River Rock plans dozen Amp dates

A Friday night show will join the Saturday night lineup for the River Rock at the Amp concert series.

The 2014 schedule, which will be announced at a press conference this morning, already was finished when River Rock promoters Ken Haidaris and Marty Cohen received a call from Shawn Lawless, lead singer of the Jimmy Buffett tribute band Fins to the Left. The band’s concerts around the Fourth of July traditionally were among the best-attended on the River Rock schedule, but the group disbanded after its 2012 appearance because of work commitments.

Lawless told them the band was interested in playing one show this summer, and after trying to juggle some existing dates, Haidaris and Cohen added a Friday, July 11 show to the schedule.

“They’ve been perennially such a favorite,” Haidaris said. “Everyone loves Buffett night.”

And Haidaris expects Fins to the Left will be joined by keyboard player Michael Utley and steel drums player Michael Greenidge, members of Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band.. They played with Fins at the Warren Community Amphitheatre in 2011 and 2012.

“Fins is great on their own, but that really takes it up a notch,” Haidaris said.

That Friday night show joins a lineup of 11 Saturday concerts between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

As always, Haidaris said putting together a season is a juggling act between bringing back bands with a proven track record and taking a chance on new acts.

Among the proven favorites are 7 Bridges, the Eagles tribute band that will open the season on May 31 and play a second date later in the summer; the Pink Floyd tribute act Wish You Were Here; and ZOSO, which plays the music of Led Zeppelin.

“People talk about every concert, but the band they mention nine times out of 10 is 7 Bridges,” Haidaris said. “They draw a lot of people, and when they keep talking about it, you keep doing it.”

The promoters are moving Wish You Were Here to earlier in the season – June 14 – in hopes of getting better weather for the band.

“It always seems to rain that night, which is a shame because they’re so good,” Haidaris said.

They’ll be joined on the schedule by several new acts. June 21 will feature a double bill of two newcomers, the Foreigner tribute Head Games and the Heart tribute Straight On. Runnin’ with the Pack is the first Bad Company tribute band booked for River Rock, Elevation is the first U2 tribute, and the Billy Joel/Elton John bands 52nd Street and Captain Fantastic are performing for the first time since Cohen and Haidaris took over the series in 2009.

“You’ve got to try to find that mix between rock and still kind of mainstream, where people know their music,” Haidaris said.

Seeing the crowds Elton John drew in February at the Covelli Centre and Billy Joel drew April 1 in Cleveland and with his monthly residency at Madison Square Garden encouraged the promoters to take a chance on that show, and Haidaris said he hopes the continued popularity of U2 will make Elevation a draw.

One thing not on the schedule this year is a national act. In recent years the promoters have supplemented the tribute acts with Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes (2013) and Michael Stanley and the Resonators (2012), who technically is a regional act these days but draws better than most national acts in northeast Ohio. Haidaris said they were outbid on the national act they tried to book this season.

“We try to be careful,” he said. “Our primary goal is to make it affordable and family friendly, so we didn’t bid more … It was nice to have those bigger acts, hopefully next year.”

Admission prices will stay at $7 for adults for all concerts except for Wish You Were Here and Fins to the Left, which will be $8. Admission is free for children ages 12 and younger.