The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

August 4, 2013

Ending on a high note: Weather contributes to success of annual music festival

David Hurst

JOHNSTOWN — The AmeriServ Flood City Music Festival wrapped up Sunday night with a rootsy blend of foot-stompin, Appalachian-born Americana.

Sunday’s nine-band bill included jam-heavy bluegrass, soul and folk bands – a mix that had festival regulars like John and Cindy Cienkowski of New Brighton, Beaver County, wishing they could be at every stage at once.

“That’s my only regret all weekend. I can’t be everywhere,” Cindy Cienkowski said. “It’s all good.”

And fortunately, so was the weekend’s weather, said Shelley Johansson, communications director for the Johnstown Area Heritage Association, the event’s organizer.

Last week’s weather forecast had Johansson and fellow organizers a bit worried.

Rain moved into the area Saturday morning but gave way to clear skies by the time the first band took the stage “and we never looked back,” festival chairman Todd Wagner said Sunday evening.

Rhonda and Steve Gifford said the threat of rain kept them at home Saturday but they made the trip Sunday and weren’t disappointed.

“I wish we would’ve came (Saturday),” Rhonda Gifford said.

“It’s just such a good time. Great food. Great music,” Steve Gifford added.

The weekend’s headliners included steel guitarist Robert Randolph with his soul-infused funky Family Band and New Orleans’ jazz-fusion prodigy Trombone Shorty.

Johansson said Randolph “wow’d ’em” Saturday night. He had a packed crowd on its feet, she said.

“He was really good,” said Jonathan Hugill, of Northern Cambria.

Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds kept the energy going as a late act both Saturday and Sunday nights, Johansson said.

On Saturday night, the Brooklyn-based eight-piece funk act played encores well past 1 a.m., she added.

“They were just terrific. They really had their crowd moving,” she said.

But Wagner said “under-the-radar” bands like Those Bastard Bearded Irishmen, San Francisco garage rocker Chuck Prophet and self-described Brooklyn-born “funk army” Turkuaz also were among the festival’s hits.

Sunday’s schedule of acts included four bluegrass bands – among them, the Rumpke Mountain Boys and Greensky Bluegrass.

Self-described Americana band Spirit Family Reunion had the crowd leg-slapping and dancing in front of the stage.

“We wanted to kind of wind it down this way on Sunday,” Wagner said. “I think it worked out really well. The weather couldn’t have been better.”

Johansson said it was too early to gauge the weekend’s attendance but said she believed the festival “absolutely” held its own, compared with previous Flood City Music Festivals.

The weekend event has lured between 7,000 and 12,000 people annually since its inception in 2009, organizers said.