Rock the Bay
Annapolis Festival Sets Music to the Save the Bay Movement
by Rob Goszkowski
Shortly before Lou Reed quit Velvet Underground, he wrote the lyrics, “She started dancin’ to that fine-fine music. Ah, her life was saved by rock ’n’ roll.”
This week, a trio of Annapolitans is saving the Chesapeake with rock and roll.
Two local enterprises, Stan & Joe’s Saloon and Alan Lamb of Cornfed Productions, have collaborated to orchestrate what they’re optimistically calling the first annual Rock the Bay Festival on August 18. The music festival, themed to Bay education, promises all profits from ticket sales to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation for environmental education, restoration and advocacy.
“We’re just gonna jam it out and hope everyone shows,” says Stan & Joe’s co-owner Joe McGovern. “Tix are $20, which won’t break the bank, so hopefully everyone can hang out, have a beer, listen to some tunes and help the Bay.”
Headlining the Show
When Rock the Bay was just an idea, Lamb knew exactly who he would call to make the festival live up to its name. Headlining is Baltimore-based band J. Roddy Walston and The Business, which “sounds like what rock and roll should sound like,” said Lamb. “It’s not punk, it’s not emo. They just get up there and rock.”
Five more bands join The Business outside in the parking lot on upper West Street next to Stan & Joe’s, while six acoustic artists play inside the bar.
Rock the Bay is set to be a good time, with J. Roddy on board for their first-ever gig in Annapolis. The Business play with reckless abandon, banging out Little Richard-esque runs on the piano followed by dizzying guitar solos with singer Walston shouting out droll and catchy choruses. The band plays with the edge and style that made it danceable and dangerous decades ago. The Business is conspicuously unconcerned with becoming a member of the latest rock sub-genre.
“We’re really just about havin’ some fun and putting on the best show possible,” said singer, piano, and backup guitar player Walston. “It’s not a thinking man’s sort of thing. We’re a no-brainer type of band.”
To be sure, it’s got a great beat and you can dance to it.
Producing the Show
Behind the festival are two nascent local businesses. Alan Lamb of Cornfed productions is the primary organizer while Stan Fletcher and Joe McGovern of Stan & Joe’s Saloon play the facilitator.
“I approached them with this idea told ’em, Let’s have a big show in your parking lot,” recalls Lamb. “It will be a benefit. We’ll have a bunch of bands and get tons of people to come out to support a great cause and get to know us.
“They loved it and said, Go do it. We’ll support you.”
Next, they fleshed out the vision with a name.
“Save the Bay of course is a popular motto,” Lamb said. “I’ve seen Pave the Bay on bumper stickers, and I don’t necessarily agree with that, so we went with Rock the Bay, which is perfect because it encompasses the two main components of the festival.”
The result of weeks of schedule juggling and city permit applications is a two-stage, indoor-outdoor event. Foundation volunteers will speak about Bay issues and how people can pitch in between band performances. The brick-and-cinderblock lot housing the main stage recently got a facelift from Artwalk and now features six massive black-and-white images from Bay signature photographer Marion Warren.
New on the scene, all three promoters are tackling their first major event.
“This is the maiden voyage,” Lamb said.
Lamb, 25, worked in medical sales until soul searching pushed him onto a new career path. He started Cornfed Productions this year.
“I quit my job, sold my truck,” he says of the move. “It’s obviously not the biggest moneymaker in the world, but it’s fun and the company has tons of potential.
“The D.C.-Baltimore-Annapolis area is third behind New York and Los Angeles in terms of how many bands exist within a given area,” Lamb explains. “We’re just central to so many major cities like Richmond and Philadelphia that it’s a great place to be.”
The benefit for the Rock the Bay bands, which are playing for free, is in the exposure they’ll get playing in front of the 700 to 1,000 people that Lamb expects throughout the day.
Stan & Joe’s Saloon bought out Sean Donlon on February 1. Both owners have been bartending in Annapolis for close to two decades at places like McGarvey’s, The Ebb Tide and the old Eastport Clipper, now Rockfish. Fletcher has been a lifelong musician, and McGovern always handled the band bookings wherever he bartended. Music is a major part of their vision for their new saloon.
“We really want to be where the new music is coming from,” McGovern said. “We lean toward rock and roll, but we’ve had jazz, Irish. Sundays are going to be our blues night, and Monday nights we still host an open mike that’s featured everything from guitars to bagpipes.”
Both Lamb and McGovern see the festival as a way to put themselves on the musical map of Annapolis.
“For us, it’s an introduction into the community,” McGovern said. “We’re thrilled to be partnered with Cornfed on their first big venture. It’s a great beginning for us.”
Behind it, the players and promoters know, is a greater purpose. J. Roddy Walston’s bass player Steve Colmus just finished a three-year fellowship at the Chesapeake Bay Program.
For Stan & Joe’s, it’s another kind of beginning, as well. “It’s not just about slinging whiskey or cooking a great steak or a great fish,” McGovern said. “I can use my ownership to try to do something positive for the Bay and the local music scene.”
Playing the Show
There are five other bands to keep an ear out for, including A Classic Case, which features Fletcher, the handlebar mustachioed half of the Saloon’s ownership. McGovern does not play but admits to being a musician wanna-be. “My stage is behind the bar,” he says.
Frenchbread and the Chinamen, The Naturals and Plasmagora are three more local rock acts worth checking out. Also playing are Zack Ambrose, A Classic Case, DJ Dan, Mark Hudson, Kevin Lebling, Angie Miller, Lea and Fran Sederi.
”I’m fans of all that are playing here,” said McGovern. “The Naturals play here all the time and are just a great band.”
The pub will host the acoustic stage inside where listeners can escape the heat and meet the proprietors, who will be behind the bar when not playing or enjoying the music.
Playing 11-9pm Sat. August 18 @ Stan & Joe’s Saloon, 37 West St., Annapolis. $20: 410-263-1993.