News Column

Party time in Williamsburg

June 21, 2013


June 21--Tonight is the time. Williamsburg is the place. Dancing, entertainment and fun are the agenda. It's time for the second Old-Fashioned Block Party for 2013. Tonight's entertainment features the band Orange Krush.

Main Street Manager Nannie Hays said this is the seventh year of the annual block parties held in Williamsburg.

"Everything starts at 8 p.m. and runs through 11, and will be downtown at Bill Woods Park," Hays said.

Tonight's band comes to the city from Asheville, N.C. and are touted to be that city's "finest party band."

The six-piece ensemble consists of two female and male vocalists as well as four musicians and other vocalists.

According to the band's website, "Having both male and female singers plus bass, drums, keys and guitar allows Orange Krush to put on a high-energy performance covering every music style."

And the band does cover a wide variety of musicians, bands, music styles and genres, including but not limited to selections from Jimmy Buffett, Prince, The Black-Eyed Peas, Marvin Gaye, James Taylor, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra.

"Orange Krush creates a highly engaging and interactive experience," the website states. "We pride ourselves on our ability to 'read' our audience and adjust our playlist in order to keep everyone dancing and having fun.

"From cocktail jazz to dinner swing, Motown to disco, '80s to today, Orange Krush can enhance every part of your event and entertain every guest in the room."

Band members include the following:

-- Lief Stevens, bassist and vocalist for the band, grew up surrounded by music and since an early age has had a desire to play and record it. His lifetime love of music, speech and the emotional response of sound led him to become an audio engineer and professional musician.

He attended Isothermal Community College for broadcasting and graduated from the Atlanta Institute of Music where he received private instructions from Bass Player Magazine columnist Adam Nitti.

Stevens owns and operates Gleeman Studios and works as a mix engineer in the field and in the studio. He has taught bass privately and at the Asheville Arts Center. Recently, he has started company building high end custom speakers.

-- Joanna Baker, lead vocals and flute for the band, is a true southern girl, born and raised in the Carolinas. She draws on a varied background of musical training and experiences. Classical, pop, musical theater, jazz, and punk rock all influence her energetic performance style. She sees herself as a musical chameleon, always up to the challenge to trying out a new musical style. Baker has shared the stage with the Rev. Horton Heat and world class musicians like Mike Barns and Brian Turner.

She has a music degree from the University of South Carolina. She works during the week as a marketing and communications director for a solar energy company.

-- Ryan Barber, who also does lead vocals for the band, is a producer, singer/songwriter and emcee originally from Wilkesboro, N.C. He was born with music streaming through his veins as his entire family were members of the church choir, and at an early age his father and uncle immediately exposed him to rhythm and blues greats including The Whispers, Earth Wind & Fire, Kool & The Gang, Michael Jackson, The SOS Band and The Isley brothers among many others.

In March 2009, Ryan decided to leave his hometown and move to Asheville to further his music career, and he has done just that. August of that year saw the release of his third album titled "Reinvented," and his fourth album, "The Perseverance" compilation, was released in January 2011 and featured various vocalists and himself, vocalizing over his smooth but funky and "head-noddin' foot tappin'" production. One of Ryan's most notable accomplishments is being featured as producer on the critically-acclaimed album, Land of Sheep, Ran by Pigs, Ruled by Wolves, by Washington D.C.'s own W. Ellington Felton.

Barber is the newest member of Orange Krush, contributing his vocals with his own Southern "twang."

-- Mike Barnes, guitarist and vocalist, began playing the guitar in 1971 and first studied classical guitar with Jerry Young, then moved on to jazz and other styles of music. A few of the bands during junior high and high school included Warren Haynes now of Gov't Mule and The Allman Brothers Band.

After graduating from Asheville High School in 1978 he attended the University of Miami and was enrolled as a studio jazz major. From Miami he then formed a group with Grammy-award winner, Elliot Wadopian (now of The Paul Winter Concert) and toured the southeast.

Barnes has worked as a session guitarist and performed in recording studios in Los Angeles, Memphis, Tenn., Nashville, Tenn., Pittsburgh, Atlanta, etc. He was signed as a recording artist for Polygram Records and Geffen Records and some of his work has been featured on shows including Star Search, various television commercials, and also on MTV with The Rock City Angels.

Barnes teaches guitar privately at Musician's Workshop and has done so on and off since 1977. He also has been a UNCA faculty member since 1995, where he also earned a B.A. degree in music graduating with honors.

-- Brian Turner, who plays piano and keyboards for the group, is quickly rising as one of the most popular pianists of the southeastern United States. This versatile pianist/keyboardist/organist plays just about any style of music thrown at him.

As a soloist and collaborative artist, he has shared the stage and rocked out with many great international artists and bands including: Michael Bolton, Warren Haynes (Allman Bros, Grateful Dead, Gov't Mule), Cliff Williams (AC/DC), Bobby McFerrin, Gene Bertoncini, Allen Vizzutti, John Fedchock, Mac Arnold, Bernie Worrell, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Jeff Sipe, Jim Riggs, Spencer Bohren, Dino Kartsonakis, Vassar Clements, Eric Whitacre, Umphrey's McGee, The Slip, Freekbass, Betty Blowtorch, John Cowan Band, The Big Wu, Red Wanting Blue, Ekoostik Hookah, The Recipe and others.

Turner is currently the pianist/organist at Higgins Memorial United Methodist Church in Burnsville, N.C. and has served on the board for the Asheville Area Piano Forum. He did his undergraduate and graduate work in piano performance and Pedagogy from Ohio University.

He is a recipient of the Louis Armstrong Jazz Award and was selected as the alternate pianist for the 2005 International Association of Jazz Educators Ohio Collegiate jazz ensemble as well as auditioned and earned a spot in the U.S. Navy band, which he declined to pursue other interests.

-- David Bruce is the drummer, vocalist and "expert cow bell player" for the band. Bruce attended Florida State University with a major in music education. While in Tallahassee, Fla., he performed with the FSU Marching Band, Concert Band, Wind Ensemble, Orchestra, Jazz Band and Percussion Ensemble. He was also selected to represent the United States with other members of the FSU music program at the World Trade Fair in Damascus, Syria and Amman, Jordan.

He moved to Orlando, Fla., and continued his music with The Florida Symphony, and the "Wings of Sound," a local group which played private events as well as performing regularly at Disney World, Sea World, Boardwalk and Baseball, Rosie O'Grady's and downtown Orlando street festivals. He also performed one season with the national vocal group Brothers and Sisters, toured north Florida cities with the legendary rock and roll group The Diamonds, and has performed on stage with multiple Grammy winners Dianne Schurr and Louise Mandrell.

In 1994, Bruce moved to Asheville and has been involved with many local organizations, including The Asheville Community Band, the Smoky Mountain Brass Band, the Blue Ridge Civic Orchestra, and the Land of the Sky Jubilee Summer Orchestra. Bruce works with several area schools as an ongoing percussion clinician and teaches privately as well. He plays percussion for the Asheville Lyric Opera, and plays broadway musical productions for many local theatre groups including Asheville Community Theatre and HART Theatre in Waynesville, N.C.

All information about the band came from the group's website.

"This is a good, family experience," Hays said. "Just bring your lounge chairs and blankets and be ready for a night of great music and entertainment."

The plan is to block off Third Street for the Block Party, Hays explained.

"We expect a good crowd," she added. "A really good crowd -- we not only get our local people, but people come from Corbin, London and Barbourville to attend this event."

She also said there are dance clubs in the area which attend the block party.

"People come from all over the surrounding communities," Hays said. "It really makes it a good time."

The third block party is scheduled for July 5, and that jam session will feature the Klassyc Tymes Band.

The final block party officially slated for the 2013 summer season is set for July 19 at Bill Woods Park, and it will feature the musical group the Familiar Faces Band.

All the Block Parties run from 8-11 p.m.


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