by Bruce Strand, Arts editor
This being the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ historic Ed Sullivan Show appearance that changed pop music forever, the Elk River Park and Rec staff made sure to include some Fab Four music in the Riverfront Concert Series.
“Beatles music was big this year,” said Steve Benoit of Park and Rec, hearkening to other tributes including a three-hour CBS prime time event earlier this summer.
So it was that Hard Day’s Night wound up closing the 10-week run of the eighth summer of free Thursday night concerts, on Aug. 21. Unfortunately, the threat of rain forced the concert indoors at Elk River Arena, where crowds are usually small. However, for the Beatles music, a robust crowd of almost 900 turned out for the finale.
“That’s the most we’ve ever had indoors,” said Benoit.
The 2014 series also included the Fabulous Armadillos drawing the biggest draw ever at the the Riverfront stage. An estimated 2,500 people crammed the downtown park to hear the St. Cloud group’s classic 60’s to 80’s rock on July 31 in their first appearance here, breaking the record set last year by Elvis impersonator Chris Olson, who always packs them in.
“We had received a lot of requests for Fabulous Armadillos, and we did some research on them, too, so we knew they are a very good group,” said Benoit. “They can draw 5,000 at bigger venues.”
Five of the ten acts this year made their first appearance here. The others were Brooke Lynn (country), Pop Rocks (dance party rock), Six Appeal (a Cappella vocals) and Socaholix (Reggae/Caribbean).
(Hard Day’s Night was last here in 2009 but Rubber Soul has made two appearances to give locals their Beatles fix.)
Brooke Lynn (real name Brooke Maruska) is a 2014 Big Lake graduate and college freshman who co-writes her own songs and has released a CD. She was accompanied by the band “2 Mile Final.”
“It was special to have Brooke here, being a local girl, and how talented she is, and knowing how far she might go in country music,” said Benoit.
The staff enjoys trying to give people something new and did a lot of that this year as the five first-time acts were the most since the first couple years. Crowds also seemed to enjoy the new experiences of the Pop Rocks party vibe and the Soxaholix pulsating island rhythms.
There were two local acts this year, the other being Shane Martin, country rocker from Elk River, and his band, who drew a nice crowd as usual on July 17. Martin has been on the Riverfront card twice before.
Other always-popular draws who appear every other year were Rockin’ Hollywoods (classic rock), Church of Cash (the Man in Black tribute) and Arch Allies (Journey, Styx, REO tribute).
Michael Hecker of Park and Rec heads the staff that puts together the concert lineup. Hecker had previous experience in lining up entertainment in his previous post in Ohio.
“Success is measured in the interest the concerts receive, and in bringing a lot of different genre’s into Elk River. I think we had that,” said Hecker, noting that total attendance was close but not quite a record.
One resource the staff utilizes is an afternoon of auditions hosted by Minnesota Recreation and Parks Association (MRPA) for bands who’d like to be included. Tonya Love of the Elk River staff attended this year and made recommendations.
Thursday night weather was quite pleasant most evenings this summer, which helps draw bigger crowds. Only twice were they moved indoors; the other was for Six Appeal on June 19.
The Bank of Elk River has sponsored the Riverfront Concert Series all eight years.