The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


July 28, 2013

Music extravaganza | AmeriServ Flood City festival begin Friday in downtown Johnstown

JOHNSTOWN — When the AmeriServ Flood City Music Festival is held Friday through Aug. 4 at Peoples Natural Gas Park in downtown Johnstown, a longer performance schedule will allow an expansion of its lineup of good, solid roots music.

Rather than starting in the late afternoon on Friday, the gates will open at 1 p.m. with six additional slots added to the schedule.

“Friday will be a full festival day,” said Todd Wagner, chairman of the music festival.

“We’re learning what works, and this is a monumental shift to increase events on Friday.”

Earlier start time

Wagner is hoping an earlier start time will draw in more music lovers from outside the area who might come into town Thursday evening or early Friday, as well as locals who usually don’t get the chance to hear festival music until they get out of work on Friday.

“We have some outstanding talent,” Wagner said.

“I like to keep an average amount of music per hour. We build the schedule slowly. Two bands can’t play at the same time on the stages that are close together, but we need two acts playing at all times.”

The first day of the festival might be longer, but the last will be shorter with the last act done by 10.

Through feedback, Wagner knows that people want to get home earlier on Sunday.

“On Sunday, we’ll collapse the large stage and get intimate with three stages,” Wagner said.

Earlier ending

The earlier ending time also allows the festival site to get cleaned up and back to business as usual more quickly.

This year’s headliners are Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue and Robert Randolph and the Family Band.

Trombone Shorty, also known as Troy Andrews, got his nickname at age 4 when his older brother saw him marching in a street parade with a trombone twice as long as he was.

He will play at the music festival with his band on Friday.


His sound is old-school jazz, funk and soul laced with hard-rock power chords and hip-hop beats – what Andrews has dubbed “supafunkrock.”

“I saw him onstage at the New Orleans Jazz Festival,” Wagner said.

“He’s a multi-instrumentalist, not just trombone.”

In high demand

Wagner added that Andrews was given the final slot at the New Orleans festival, which is usually reserved for such jazz luminaries as the Neville Brothers.

“He’s not a household name,” Wagner said.

“The logic is it’s the best of entertainment from a live, touring band. He’s in high demand. This is as good as we’ve ever gotten. We work hard to bring world-class entertainment.”

Robert Randolph and the Family Band will perform Saturday.

A pedal steel guitar virtuoso, Robert Randolph started playing and touring around New York City in 2000 and attracted immediate attention.

“He’s more of a household name,” Wagner said.

“They’re a jam band and have been a festival favorite for years.”

World tours

Randolph and his band have been on world tours with Eric Clapton, and Randolph has appeared onstage with Clapton every year for his Crossroads Tour, which features some of the world’s top guitar players.

The band is now touring in support of its latest release, “We Walk This Road,” which has been described as a celebration of African-American music over the past 100 years and its social messages from the past 30.

A full spectrum of music for opening day on Friday will feature rhythm and blues, Afrobeat, hip-hop, folk-rock, swamp blues, rock, blues, bluegrass, Appalachian tunes and funk.

New Orleans band

George Porter Jr. & the Runnin’ Pardners is the ultimate fusion of rock, funk and rhythm and blues and the quintessential New Orleans band.

Porter has gained recognition as one of the industry’s elite bass players and is known as the bassist of The Meters.

Jazzam featuring Clinton Clegg is from Pittsburgh, and its sound can best be described as danceable, hard-groove music with doses of electronica mixing old-school breakbeat funk, modern house jazz, rhythm and blues and urban vocals.

Based in Washington, D.C., The Funk Ark is a strong frontrunner in the resurgence of the Afrobeat genre.

Cait Cuneo is known to festival audiences as the lead singer for the now-defunct band Black Coffee, who played the festival in 2011 and a summer concert in 2012.

She released a solo EP, “Violet,” last year and is passionate about hip-hop containing jazz influences.

Stephen Kellogg blends the classic folk-rock tradition exemplified by Fleetwood Mac and Van Morrison with the modern rock chops of the Counting Crows.

Kenny Neal is known as a modern swamp-blues master, drawing from the sizzling sounds of his native Louisiana.

The New York Funk Exchange is a nine-piece original funk and soul band from Brooklyn, N.Y., that played the festival last year.

Derek Woodz Band of Latrobe draws inspiration from The Who, Santana and the Bob Dylan and The Band era while pulling in a modern, present-day feel.

Woodz is the son of Tim Woods, a 2012 inductee into the International Blues Hall Of Fame.

Johnstown bands

West Hills All-Stars of Johnstown, led by Dave DiStefano, played the festival in 2010 and will play rock originals and covers with a jam band feel.

Black Cat Moan of Johnstown uses the phrase new vintage blues to describe its music, which is a modern blues sound that looks to the source of recorded blues and blues standards.

Well Strung from Slippery Rock is a five-piece band playing traditional and nontraditional bluegrass music by creating and covering music from different genres in a bluegrass style.

Tiger Maple String Band from northwestern Pennsylvania is dedicated to continuing traditional and original old-time music.

Its main source of inspiration is old- time Appalachian tunes, fiddle tunes, mountain ballads and coal mining songs.

“We’re a catalyst for local and regional bands,” Wagner said.

Saturday’s schedule

Entertainment for Saturday will feature folk, bluegrass, Celtic, soul, country, blues and rock.

Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds, an eight-piece band that puts a modern spin on classic soul, first appeared at the 2011 Music Fest and played a summer concert at Peoples Natural Gas Park last year.

“They’re a brother and sister and tore it up when they played here,” Wagner said. “They’re playing two days because they were a great favorite. We’re thrilled to have them back.”

Sol Driven Train, a versatile five-piece band based in Charleston, S.C., combines American pop and folk music into its own sound.

Greensky Bluegrass uses traditional bluegrass instruments, but their original music is not necessarily traditional bluegrass.

Known as one of Pittsburgh’s favorite Celtic rock bands, Bastard Bearded Irishmen are inspired by Irish bands like The Dubliners, The Pogues, Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly.

It performs an original blend of rock, punk, acoustic, traditional and contemporary Celtic.

At 17, country pop singer Alexes Aiken has won as many accolades nationally in songwriting contests as singing competitions in Nashville for her original lyrics and melodies and her voice and style.

Country singer Maddie Georgi last played the festival in 2009 and is a regular on Pittsburgh stages.

Her latest EP “Glory Bound” was released earlier this year.

The eight-piece Old E Allstars is known for dirty soul and funky blues throughout Pittsburgh.

Opened for headliner

The band has opened for one of this year’s headliners, Trombone Shorty.

A past winner of the Pittsburgh Blues Challenge, The Pawnbrokers initially did obscure covers and classic blues when the band formed in 1991, but have moved toward all originals.

New Orleans brass band Bonerama last played the festival in 2006, expanding on what a New Orleans brass band can do by evoking vintage funk, classic rock and free improvisation in the same set.

Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express perform rock with a political twist.

Prophet has been compared to everyone from Ray Davies to Leonard Cohen, Tom Petty and Randy Newman.

The Johnstown duo Crew of the Half Moon has a fresh indie-folk sound with the guitar, lap steel, mandolin, piano, harmonica and bass guitar all switched between the two.

Loyal following

Since its inception in 2001, Johnny Sketch & The Dirty Notes  has gained a loyal following in a competitive New Orleans music scene with a funk-rock style.

The Kalob Griffin Band, better known as the KGB, is a Pennsylvania-bred, Philadelphia-based outfit of Americana rock and rollers.

Entertainment for Aug. 4 will bring plenty of bluegrass with jazz, country and folk.

Starting as a jam session at the Clarion Bluegrass festival in March 2010, Midnight Drive has become one of the most powerful bands from northwestern Pennsylvania.

Snarky Puppy is a combination of jazz and rock kids from white America and gospel and rhythm and blues kids from black America.

The Weedrags create and sing the folk music of the Monongahela River Valley, combining various influences from New Orleans swing to country, blending old-time styles and well-crafted original story songs.

The Beagle Brothers, Pittsburgh’s premiere country band for more than eight years, are returning to the music festival after five years, mixing honky-tonk and classic country.

The Rumpke Mountain Boys of Cincinnati, known as Ohio’s No.1 bluegrass band, plays a signature blend of jamgrass, aptly named “Trashgrass.”

Spirit Family Reunion from New York City plays homegrown American music.

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