May 30--With each passing summer, the attendance for the Friday night concerts at Coleman Hawkins Park gets visibly bigger. The Sounds of Summer concerts aren't just little shows at the gazebo anymore. They're the go-to way for Joetowners to kick back after the work week.
"It seems like as we progress in the years, more and more people discover how cool it is to hang out Downtown on a Friday night and listen to good music," says Becky Boerkircher, executive director of the St. Joseph Downtown Partnership, which organizes the Sounds of Summer concert series.
The 2014 Sounds of Summer series will start at 6 p.m.May 30 with a performance by veteran cover band Friends and Family, which plays a wide variety of classic rock, pop, R&B and blues tunes. With seasoned musicians Jack and Jeromie Frost, Jesse Barbosa, Tim Arnold and Charles Bradford, their concerts might be the only ones where you'll hear songs by Santana, Ray Charles, Maroon 5, Bob Seger and Michael Jackson in the same half-hour.
"They mix it up and have a little something for everyone," Boerkircher says.
The diverse five-piece always draws a good crowd of good people. Lead singer Jeromie Frost likens the Sounds of Summer concerts to a weekly block party to which the entire city is invited.
"One reason we like to play it is because of the awesome turnout it seems to have year after year," he said in a previous interview with St. Joe Live. "Each summer people become more aware of the concert series, and more people come piling in."
Those increasing attendance numbers are what keep Blue Oyster Culture Club coming back.
The '80s tribute band -- which lends its unique rock treatment to pop hits of the decade like Pat Benatar's "Love is a Battlefield," The Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star" and Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark" -- has performed at Civic Arena and several notable Kansas City venues, but everyone seems to come out of the woodwork for a free outdoors B.O.C.C. gig. The band has broken the Sounds of Summer single-show attendance record the last two years. It could very well happen again when Blue Oyster Culture Club plays the 2014 series finale on Aug. 1.
"It's been really well supported and just an awesome sight to look out on," says B.O.C.C. guitarist Todd Cooper. "A crowd of people like that is just not something you get to see every day."
Large crowds also are expected for festival favorites like the classic rock dance band Charlie & the Stingrays on July 25, roots and blues group The Motors on June 27 and talented musician Lin Buck on July 18. Often covering modern rock bands like Incubus, Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Foo Fighters, Full Frontal is a newcomer to the series, but Boerkircher thinks their tunes will go over very well.
"One I think is going to be a surprising band to a lot of people is Full Frontal, just because they don't have the name recognition of some of the other bands on the list. They do a lot of original music and music that's geared to a younger crowd, but they also play The Beatles! And they do a great selection of Beatles music," she explains. "I think that's going to be a real eye-opener for some folks."
The Sounds of Summer series also will incorporate the Ride for Ryan, Coleman Hawkins Jazz and St. Joe Pride festivals into its programming. Check St. Joe Live each week for more on these events.
The Truck Stop and Brewer's BBQ will be serving food at each Sounds of Summer event, and the Downtown Partnership will be serving cold beverages. Drink and food purchases allow the concert series to remain free for the public.
"Why cook? Go home, put on your shorts, come Downtown, have a bite to eat and a cold beverage, kick back and listen to some great music," Boerkircher says. "It doesn't get any better than that. It really doesn't."
Guests are encouraged to bring lawnchairs or blankets to sit on. For more information about the Sounds of Summer concert series, call the St. Joseph Downtown Partnership at 233-9192.
Shea Conner can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @stjoelivedotcom.
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