Valley acts get festival spotlight

Two Mahoning Valley favorites will be among the 30 acts performing this weekend at LaureLive.

JD Eicher will be the first act on one of the two main stages at 1 p.m. Saturday and The Vindys will perform on the South Stage at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

“It’s super important to us to shine a spotlight on northeast Ohio artists,” said Denny Young, president of the Elevation Group, which stages the festival. “We couldn’t have picked two better artists. They could have come from Indiana, Kentucky or Missouri, and we would have wanted them.”

Jackie Popovec, lead singer of The Vindys, said, “We’re so excited for this one. It’s the biggest festival we’ve done and where better to do it than Cleveland?”

In an outdoor setting with a tight 45-minute time frame, the band’s plan is to keep the pace fast and hit it hard.

“At a Vindys’ show, we can play whatever we want, we can be loose with the time,” she said. “With a 45-minute set, you have to have it down to a tee as far as the timing goes, how long we can do solos, even how long we can talk between songs. We’ve been rehearsing this week getting that timing down.”

Eicher also is trying to figure out the best way to take advantage of his half-hour showcase for festival concertgoers, many of whom will be seeing him for the first time.

“We kind of plan to do … what’s a euphemism for greatest hits for a band that doesn’t have any hits?” he joked. “We’ll play our stronger tunes that we know work well live.

“We’re adding an electric guitar player to fill out the sound for the bigger stage. I’m usually very comfortable in front of new audiences. I don’t change too much. I tend to be conversational between songs, give a little background about me and the band and the songs, find a little common ground with the audience.”

Being the first act of the day doesn’t worry Eicher as far as how many people may or may not be there at 1 p.m.

“One of my tried-and-true rules, whether you’re playing to a room with two people or 2,000, you play it the same way,” he said. “In a more personal setting, you may choose more intimate songs, but you have to deliver whatever you perform with the same amount of enthusiasm.”

While she’ll be on stage on Saturday, Popovec already is planning to return to LaureLive on Sunday as one of the concertgoers so she can catch second-day headliner Sheryl Crow.

“She’s my musical mother,” Popovec said. “I love her so much.”