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Arts Festival, Chris Duarte and C.J. Ramone!

May 16, 2014 - Jim Price
An outdoor arts festival tradition and indoor national name concerts highlight area live music activity in the next several days.

The 47th annual Blair County Arts Festival will take place on Saturday and Sunday at Penn State Altoona. The Festival starts at 12 noon both days, and will feature a wide assortment of art and craft exhibits, art vendors, children’s activities, a food court, and continuous live music throughout the weekend. Admission is free, but there is a small fee for parking; proceeds from the fee support the Festival and Altoona’s historic Mishler Theatre.

Saturday’s Arts Festival musical slate spotlights some of State College’s finest musicians, starting with former Rustlanders singer/guitarist Jason McIntyre pairing with Altoona’s Pat McGinnis at 1 p.m. at the Food Court stage. Later, one of last year’s favorites, State College’s Pure Cane Sugar, brings their lush two- and three-part harmonies and innovative Americana arrangements back to the Food Court stage starting at 5:30 p.m; before Happy Valley blues favorites Miss Melanie and the Valley Rats – showcasing the soaring and soulful vocals of singer “Miss Melanie” Morrison Zeigler, plus veteran guitar master Mark Ross and tasty keys from Rev. James Harton – plays on the Laurel Pavilion stage at 6:15 p.m. In addition, Altoona-based acoustic duo favorites Born and the Beanstalk share their wide variety of classic rock and pop sounds on the Food Court stage at 4 p.m., and Your Dad’s Friends close out the day with their vintage rock’n’roll party at the Food Court stage starting at 7 p.m.

Sunday’s musical menu includes Festival favorite, Schuylkill-based folk performer Jay Smar, beginning at 12:45 p.m. Smar specializes in historical odes to eastern Pennsylvania’s coal-mining tradition. A new Altoona-based blues and jazz combo, Project Blues Book, performs on the Laurel Pavilion stage at 1:30 p.m. This group features four seasoned members of the area music scene; singer/guitarist Ric Criste, singer/bassist Bill Smith, saxophonist Bob Scholl and drummer Jeff Crownover. Returning to pillage and plunder the Food Court stage – while singing rowdy sea shanties and swashbuckling odes – is the Allegheny Bilge Rats Shanty Choir at 2:15 p.m. State College’s Rick Hirsch & Pandora’s Bop brings innovative jazz sounds to the Laurel Pavilion stage at 4:30 p.m., before local folk/bluegrass favorites Mama Corn bring a rustic close to the Festival’s music slate starting at 5:15 p.m.

Also performing throughout the weekend will be various community and scholastic musical groups, including the Blair Concert Chorale and its Children’s Choir, the Altoona Symphony Orchestra String Ensemble, and various performing groups from the Altoona Area School District.

After the Arts Festival cools down on Saturday evening, live blues heats up across the railroad tracks at 30 Something with the nationally-renowned Chris Duarte Group, including Altoona native son John McKnight on drums. Originally from San Antonio but calling Austin, Texas and Atlanta, Georgia home bases now, Duarte honed his guitar chops as a sideman for many years before forming his own group in 1990. His current group includes McKnight – whose local resume includes stints with the U.S. Hotel House Band and Felix & the Hurricanes – and Dustin Sargent on bass. Duarte’s sound encompasses blues, blues rock, jazz and funk. Opening the show will be McKnight’s former group Felix & the Hurricanes. The show begins at 9 p.m., and admission at the door is $10 per person.

Shortly after Rich McGarvey took over the reins at Aldo’s in fall of 2012, one of the first national recording acts he brought to the venue was Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg, featuring the namesake and famed drummer of legendary punk icons The Ramones. Another former member of the Ramones from later in their career, bassist C.J. Ramone, brings his band to the former Aldo’s – now McGarvey’s – on Monday night at 7 p.m. C.J. Ramone replaced Dee Dee Ramone as the group’s bassist in 1989, and performed with the group until 1996. At the time, he was credited for giving the Ramones a younger facelift and “keeping the band young” by original drummer Tommy Ramone. C.J. also played alongside Dee Dee Ramone in The Remains, and also in such groups as Guitar Pete’s Axe Attack, Los Gusanos and Bad Chopper. Opening Monday’s concert will be the Railroad City Murder Machines, Xs For Eyes and The Whatleys. Tickets are $10 in advance or $12 at the door.

As always, readers are encouraged to support the wide variety of musical talent gracing area stages every week, and help ensure that such music continues to happen. And if alcohol is involved while enjoying the music, please drink responsibly, get a designated driver or call a cab.

Here is a full listing for live music on area stages this weekend and the coming week:


This Albatross at Belmar Hotel, Altoona (Music for Miracles Benefit, proceeds benefit Relay for Life)

Acoustic Root (Jae & Kayla) at Aviation Inn, Duncansville

Washington Slept Here at Heidelberg Club, Altoona (starts 9 p.m.)

Michael O’Brian Band at City Hotel, Northern Cambria

Second Edition at Huntingdon Elks, Huntingdon


The Backyard Rockers at Spring Dam, Roaring Spring (Spring Cove Relay for Life kickoff, starts 10 a.m.)

Blair County Arts Festival at Penn State Altoona; featuring Pat McGinnis & Jason McIntyre, Keystone Society of Swing, Born and the Beanstalk, Pure Cane Sugar, Miss Melanie and the Valley Rats, Your Dads Friends and more (starts 12 noon)


Chris Woodward & ShinDiggin' and Sugar Ridge at Mount Union Fire Company Carnival, Municipal Park, Mount Union

Chris Duarte Group and Felix & the Hurricanes at 30 Something, Altoona

The Overtones at McGarvey’s (formerly Aldo’s), Altoona

Half Tempted at Family Pizza, Altoona

Pistol Peg and the Beer Kegs at 4D's Lounge, Altoona

7th Gear at Belmar Hotel, Altoona

Jampact (formerly The Jam) at Williamsburg American Legion, Williamsburg

Shallow Nine at Glenn’s Place, Claysburg

Money Shot at Bedford Tavern, Bedford

Second Amendment at Bedford Moose, Bedford

Locked and Loaded at Magoo’s, Cresson

Fuse at Castle Pub, Ebensburg

Night Train at City Hotel, Northern Cambria


Blair County Arts Festival at Penn State Altoona; featuring Jay Smar, Project Blues Book, Allegheny Bilge Rats Shanty Choir, Hip Hop Overdrive, Rick Hirsch & Pandora’s Bop and Mama Corn


Felix & the Hurricanes at Shaw’s Bar, Altoona

Matt Wagner at Andy’s Bar & Grill, Altoona (starts 8:30 p.m.)


C.J. Ramone, Railroad City Murder Machines, The Whatleys and Xs for Eyes at McGarvey’s (formerly Aldo’s), Altoona


Open Mic Night with the Backyard Rockers at D’Ottavio’s Gran Sasso, Hollidaysburg (starts 9 p.m.)

Ty Ayers at 4D’s Lounge (upstairs), Altoona


Open Mic/Jam Night at Pellegrine’s, Altoona (starts 9 p.m.)


Felix & the Hurricanes at Family Billiards, Duncansville (starts 8 p.m.)

Brian Pavlic at 30 Something, Altoona

(More shows may be added to this list as information becomes available. Feel free to check back.)

To report additional shows or corrections to this listing, email information to

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The Chris Duarte Group - including Altoona native son John McKnight on drums - will perform at 30 Something on Saturday night. McKnight's former band before relocating to Atlanta in 1997, Felix & the Hurricanes, will open.


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