While attending a national conference this past winter, Alyona Ushe came up with a great idea for the coming summer. Realizing that the 50th anniversary of Woodstock would take place in August, BlackRock Center for the Arts’ executive director wanted to bring the spirit of 1969’s legendary music festival to Germantown.
“BlackRock’s staff was ecstatic about the idea, and we have been shaping the festival ever since,” Ushe said. “A lot of love and peace is going into this festival by the entire BlackRock crew!”
“BlackRock Woodstock might be the biggest event we’ve ever done. Having this lineup of local artists together, each paying homage to different iconic performers of the 1960s, is a concept and a challenge that the artists are very excited about,” Ushe added.
The festival is set for 2 to 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 27, with five musical acts paying tribute to artists who played at the 1969 event. Seating will be on the center’s front lawn, and guests are welcome to bring blankets and low-back chairs. In addition to the music performed on BlackRock’s Outdoor Stage, the free admission event will offer face-painting, fun food and period craft vendors.
Danah Koch will start the music at 3 p.m., she will be the only soloist onstage “I’m not playing with a band for the show — it’ll just be me,” she said. The Stevensville, Maryland-based musician will sing and play guitar, “paying tribute to the music of Joan Baez,” the folksinger and anti-war protester that Koch ranks as “one of my favorites.”
Koch has been a full-time musician for a year, but has played guitar for eight years and classical piano for 15. Her typical catalog, “when I’m playing anywhere else,” she said, “ranges from 1940s American standards, to 1960s through 1990s rock to 2000s pop.”
The three musicians of the Northern Virginia-based Gingerfunk All-Stars — Kyle Priber, on bass, vocals; Jamie Ballard, drums, and Mike Wilber, guitar and vocals – will take the stage at 4 p.m. Mike Wilber, the only original band member, said that the band was formed in January 2010, but its current lineup has been playing together for about four years.
When band members heard about BlackRock’s event, Wilber said, “The idea sounded intriguing and challenging as a group to branch out of our typical set list,” which he said includes funk, reggae, Motown, soul, R&B, rock, blues and alternative. At BlackRock Woodstock, the band will play music by Jefferson Airplane, the San Francisco pioneer of psychedelic rock — as well as its 1974 regrouping in the form of Jefferson Starship.
Squaring the Circle will pay tribute to another groundbreaking San Francisco band at 5 p.m. Although Squaring the Circle’s usual fare is “original progressive rock/funk fusion, with an array of covers ranging from Soulive to Frank Zappa,” drummer Nathan Shulkin said, at the festival, they will play a set of the Grateful Dead’s eclectic mix of rock, folk, country, bluegrass, blues, gospel and psychedelic rock. All members of the 4-1/2-year-old Baltimore-based foursome sing and play instruments: Carl Dougherty, guitar; Dan Kutcher, bass; Tyler Facinoli, keyboard, and Shulkin, drums.
Next up on the stage, at 6:30 p.m., will be the Maryland band Conor & The Wild Hunt, with lead vocalist Conor Brendan playing acoustic guitar, with Lena Traynham and percussionist Chris Elvidge providing harmony. The band, which plays folk pop and Americana “with progressive and thematic colors,” said Brendan, will play a set mirroring vocal folk rock supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s Woodstock performance.
The final act of the event, beginning at 8 p.m., will be Baltimore’s PurpleFlo – a Jimi Hendrix tribute band consisting of guitarist Ron Mariano, bass player Charles Curtis and drummer Mike Delvison; all do vocals. They plan to reenact some of the guitarist, singer and songwriter’s performance with his band Gypsy Sun and Rainbows. “I loved Woodstock since I was about 12 years old, so it is an honor to play the Woodstock reunion,” Mariano said.
BlackRock Woodstock, Ushe said, promises to “be an electric finale to all the exciting free concerts this summer, which for many in the community, are their first introduction to BlackRock and all that we offer.”
BlackRock Woodstock will take place from 2 to 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 27 at BlackRock Center for the Arts, 12901 Town Commons Drive, Germantown. Admission is free. In the case of inclement weather, concerts will move inside to the BlackRock Mainstage. For information, call 301-528-2260 or visit www.blackrockcenter.org.