T h e final lineup of the American Music Festival’s Concerts in the Park has been announced and the hosts say this summer’s music will be the best yet.
“We have been increasing the quality of the bands we’ve been getting, based on feedback from the audience,” said Les Cohen, president of the Brookings Area Council for the Arts, the governing body for the festival. “We’re spending more money on the groups to bring better groups in. I think we have a diversified, interesting, quality mix this year.”
This year’s mix will include tribute bands, blues, Celtic, Dixieland and Cajun music, with performers entertaining listeners on the hillside at Azalea Park in Brookings.
All but one concert will begin at 1 p.m. on Sundays. The Old Blind Dogs perform at a special 6 p.m. show July 2.
Cohen co-founded the AMF with Tom Weldon 24 years ago, when the organization featured local bands.
“Initially, we saw it as turning into a potential three-day music festival like the Medford Jazz Festival or the Coos Bay Music Festival,” he said. “But as it turned out, it’s difficult to do a paid concert in Azalea Park; there’s no way to keep people out. You can put police tape around the perimeter, but all people had to do stand on the other side.”
Shows have become particularly popular in the past five years, with an average of 550 people showing up per show, Cohen said.
“Our out-of-town numbers in 2018 were up 129 percent,” he said, based on information from 1,100 surveys. “Many said they came specifically to listen to the band that day. We’re really excited. It seems like in the last five years the series has really been growing as we focus on better quality talent. We’re even finding ourselves being contacted by musical management groups.”
Organizers say they plan to bring back popular acts but limit them to three consecutive years before taking a break to showcase other bands.
“We’re looking for people we can’t hear on our own,” Cohen said. “We’re thrilled to be able to do it; it’s a lot of fun.”
“We want people who are going to entertain, to hold the audience, get them on their feet, get their feet tapping,” Cohen said. “Good musicianship and entertainment.”
Past bands have included Country Joe McDonald, Mason Williams, Abbey Road Live Beatles tribute band, Tom Rigney and Flambeau, Dirty Cello, Dust Bowl Revival and Tuba Skinny, among many others.
“This year, we’ve got a couple tribute bands because the audience seems to enjoy them,” Cohen said. “And a couple others are… unique.”
Many artists are bringing their fans in tow to Brookings, organizers say.
“People are used to paying $40, $50 a ticket and say it’s worth it to spend a weekend in Brookings and catch it for free,” Cohen said.
“It’s good for our economy and good for our sponsors who get the exposure,” Cohen said.
The first show is June 2 and features Night Moves, a tribute band for Bob Seger and Creedence Clearwater Revival.
The seven-piece group features two lead singers, one who replicates the vocals of Seger and the other of John Fogerty of CCR, with hits such as “Old Time Rock and Roll,” “Turn The Page,” “Night Moves,” “Like A Rock,” “Against The Wind,” “Hollywood Nights,” “Main Street,” “Katmandu,” and “Fire Lake.”
The band also does the greatest hits of Creedence Clearwater Revival.
June 23 is a second tribute band, a four-piece group that recreates the music of Buddy Holly and The Crickets in a fun and lively show featuring renditions of some of rock’s greatest songs: “That’ll Be The Day,” “Peggy Sue,” “Not Fade Away” and “Oh Boy.”
The band also covers songs by artists from the same era such as Bill Haley, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash.
The Old Blind Dogs, a Scottish/Celtic band takes to the stage for the summer’s only evening performance. The musical group started in 1992 and plays traditional Scottish folk music and Celtic music, with influences from rock, reggae, jazz, blues, and Middle Eastern music rhythms.
“We were lucky enough to get them stop in little ol’ Brookings during their brief North American tour,” said AMF member Scott Graves. “Pack a dinner, hoist a pint and dance to some fantastic Scottish music during this special mid-week evening concert.”
The Rock Bottom Boys take to the stage July 14 to entertain all ages with bluegrass that’s been called “spine-tingling, with three-part harmonies, homespun vocal styling, boot stomping music and well-seasoned showmanship.”
Dennis Johnson and the Mississippi Ramblers will perform the blues Aug. 11.
Johnson is among the elite slide guitar players who plays with a deep passion for preserving and innovating roots music. The band delivers standout live performances of stellar roots and Americana music, rockin’ blues and New Orleans grooves.
Living Blues Magazine said, “Slide guitar master Dennis Johnson leads us on a breathless tour of nooks and crannies in the land of rhythm.”
Marley’s Ghost returns Aug. 18 to perform Americana tunes that often draw comparisons to The Band, covering everything from roots to rock, blues to bluegrass, gospel to country, all accompanied by their trademark multi-part harmonies.
They’re an eclectic aggregation composed of singer/multi-instrumentalists Dan Wheetman, Jon Wilcox, Mike Phelan, Ed Littlefield Jr., Jerry Fletcher, and Bob Nichols, who can sing and play anything with spot-on feel, from roots to rock, blues to bluegrass, gospel to stone country.
“The real draw is the band itself,” Acoustic Guitar magazine said, “showcasing the kind of ensemble performances that come only from a lifetime of playing together, thriving across the decades as virtuosic, unsung heroes of country, folk and Western swing.”
On Aug. 25, the Cajun/zydeco band Gator Nation Band will enthrall listeners with music it’s been bringing to jazz festivals since 1996. While adding their own West Coast twist, the six-piece act brings the sound of traditional Cajun/zydeco music as well as original songs that have become a staple in all of their shows.
Blair Cimmons and the Hookers will play modern Dixieland and ragtime tunes Sept. 8.
Crimmons began his career in Atlanta, Georgia, in small clubs and developed a sound that is both modern and deeply rooted in the past. Four years and 500 shows later, the band has toured the country playing large venues and has opened for acts such as Mumford & Sons and Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
The band’s classic New Orleans style horn section includes trumpet, clarinet and trombone.
Crimmons’s debut release “The Musical Stylings Of” became a college radio sensation on Atlanta making him the most requested band on the air. In 2012, he wrote and recorded the score for the short film “Old Man Cabbage,” followed by garnering the critic’s pick for Best Song Writer of 2013 in Creative Loafing’s Best of ATL issue.
His last album entitled “Sing-a-longs!” earned him a nomination at The Georgia Music Awards for Best Jazz Artist.
“Blair Crimmins is a time traveler of sorts,” Charleston Scene wrote. “He’s a kind of music preservationist seeking to reintroduce the clamor of vaudeville and the wild glamor of speakeasies and jazz to an audience less aware.”