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Concert Review
By Bob Silvestri
    The American flag draped stage, the red, white and blue buntings and the wagon wheels leaning against the stage on a closed down Mohawk Street signaled that the Sixth Annual Americanarama Festival was in full swing. The only thing missing from this hoedown were the hay bales, livestock and the unmistakable smell of the barn. Folks, it does not get any better than this! An abundance of great bands, great food, great weather and an overall great time for young and old alike made for a successful Festival held at Mohawk Place on June 22nd, 2002. The Festival actually ran for three days, but the highlight is the all day outdoor Saturday show.
     Leigh Stoner and The Smoking Jackets started the day at around 1:00 PM and played a thirty-minute set with inspired renderings of Neil Young’s “Powderfinger” and Donovan’s “Sunshine Superman”. Mike Meldrum and Friends entertained next with some Appalachian styled music. With Charlie Quill on banjo, Doug Moody on fiddle, Joelle Labert on vocals and Meldrum’s son Alexander playing tambourine, they played a stunningly beautiful version of the Jeff Miers’ song “If I Needed You” among others. 
      Mohawk Place regulars Angry Johnny and the Killbillies channeled their anger for a kick ass set of cow-punk. “Indian Motorcycle Song” brought forth chuckles from the crowd with its humorous lyrics. Buffalo’s version of a “super-group”, The Outlyers played quite possibly the best set of the day. Playing to the true spirit of American roots-rock they turned in a stunning version of their own tune “Playing Ball With Shoeless Joe” and classic songs like Tom Petty’s “American Girl” and Bruce Springsteen’s “No Surrender”. Jim Whitford’s Real Beat Band was next. Showing his incredible ability on the six string, Whitford was at his best. Bright spot of their set was the song “Dark Water”.
       As was the case last year, The Red Gills kicked the party up a notch with their “twangulatin’” American music. Lead singer Joelle Labert has a sweet as honey voice and it is simply incredible to hear her sing. Redheaded Stepchild brought their brand of “y’all” complete with sax accompaniment next to the stage. “East Jackson Blues” was the highlight of their set. Toronto band The Sadies brought their skinny ties and cool shades and played a reverb heavy set.  The song “Never Go Home” felicitated the biggest response from the crowd. The Irving Klaws rocked out as always. Shocking blue wig, leotards, voodoo skulls and a great version of “Ghost Riders In The Sky” punctuated their set. High point was when Charlie Quill and Eric Royer turned up for a dueling banjo workout as the Klaws kept pace with them.
      Our hosts for the day, The Steam Donkeys, played another fabulous set. “Air Biscuit”, “Jesus On The Ninety”, “Can’t Find A Place To Stay” and “Pot Head” all were crowd favorites. Highlight was a rousing version of Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl”. The Cowslingers, the pride of Cleveland, Ohio, played their driving sounds to end the night. Cuts like “Driving These Nails In My Coffin”, ”Work Privilege” and the sonic drone of “Heaven” worked the crowd into a frenzy. Even after eleven hours of music, alcohol and the hot sun, the crowd was still shaking their maracas as a female member of The Cowslingers entourage got on stage to demonstrate. Their set ended with Elvis’ “Burning Love” complete with Elvis shades on the singer. Charlie Quill joined the band for the encores which included Merle Haggard’s “Closing Time”, Chuck Berry’s “Round and Round” and AC/DC’s “Whole Lotta Rosie”. 
       In addition to the main outdoor stage of music, a side stage outside featured Eric Royer’s One Man Band. Too incredible to describe, this is one artist you have to see live. Inside The Hawk, Danny Lynn Wilson, John Weber and Karen Hudson among others entertained with an acoustic songwriters set. Providing band intro’s, humor, insight and comments on all things worldly throughout the day was our MC Mr. Cliff Hanger.
     Other diversions included The Miss Americanarama-mama 2002 Pageant. A bevy of beauties competed for this highly coveted award. The annual hot dog eating contest proved unintentionally hilarious as one of the contestants puked all over the stage and the plate of contest hot dogs. A Kodak moment if ever there was one! A mop and bucket brigade promptly cleaned the stage so that the music could continue.
     Food again was provided by a host of folks. Chef Marty Boratin made his now famous Portobello mushroom or eggplant sandwiches and many of his homemade specialty salads.  BBQ sandwiches and wraps were available as well. Yet more vendors had t-shirts and other wares for sale. Cold beer was readily available all day.
      Thanks to all who made this years Americanarama Festival a great time including our hosts The Steam Donkeys, Pete Perrone, Dave Staba, Marty Boratin and Joe and John from Indigo Sound. For more on upcoming Mohawk Place shows go to www.mohawkplace.com

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