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Diamond Rio fans not on fence about the view

| Sunday, Sept. 8, 2002

It rained really, really hard right at the beginning of Alan Jackson's gig in Burgettstown last month.

So hard that a rain poncho and long pants couldn't keep a fan's socks from becoming all soggy inside her shoes. So hard that even after paying $8 to park — on top of the price of the lawn ticket — she resignedly splashed to her car and left without having heard Jackson sing "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)."

Sigh.

After that, any inconveniences at the Diamond Rio concert two weeks earlier seem awfully trivial. But I'm going to tell you about 'em anyway.

The free concert at Point State Park was part of the Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta. Besides Diamond Rio, of "One More Day" and "Beautiful Mess" fame, the concert included performances by area country acts as well as Steve Holy, the young Texan who scored a No. 1 single this year with "Good Morning Beautiful."

Several concerts are offered during the course of the regatta, and each is sponsored by an appropriate radio station.

Now here is something I didn't know about the free regatta concerts: A triangular area directly in front of the stage is fenced off, and white plastic chairs inside that area are reserved for folks who have won radio station giveaways or received admittance through sponsor packages.

This setup, says Ida D'Errico, the regatta's vice president, has applied to every regatta concert for at least the past six years.

Well, I hadn't tried to get too close to a regatta concert before now, so the fenced-off area was a surprise to me. But I simply sat down behind it. However, I couldn't sit directly behind the chain-link fence, because it was adorned with a banner promoting that day's sponsor, the Froggy radio stations. When seated in my camping chair, I couldn't see over the banner. Neither could anyone else. So all of us in the first row behind the fence pushed our little chairs back about 12 feet, in order to see.

There was nothing between us and the fence except for grass and one fellow who persisted in keeping his chair smack up against the banner. When he wanted to take a look at Holy, he just stood up. Then other people, looking for a good vantage point and seeing a lot of empty space, came along. After assessing the situation, they decided to stand along the fence, too.

Now those of us in the chairs couldn't see over the people standing.

Some of the men seated in my area went repeatedly to the Froggy booth to complain. In fact, because of the audience's complaints, a banner along another section of fence was taken down prior to Holy's gig. Then, just before Diamond Rio took the stage, a Froggy employee took down the banner that had been blocking my area's view. We applauded. The standing people sat down. And we moved our chairs up closer.

We were luckier than we knew. "The banners should not have been taken down," D'Errico told me over the telephone last week.

Every day that there's a regatta concert, she says, regatta personnel adorn the fence with banners bearing the name of that day's sponsor. "It's part of (the radio station's) contract to receive visibility," D'Errico said.

That was the understanding, also, of Frank Bell, vice president of Keymarket Communications, owner of the Froggy stations. "I saw the banners there every other day for all the other stations involved in bringing in artists," he said recently. As a sponsor of the concert, a radio station pays for the right to get its name involved — and the banners are part of that.

D'Errico and Bell say they never before had heard of any visibility complaints caused by swaddling the fence in banners. Seeing over the banners should not be a problem, D'Errico says, because the stage is up high.

Besides, as I was reminded — and it is true — thousands of other people enjoying the free concert didn't seem to notice the banners. But then, that would be because they hadn't arrived early and managed to snag a spot right behind the fence, wouldn't it?

And although I appreciate this area's abundance of great free concerts as much as the next fan, I am one of those picky people who likes to have a view of the stage.

Of course, the sponsors deserve to make themselves known. I think the banner across the top of the stage helps to do that. And having radio station personnel introduce the singers helps listeners put a face to and get to "know" the station's disc jockeys. But when it comes to the banners wrapped around the fence — it seems to me that the only people who can see them are the ones seated directly in front of them, and they're trying to see over them.

As to why no concert-goers ever before took issue with the banners on the fence, well, I guess Diamond Rio is a band that fans really want to see.

"Country Girl Singer"

One of the opening acts for Diamond Rio at the Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta was Joe Patrick, who sings in area clubs and recently recorded "Country Girl Singer" in Nashville. The single is being played by the Froggy radio stations, as is "And Then" by Dusty Drake, a former Beaver County resident who moved to Nashville.

"An important part of what a local radio station does is take interest in the community and local artists," says Frank Bell, vice president of the stations' owner, Keymarket Communications.

He says Patrick's song, when he first heard it, reminded him of Billy Ray Cyrus' "Achy Breaky Heart." "It's a fun type of song that you can dance to and it would make you smile."

Bell adds, "We actually have been searching for good, well-produced country tunes done by local artists."

You heard 'im. Let the demos roll in.

Concert announcements

The Pepsi-Cola Roadhouse in Burgettstown has announced two concerts.

  • Montgomery Gentry will perform there on Sept. 27. The show will not include dinner, and tickets are general admission. Opening acts the Fabulous Gunslingers will take the stage at 6:30 p.m., followed by the North Star Band at 7:30 and the headliners at 9. All tickets are $42.50.

  • Dwight Yoakam will give a dinner show on Oct. 4. Dinner will be served at 7 p.m., and the show will start at 8 with an opening act yet to be announced. Ticket prices are $65, $75 and $85. Details for Roadhouse shows: (724) 947-1900.

    Even sooner, two songstresses who also pursued acting careers will visit the area.

  • Olivia Newton-John , whose many hit singles included a few country songs ("If You Love Me," "Let Me Be There"), also is known for her starring roles in the movies "Grease" and "Xanadu." She will sing at 8 p.m. Friday at Heinz Hall, Downtown, accompanied by members of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Tickets range from $35 to $70. Details: (412) 392-4900.

    Fans of Newton-John might want to pick up "One Woman's Live Journey," a greatest-hits compilation recently released by Hip-O Records. Among the 21 tracks are the pop swooners "Sam" and "Suddenly," as well as a cover of the country classic "Jolene."

  • Trisha Yearwood , the country balladeer who guest stars on TV's "JAG," will sing at 8 p.m. Sept. 20 in Fisher Auditorium at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana. Tickets are $17 to $30. Details: (724) 357-2590.

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