BoDeans to play in Red Wing Saturday
RED WING - Red Wing's outdoor "living room" -- the Central Park Band Shell -- has been a cozy, comfortable place to listen to music and visit with friends since it opened July 4, 2009.
It's about to take a giant step toward fulfilling its potential as a music venue for all ages.
This year, the annual concert organized by band shell benefactors from the Jones Family Foundation becomes the Rolling River Music Festival.
On June 30, national recording artists the BoDeans are expected to fill Central Park to overflowing for a free concert. Opening acts for the rock band will be rhythm and blues performer Ryan Shaw and the string fusion band Barley Jacks.
A festival of music has always been part of the vision for the park, according to Scott Jones.
The band shell opened nearly three years ago with performances by Rosanne Cash, Roomful of Blues and the Sheldon Brass Band. The next year the Jones foundation brought in Buckwheat Zydeco.
"Last year we started to expand the effort," Jones said.
Lawrence Transportation Services and Red Wing Shoe Co. joined the foundation in presenting Marcia Ball and Beausoleil, and word went out that more local sponsors were sought to build on the fledgling musical legacy. Sturdiwheat Inc., Dave Syverson Truck Center and Riedell Skates joined this year.
"This is our home town. The whole family has been involved in business in this town for many, many years," Steve Lawrence said.
"We love music," he added, and bringing nationally known performers to Red Wing is just "a fun thing to do."
Lawrence Transportation will continue to support the festival, he said, and encourage other businesses to get involved as a way to say "thank you" to the community.
"The arts have a pretty big following" in Red Wing, he pointed out, and holding the music festival during the annual Plein Air Arts Festival will only draw more people to town. The local economy is bound to benefit.
"It's a good experience for people who would otherwise not be able to travel to the places these people perform -- and it's free," Lawrence added.
Several other locals became community partners, including the Anderson Center, Indigo Room, Carolyn and Robert Hedin, Amdahl Motors, Coldwell Banker-Tim Nybo, Wylie Wilson Trucking, Gary and Pam Alvord, Paul Tollison-State Farm Insurance, and the Red Wing Arts Association, which is sponsoring the Barley Jacks.
All that was missing was a name for the event.
"We really wanted to begin branding it," explained Anne Jones, so the steering committee -- the Joneses, Steve and Marilyn Lawrence, Red Wing Shoe President Dave Murphy and Sean Dowse of the Sheldon Theatre, which is presenting the concert -- began brainstorming.
Murphy pointed out that visitors to Red Wing always comment on the city's proximity to the Mississippi River. Someone said "Rolling River Music Festival."
"It just clicked for us," Scott Jones said.
Dowse suggested the BoDeans, recognizing that the band likely will attract younger people as well as music fans who already have discovered band shell concerts.
"I think the BoDeans can transcend age groups," Scott Jones said, adding that the organizers also listened to tapes of Shaw's R&B music and found him to be "very talented." The Barley Jacks' bluegrass music has a local following as well.
Past band shell concerts have drawn crowds estimated at about 1,000. "We're expecting a very large crowd" for the music festival, Scott Jones said. As in the past, people will bring their own lawn chairs and blankets.
Joe Dube of Randy's Restaurant is organizing food vendors so people can spend the entire evening in the park. The public is invited to come earlier to watch plein air artists at work.
Barley Jacks will open at 5 p.m., then Shaw, then the BoDeans will take the stage around 7:30 or 8 p.m. The show will go on, rain or shine, until around 9:30 p.m.
The band shell has become a popular venue for a broad range of events -- everything from weddings to church services to concerts.
"It's a way for the community to come together," Jones said. The Rolling River Music Festival will go a long way toward realizing the original dream, he added, quoting his mother: "We want the community to wear it out."
The BoDeans, a nationally acclaimed band whose Americana/pop/roots rock music defies simple description, started out in 1983 in Waukesha, Wis. Following members' debut album, "Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams," they were named Best New American Band in a 1987 Rolling Stone reader's poll.
In the mid-1990s their anthem "Closer to Free" was a Billboard Top 20 hit and became the theme song for Fox TV's "Party of Five."
"I've always thought of the BoDeans as a truly American band," said Kurt Neumann, a vocalist/guitarist who is the founder, primary writer and frontman for the Milwaukee-based group.
He initially fought the label "roots rock," but came to embrace it when he realized that "roots" meant "blues, rock, country and soul all slammed together into one sound."
Neumann sees the group's success as a byproduct of making music that creates a special connection to moments in people's lives.
In 2011 the BoDeans released "Indigo Dreams," a salute to the working man. New this summer is the group's 11th album, "American Made," containing a dozen songs laced with indigenous roots elements.
The band's website calls it "a soul-stirring song cycle that directly reflects the American experience at this critical moment in our history." It was inspired by Neumann's "blue-collar upbringing and his desire to express what a great country America remains, despite its troubles and the challenges facing it today."
In Neumann's words, "We're lucky to have the rights and opportunities that we have, but I believe those rights come with a responsibility to help each other along. ... We're so out of touch with each other -- and just trying to find an American-made product has become almost comical."
It is the group's first album without original member Sam Llanas, who left to pursue a solo career. The change was difficult, but also revitalizing -- prompting Neumann to create the most intensely personal songs he'd ever written.
The Barley Jacks -- frontman and fiddler Brian Wicklund, guitarist Joe Cruz, bassist Kevin Rowe and percussionist Joel Arpin -- perform original vocals and instrumental numbers that meld their divergent backgrounds.
The Minnesota-based musicians draw on blues and bluegrass, classical and Celtic, rhythm & blues and bebop to create a sound that is uniquely theirs. The Barley Jacks released its first recording, "Either Side of Night," in 2010.
Wicklund, who has toured internationally, is a studio musician, teacher and author of "American Fiddle Method." Cruz is a multi-instrumentalist who plays an array of styles with different groups and composes his own vocal and instrumental numbers.
Rowe also has toured widely. He teaches and composes, and plays in everything from symphony orchestras to jazz combos, rock bands and bluegrass groups. Arpin, a freelance musician, also performs many styles of music and works as an accompanist and teacher.
Rhythm & blues artist Ryan Show, born in Georgia, grew up singing in church and performing Gospel music with his four brothers. He later traveled to New York as a cast member of "I Know I've Been Changed."
When that show closed, he joined the resident cast of the Motown Caf, performing Detroit soul favorites, and later found a steady gig with a group that played Fifties and Sixties songs.
"I'm into chords, melodies, lyrics, arrangements -- I'm into music in all its aspects," he said.
His debut album, "This Is Ryan Shaw," resulted in a Grammy nomination for Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance for the song "I Am Your Man." Shaw's newest release is "Real Love," a collection of songs about love in all its forms.