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Raining on Live Music's Parade

July 4, 2009 - Jim Price

I’m not a trained meteorologist, but I would venture to speculate that we have received more than our fair share of rainy weather so far this summer.  And since a lot of that rainy weather has coincided with outdoor live musical events in our region, I’ve had to deal with the elements and watch musicians deal with those elements in the past several weeks.

Two weeks ago, rain turned the 4th annual Smoked Country Jam bluegrass festival near
Loganton into the muddiest event I’ve covered in over 20 years of reporting live local music happenings.  The entrance and much of the parking area was a pure mud pit, with mud 4 and 5 inches deep; I consider myself lucky that I didn’t get stuck!  (With many folks attending this event in RV’s and standard automobiles, I can only imagine the number of vehicles that did get stuck in the mud after the festival, and needed to be towed from the parking area by farm tractor!)  The festival and stage area were also rain-saturated and muddy, but the music went on despite intermittent showers and thunderstorms.  Fortunately, the stage was covered, so The Hillbilly Gypsies, Remington Ryde, Mama Corn, Summer Reign, The Larkins, The Stevens Family, Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike, Van Wagner & Matt Harrison and other performers were able to keep the music constant and spirits high throughout the rain deluge, helping to raise funds for the Lupus Foundation of Pennsylvania.  I discovered that bluegrass fans are a hardy breed; many fans endured the soggy weather out in the open under raincoats, umbrellas and plastic to enjoy the music!  And I have to publicly thank John Stevens of Mama Corn for providing me with a hooded canvas tarp shortly after I arrived.  Just 15 minutes after he lent me the tarp, a thunderstorm with heavy rain moved in, and the tarp kept me, my notepad and cameras perfectly dry!

Save for one downpour on Friday afternoon, rain largely did not impact the musical entertainment I took in during Johnstown’s annual Thunder In The Valley motorcycle rally the following weekend.  But a late-arriving thunderstorm on Thursday night provided me with a spectacular natural fireworks display during my return trip back over the mountain to Altoona!

This past week, rain wreaked havoc on the annual Cresson Firemen’s Carnival.  Rain was falling when Felix & the Hurricanes performed on Tuesday night.  On Wednesday, I watched as rain arrived just three songs into The Boomers’ performance.  The show must go on, and The Boomers – singer Melissa Nagle, singer/keyboardist John Koeck, singer/bassist Bob Helbig, guitarist Dave Nichols and drummer John Stevens – did their best to entertain the crowd with classic and vintage rock’n’roll favorites.  The audience mostly retreated inside the fire hall up the hill from the stage when the first rain drops began to fall, but a few youngsters disregarded the rain and danced in front of the stage, providing at least a small boost to the morale of the band onstage.

The Mario Crocetti Trio fared no better on Thursday.  Again just a few songs into their performance, the skies opened and accompanied the group with a steady rain for much of their performance.  Group namesake and leader Mario Crocetti was unveiling a new accordion this night; a state-of-the-art instrument with a lot of electronics.  Unfortunately, electronics and damp weather do not mix, and the accordion developed some technical issues early into the performance, forcing Crocetti to switch to his backup reedless accordion for the duration of the night.  And as with The Boomers’ performance the night before, the crowd was driven back into the fire hall to observe from afar as the Mario Crocetti Trio – Crocetti, Rich Mishock on vocals and saxophone, and Crocetti’s grandson, Joe Krug, on drums – performed a selection of polkas, jazz, swing and pop standards.

On Friday night, although the past week’s wet and unsettled weather was beginning to clear out of the area, dark skies threatened to put a damper on the Blair County Community Action Agency’s “Picnic in the Plaza” pre-4th of July concert event.  But although a few raindrops did fall during The Hawks’ performance, the shower was brief, and the free concert – featuring The Hawks, Big Mac & the Fries, Bedlam and Felix & the Hurricanes – stayed mostly dry.

Rain is a fact of life, and it will always be a factor to be reckoned with during outdoor live music events.  Seasoned musicians know that “the show must go on” rain or shine, and will soldier on to provide the best performances that they can, regardless of the elements.  And devout music fans – and music-a-holics like me – will continue to brave the elements to enjoy our live music fixes. 

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More approaching rain clouds didn't dampen the spirits of bluegrass fans taking in the 4th annual Smoked Country Jam bluegrass festival near Loganton in late June, benefiting the Lupus Foundation of Pennsylvania.


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