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Save the Dates for Silver Bay’s Music In the Park Series This Summer

Scanning the lineup for this season, I noticed that two of the most popu­lar acts from the previous shows were coming back for Silver Bay’s Music in the Park series. The rest of the musicians were new to the line-up, including some highly recognized and cel­ebrated in the region and beyond. It’s easy to see that Rocky Wall Productions, the non-profit behind the free to the public event, has stepped it up a notch once again this year.

The organization’s mission, according to their website, is “producing high quality live Americana Music out­door concerts, house con­certs, and events in the City of Silver Bay and on Lake Superior’s North Shore.” In this, they do not disappoint, especially with what is in store for Fridays throughout this summer.

“We’re really excited to bring this beautiful live mu­sic to town,” said Nelson French, who serves as Pres­ident for the organization. “All the acts that are com­ing in are extremely popular well-known acts and very high-quality musicians.”

The Big Wu will open this year on Friday, July 19th. All concerts are scheduled from 7:00-9:30 PM on Fridays. “They are a well-recognized jam band that has a real popular following through­out the upper Midwest,” said Nelson. I hadn’t heard of the band before and was intrigued when I found a song called, “Tracking Buf­falo Through the Bathtub.” It was really fun to listen to. It’s always exciting to hear one song and know that you’ve found a new band to delve into, isn’t it?

Opening for The Big Wu is actress/musician Caitlin Nicol-Thomas, from Nash­ville. She is a singer/song­writer who plays multiple instruments, including the fiddle. She will join The Big Wu on stage for their set, as well.

Up next, on July 26th, Min­neapolis based band Trailer Trash will play a variety of music. Trailer Trash is known for their performanc­es at Lee’s Liquor Lounge and their popular annual Christmas Concerts. “Trail­er trash is just an amazing band,” Nelson said. “They are a well-known group.” The band plays an eclectic set list. Their website states “Thanks to the resurgence of classic country music and swing-dancing in the mid-90s, the band gained a following among new gen­erations of music lovers.”

Joyann Parker, one of the popular acts of previous seasons, is returning on August 2nd. Joyann is a multi-talented musician who sings, plays guitar, and piano. She is a songwrit­er who blends soul, R&B, gospel, jazz, and blues. Ac­cording to Nelson, she was just too good not to bring back this year.

On August 9th, 4 on the floor will be rockin’ out the park. “They’ll probably be the most rocking show we’ve had in the whole series,” Nelson said. “They call their sound heavy-stomp­ing blues-rock.” The band is from Minneapolis and formed in 2009. Their de­but album, 4×4, was called “one of the best rock and roll records of 2011,” by In­die Media Magazine. They are known to pack a venue.

The other returning act this year is Erik Koskinen, who plays on August 26th. He is also a multi-talented musi­cian who plays multi-in­struments in multi-genres.

“He’s billed as Minnesota’s current best country west­ern songwriter,” Nelson said. “He’s a great guitar player and he always has a good band backing him. We’re excited to have him back.”

On August 23rd, Nelson ad­vised we need to stay-tuned. “The ink isn’t dry yet,” he stated, but promised that a big announcement was sure to follow in the next couple weeks.

John Ellison will play with a group called the Carpen­ter Ants. John wrote the fa­mous song, “Some Kind of wonderful.” He has played with Nina Simone, James Brown, The Temptations, and one of my favorite bands of all time, Huey Lewis & the News, just to name a few. He also wrote music and lyrics for these and many more bands.

“He’s 82 and still rocking with the blues,” said Nel­son. “That’s going to be a fun show and he’s excited to come up to Silver Bay.”

Closing out the series on Friday, September 6th will be Martin Zellar & the Hardaways. The band used to be called the Gear- Daddies and came out in the 80s. I hadn’t heard of either band, but I did recog­nize one of their most pop­ular songs. “I Want to Drive the Zamboni,” is a staple at hockey games. “We have to get the hockey club kids, guys, and gals out!” laughed Nelson.

Some of the bands will be performing house concerts that will be open to the pub­lic, but are limited to forty tickets for the venue. Tick­ets can be purchased on Rocky Wall Production’s website. Nelson warns, “it’s first-come first-serve.”

Jerry LaVigne, of Sil­ver Bay, will coordinate the sound for the bands throughout the season. “Jer­ry does our sound and he’s one of the most well-re­spected sound men in the state of Minnesota and the region,” Nelson said. “His reputation precedes him­self. When bands hear that Jerry is doing the sound they kind of fold and say we’re coming.”

The musicians are able to lodge at the homes on Rocky Wall Road and, ac­cording to Nelson, are treat­ed like royalty. “So, they walk away from Silver Bay with a really good feeling about the community,” he said.

Over the years and twen­ty-one shows that previous­ly occurred in Silver Bay, over 8,000 people were in attendance. The goal for this year is 5,000. The event has a high probability to grow exponentially in years to come. The organiza­tion’s network casts a wide net. Among that network is Jerry, who has worked with many bands in his thirty years in the business. Nate Duncan, the lead singer of Trailer Trash, is also a member of that network. He books the non-main stage bands for the State Fair and has a lot of connections.

They have no trouble book­ing bands. “We have over 60 bands that want to come up and play a Silver Bay Music in the Park concert,” he said. “It’s really wild!”

Though they have a large portfolio to draw upon, the concert series is designed to bring in bands that people usually don’t get to see. The growth of interest in the event is bringing in bands with a bigger draw.

The budget is also a bit big­ger. “We received a signif­icant grant from the Min­nesota State Arts Board,” Nelson said. The funds will help book the national act that Nelson was being mysterious about over the phone.

In addition, Lovin’ Lake County, Best of the North Shore, the Lloyd K. Johnson Foundation, Lucky Club and Entertainment, Minnesota Power, Norshore Insurance Agency, and the North Shore Federal Credit Union have all contributed to the event’s costs, and the list is growing. If you are looking to become a sponsor, donations are accepted at Rocky Wall Productions website www.rockywallproductions.org.  

Nelson encourages the pub­lic to attend the concerts this summer. “We have a really hot season with some good talent,” he said.

Feedback from the previous Music in the Park series is proof in the pudding that the series will be well en­joyed by all who attend. “It was a great concert! I loved their music! Thanks for get­ting them up here!” said Terri Kosloske Rothstein. Sarah Barton stated, “I highly recommend Rocky Wall Productions. Beautiful location, the best people, stunning setting and won­derful vibes all around.” In yet another great review, Paula Mackenzie Anderson said, “So happy the people up on Rocky Wall love mu­sic and decided to share that love in Silver Bay – thank you for the music.”

For more information, clips of musicians, announcements, tickets to Friday’s concerts (you do not need a ticket, but registering will help keep you informed of events), tickets for the house concerts, a list of donors, reports on the non-profit, and more, visit www.rockywallproductions.org.

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