River Rock diversifies in 2018 lineup

WARREN — Sunrise Entertainment may need to change the name to River Rock, Country and R&B at the Amp for the 2018 season.

The 12 shows planned from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend represent one of the more diverse lineups in the nine-year history of the series.

“We realized we can’t keep it the same and get stale,” said Sunrise Entertainment cofounder Marty Cohen. “We want to be proactive and keep it lively and changed so people don’t say it’s the same old, same old.”

The 2018 season will feature three dance / R&B acts (tribute acts for Michael Jackson and Earth, Wind & Fire as well as the dance band Disco Inferno), two modern country shows (the return of Ultimate Aldean and a Country Legends act that pays tribute to Garth Brooks, Keith Urban and Zac Brown) and two shows with country / rock crossover appeal (River Rock favorites 7 Bridges and Fins to the Left) along with tribute acts dedicated to classic rock acts like Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Pink Floyd, Journey and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers.

Sunrise cofounder Ken Haidaris, who also owns the Sunrise Inn, said, “It’s nice to do different genres … It brings new blood to downtown Warren. I know when we do a country show, people come in here to the restaurant who’ve never been here before, who’ve never been to the amp. Once they come down for a Saturday, they tend to come down a lot. It’s a way to introduce them to downtown.”

The promoters tried doing country shows on Friday night last year but decided to incorporate them into the regular lineup this year.

“Friday night shows just don’t seem to do as well,” Haidaris said. “I don’t know if people just aren’t in the habit. People have to get off work, it’s a little tougher to get there. But there’s definitely a niche for country.”

The Earth, Wind & Fire tribute Shining Star will be making its River Rock debut on June 23. River Rock and the Rockin’ on the River concert series in Lorain frequently partner on booking acts to split travel expenses, and Shining Star played Lorain last summer.

“(Promoter) Bob Early said they were incredible,” Haidaris said. “Their energy was off the charts, one of the best acts he’s ever had.”

The show was booked before the real Earth, Wind & Fire concert at the Covelli Centre in March was announced. It’s not the first time River Rock has featured an tribute act around the same time the real act played Youngstown or Warren, and Haidaris said the added attention only seems to help attendance at the amphitheater.

That theory will be tested when the Jimmy Buffet tribute act Fins to the Left performs July 7. Unlike past years, members of Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band won’t be able to join Fins at the amp because Buffett has a concert that night at KeyBank Pavilion in Burgettstown, Pa.

The Eagles tribute band 7 Bridges has played more River Rock concerts than any other band, and they will open the season May 27.

“We may call this the cabin fever opener because the weather’s been so bad,” Haidaris said. “It’s nice to start off with a big act.”

2018 River Rock at the Amp Schedule

May 26 – 7 Bridges (Eagles tribute) with Savannah Jack ($10)

June 9 – ZOSO (Led Zeppelin tribute) with The Fillbillys

June 16 – Country Legends (Keith Urban, Garth Brooks, Zac Brown Band tribute) with Chris Higbee

June 23 – Shining Star (Earth, Wind & Fire tribute) with Billy Beck’s Ohio Players

July 7 – Fins to the Left (Jimmy Buffett tribute) with My Drunk Uncle

July 14 – Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd tribute) and Morrison Hotel (The Doors tribute) ($10)

July 21 – Dirty Deeds (AC/DC tribute) and Strutter (KISS tribute)

July 28 – Absolute Journey (Journey tribute) and Harvest (Neil Young tribute)

Aug. 4 – Disco Inferno with Rudy & the Professionals

Aug. 18 – Ultimate Aldean (Jason Aldean tribute) and Northern Whiskey

Aug. 25 – King’s Highway (Tom Petty tribute) and Invincible (Pat Benatar tribute)

Sept. 1 – Who’s Bad (Michael Jackson tribute) and Back Traxx ($10)

All concerts happen at the Warren Community Amphitheatre, 321 Mahoning Ave. NW, Warren. Gates open at 5 p.m. and the music starts between 5 and 5:30 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults unless specified otherwise with children ages 12 admitted free with a paying adult.