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Performers seek to play at Greensburg's SummerSounds

| Monday, May 26, 2008

It's gotten easier for Gene James to find performers to appear in Greensburg.

In 2000, James and others had fewer choices in signing performers for what has become known as Greensburg's SummerSounds than they do today.

"A lot of people are approaching us, when I used to have to go search out bands," said James, concert committee chairman. "We are now on the map. I'm kind of proud of it, and surprised."

The 2008 concert series, in its ninth year, begins at 7 p.m. June 6 with Enter the Haggis. The concerts then continue every Friday night through Aug. 29 at the Robertshaw Amphitheater at St. Clair Park.

Steve Gifford, who with Missy Monsour and James were the original members of the concert committee, recalled those first years as fun but somewhat challenging.

"In the beginning, it was a little bit of a challenge because then the Concerts in the Park was new," said Gifford, who no longer is on the committee. "(Performers) would be very hesitant about giving up a date when they could play in a club or an established concert."

Now bands are asking to play, Gifford said.

"I think it's because we've had quality entertainment with bands that are diverse and eclectic and appeal to a large audience," said Sue Trout, another committee member and Greensburg city administrator.

"I think the atmosphere at the amphitheater is a lovely setting. It's a good, free family night, " she said.

The concert selection committee -- which includes Westmoreland County Judge Richard McCormick, Amy Baldonieri of the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Donna Pacella and Janet McNeel -- began picking groups in November.

James said the search started with at least 500 unsolicited press kits or agent contacts.

The selection process typically involves listening to compact discs or going to see performers if they are in the area. The Internet is being used now, along with word of mouth.

Attendance is up for each year of the concerts, according to the committee's annual report.

Last year, 18,015 people went to 13 concerts. In 2000, 895 people attended six shows.

The Tony Janflone Band had the biggest turnout last year with 2,800 people, followed by The Commander Cody Band with 1,833, according to the report.

Bands use the stage to showcase their sounds and sell hundreds of CDs to attendees.

James said rock music is the most popular music genre, but not overwhelmingly so.

A survey done by the organizers shows the average adult attendee is 52. Fifty-six percent of the concertgoers come from the Greensburg ZIP code area. Fifteen percent come from outside Westmoreland County, many from Pittsburgh, James said.

About $78,000 was spent for last year's concerts.

This year, the budget totals about $90,000. The costs for the performers range from about $1,500 to $4,000 per show, James said. The concert group also pays additional expenses for lodging, food and support.

Expenses typically break down to one-third for the performers, one-third for advertising and one-third for support costs, James said.

Funding comes from grants, sponsors and donations, according to the committee report.

"An awful lot of these bands are bands we couldn't get five years ago," James said.

Among the performers slated for this year is Moonalice on Aug. 15. It includes G.E. Smith, former Bob Dylan sideman and leader of the Saturday Night Live Band; Peter Sears, formerly of Jefferson Starship; and Jack Casady of Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna.

"These guys are like a Who's Who," James said.

The Cast of Beatlemania, a Beatles tribute band, is scheduled to perform Aug. 1.

The Guggenheim Grotto canceled its appearance and a band remains to be selected for that Aug. 29 slot, James said.

Bands back from 2007 are Stephanie's ID, the Tartan Terrors and the Mary Ann Redmond Band. The Stephanie's ID show was rained out last year.

While selection is easier, James said he feels pressure to keep improving the program.

"We've been experiencing steady growth, and that presents some challenges itself," James said.

Additional Information:

Concert schedule

June 6: Enter the Haggis

June 13: Claire Lynch

June 20: River City Brass Band

June 27: The Tartan Terrors

July 4: The Mary Ann Redmond Band

July 11: The David Bach Consort

July 18: See-I

July 25: The Lloyd Dobler Effect

Aug. 1: The Cast of Beatlemania

Aug. 8: Stephanie's ID

Aug. 15: Moonalice

Aug. 22: The Greencards

Aug. 29: To be announced

For more information go to

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