The Bands Play On:
Outdoor Concerts Calvert Marine Museum
and St. Leonard Volunteer Firefighters
Meet me in the country for a day
We’ll be happy and we’ll dance
Oh we’re gonna dance our blues away.
By Margaret Tearman
The sounds of summer tree frogs, buzzing insects, lawn mowers in Southern Maryland include brooms sweeping across two wood stages as Calvert Marine Museum and St. Leonard’s Volunteer Fire Department gear up for the 2007 summer concerts.
Anticipation runs high as the two neighboring stages hope for sellouts to fill their coffers. Tickets went on sale earlier than usual, and signs announcing the concerts staked out the shoulders on both sides of county roads for weeks in advance of the first show.
The marine museum and volunteer firefighters are banking on a busy summer with classic rock, 1990s’ pop, contemporary country and Southern rock. Three of the four announced headliners The Doobie Brothers, Hootie & the Blowfish and Lynyrd Skynyrd take us back a few musical decades; only country songstress Sara Evans keeps it current.
St. Leonard’s Volunteer Fire Department chief Monty Parkes says their choice of older groups was a result of input they received from “community inquiries.”
The Doobie Brothers and Sara Evans are two of this summer’s acts at Calvert Marine Museum, where the Washington Gas Pavilion stage (above) sees its last year.
Down the road, Calvert Marine Museum prefers to mix it up.
“We have had a lot of success with our oldies acts in the past, traditionally selling 75 percent or more of our 5,000 seats,” says Vanessa Gill, development director. “But our contemporary country acts are quite popular in this community, selling out or coming pretty close every time.”
Last Hurrah for Calvert’s Old Stage
This summer will be sentimental for the Calvert Marine Museum and its music fans. This is the last year for the Washington Gas Pavilion stage.
“After nearly a year of searching for a stage sponsor, I was happy to be approached by the [owners of the] Tiki Bar,” says Gill. “They had expressed an interest in supporting another fundraiser we are undertaking, the renovation of Cove Point Lighthouse, and out of that meeting came their commitment to not only the lighthouse, but also the reconstruction of the stage.”
The new stage lets the museum pull from a larger bank of performers, enabling them to book acts requiring more performing space and advanced theatrics. Construction of the new stage is expected to begin later this year; the museum hopes it will be ready for an inaugural performance in 2008.
The marine museum is riding the tide of change. After 11 years of booking acts through Alexandria’s famed Birchmere, the museum has ended that relationship and has gone solo, booking concerts independently.
“We’d like to think by now we know how to do this,” says Gill.
The museum is first out of the concert gate, when 1970s’ classic rock group, the Doobie Brothers, take the stage on Sunday, June 24.
The Doobie Brothers are best known for their hit singles: Black Water, China Grove, Listen to the Music, Long Train Runnin’ and What a Fool Believes. They have sold over 20 million records worldwide, breaking into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2004.
On July 27, contemporary country music star Sara Evans gives her fans something to listen to and look at. Evans was named the Academy of Country Music’s 2006 Female Vocalist of the Year, and, in 2005, People magazine named Evans one of 50 Most Beautiful People in the World. Evans released her first album, Three Chords and the Truth, in 1997 but didn’t achieve a hit album until 2000. In 2005 she released Real Fine Place, which went to number one on the country music charts. Evans achieved some notoriety when she abruptly cancelled her appearance on the reality TV show Dancing with the Stars, after unflattering details of her divorce petition leaked out.
The marine museum has a third concert in the works for August, performer and date to be announced.
Singing for Schools
The music plays on up the road at the St. Leonard’s Volunteer Fire Department. Still working with the Birchmere, the volunteer firefighters have booked 1990s’ pop group Hootie and the Blowfish for a July 15 performance and country rock legend Lynyrd Skynyrd on August 24.
Hootie & the Blowfish hit stardom with their 1994 release Cracked Rear View Mirror. The album went platinum and became the best-selling album of 1995. It spawned some of the band’s biggest singles, Hold My Hand, Let her Cry, Only Wanna Be With You and Time.
In 2000, the band established The Hootie & The Blowfish Foundation to benefit children’s education. The band is asking fans to bring a school supply item with them to the concert; all donations will be delivered to Calvert County Public Schools.
In August, country rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd take over the St. Leonard stage. The band rose to critical and fan acclaim in the 1970s with Southern rock anthems Free Bird and Sweet Home Alabama. In October 1977, the band suffered tremendous loss when the plane carrying them between performances crashed, killing three of the members: Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines and Cassie Gaines. After a one-year hiatus, the band regrouped and continues to perform world-wide. They made the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005.
The concerts are the volunteer fire fighters’ main fundraiser for a new community center. Hoping to raise $3 million, Chief Parkes says, “We’re not even close. We’re still paying for the land.” The firehouse plans a sign illustrating their progress.
With concerts helping fundraising, the firehouse has been able to purchase new high tech firefighting equipment, including a thermal imager and a jaws of life. Calvert County covers operational costs and basic firefighting equipment, but the volunteer fire department has to find the money for the bells and whistles.
Calvert Marine Museum: 800-787-9454; www.calvertmarinemuseum.org/concerts
• Doobie Brothers, June 24: $35/45.
• Sara Evans, July 27: $40/$50.
St. Leonard Volunteer Fire Department: 800-551-SEAT; www.ticketmaster.com; firehouse box office on Saturdays only. 10am-noon.
• Hootie & The Blowfish, July 15, ticket price $30/35/45.
• Lynyrd Skynyrd, August 24, ticket price $50/$60.
Bay Weekly intern Tom Lyons contributed to this story.