv’nor Jesse, exploring the mine drainage-tainted banks of the Conemaugh River.

JP’s HAIKU

Labor Day Weekend
Johnstown Festivals galore!
Maximum music!
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Jim Price
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 Post Posted: Saturday Dec 19, 2009 
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