Strength of Strings debuts at new location

Strength of Strings will stay strong at a new location.

The all-acoustic music showcase, started by local musician / producer / engineer Pete Drivere at the original Cedars Lounge, will be part of the first month of shows at the new Cedars West End, 706 Steel St., Youngstown.

Drivere conceived the event in 2007 when he was sound technician at the old Cedars.

“I wanted to come up with a way to do an acoustic show that was fairly easy to throw together and that would actually bring out a crowd equal to a fairly popular local band night,” he said. “I concentrated on contacting not only straight-up acoustic performers, but also the main singer-songwriters in some of the bands who regularly played at Cedars. The format was to get 8 to 10 performers on the bill and give them each a 20-minute or a four-song slot limit and to put on a great acoustical evening.”

This year’s lineup will feature performances by Khaled Tabbara of The Zou, Angelo LaMarca of The Building, Tim Gilliland and Amy Young of the Guilty Pleasures (performing under the name The T&A Show), Chris Splain, Shiloh Hawkins of Blue Through Branches, Chris Rutushin of Radio Lark, Justin Hite of the Tullsen Brothers Band and Natasha Adessi.

Rutushin has many fond memories of booking and making flyers for Strength of Strings shows in the past.

“It’s great that Cedars West End is bringing back Strength of Strings,” Rutushin said. “I like Strength of Strings because it’s like a little buffet of artists. A lot of musicians are playing and it’s more of an acoustic format. It’s a more stripped-down platform. One person performing on stage with an acoustic guitar is powerful and all the focus is on what they are doing. It’s like you are hearing the artists play in your living room.”

Hawkins will be playing her first Strength of Strings show.

“I feel that Strength of Strings is a wonderful opportunity because it brings so many local, talented acoustic artists together,” Hawkins said. “I am honored to play this year’s Strength of Strings. I know that the area is filled with talent and I look forward to sharing the stage with so many of those musicians.”

Going acoustic is a departure for Gilliland, who played in Youngs-town’s acclaimed new-wave act, The 8-Balls, and also was a member of the glam / punk band Trauma Kamp while living in Los Angeles in the early ’90s.

“After hiding behind the volume of loud and proud rock bands for so long, this acoustic stuff is a major challenge and not one I am comfortable with,” he said. “I do love the raw intimacy of the songs, but at the same time, it’s like being naked in a grove of cactus, nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.”

Gilliland, who has played Strength of Strings in the past, will be joined Saturday by his Guilty Pleasures bandmate Amy Young, who also plays with the Cleveland Americana act Hayshaker Jones.

“What I recall about playing Strength of Strings is that I could hear people talking over me while I was playing some quiet, sensitive, love song,” Gilliland said. “I’ll be playing with Amy Young this time so we’ll be talking and laughing over each other.”

Hite, vocalist and banjo player with the Tullsen Brothers Band, is happy to be on the bill.

“I had a giant grin on my face for days when I got a text from Aspasia Lyras (Cedars West End event promoter) asking me to play,” he said. “I was just really glad that they thought of me. A lot of people in the scene feel like family to me and playing Strength of Strings is like getting to sit at the adult table at Thanksgiving.”

Hite has been busy writing his own material, which he said gets in the Tullsen Brothers Band’s repertoire of songs.

“I am looking forward to playing the songs as they were written, which is by me with just a banjo. I am also working on a couple of traditional songs which I haven’t played with the band, but which are favorites of mine. I’m currently arranging a version of the folk song ‘A Cold Frosty Morning,’ and I might pull out a Doc Watson song or two,” Hite said.

Drivere expects Strength of Strings to be a regular attraction at Cedars West End.

“I think it became a small tradition at Cedars Lounge. I think with Cedars West End, it will become a vital semi-regular event on the weekend nights,” he said. “The stage and sound at the new venue is outstanding and we are constantly tweaking it to get it even better.”