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Friday night sings in IC with concert series

BY ERIC SUNDERMANN | JUNE 12, 2009 7:26 AM

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Last weekend, the Iowa Arts Festival filled the streets of downtown with dancing, people walking on stilts, and colorful paintings. Tonight, the Iowa City Summer of the Arts continues with a musical presence in the Friday Night Concert Series.

Established in 1991, the series is held every Friday night throughout the summer (excluding weekends of the Iowa Arts Festival and the Iowa City Jazz Festival). Lee Burress, a member of the series committee, credits the longevity of the event as one of the reasons it’s so successful.

“Once a program like this has been around for nearing 20 years, it’s an expected setting as a showcase for what is the vibrancy that is Iowa City,” he said. “It’s a great place for bands to both come and make it and share the stage with those that have made it.”

Each week a different band plays — the only requirement is it has some connection to Johnson County.

Tonight, local classic-rock band the Beaker Brothers will perform. The group features numerous veterans to the Iowa City music scene, including Steve Grismore, a UI jazz lecturer and cofounder/director of the annual Iowa City Jazz Festival. The show kicks off at 6:30 p.m. on the Weatherdance Fountain Stage outside the Sheraton Hotel in on the Pedestrian Mall and is free to the public.

The Iowa City Public Library sponsors tonight’s concert, in coordination with the fifth year anniversary of its new building, and library Director Susan Craig is excited about being a part of the event this year.

“The series plays an important role in the community because it is an opportunity, sort of like a library, where people of all diversity can gather,” she said. “I usually only go three to four times a year, but I enjoy myself each time I do. And it doesn’t even really matter to me what the music is, it’s the atmosphere — the people.”

Because of the limited number of Fridays compared with the number of bands that apply, the best Iowa City has to offer is on display, committee member Burress said. Local legends Euforquestra, New Beat Society, and Public Property will all take the stage.

“We have a very varied program and try to give a pretty decently accurate representation of the music that goes on and is going on in Iowa City,” Burress said. “You have young to old, amateur to professional. We go from jazz to folk to country to rock bands.”

The concert series is known for its inclusive atmosphere. Iowa City Summer of the Arts President Dirk Keller encourages residents to take advantage of and share in what the local artistic community has to offer.

“There is somebody from nearly every walk of life at the Friday Night Concert Series,” he said. “Everyone’s welcome. Nobody cares what your religion is or your political background. It just doesn’t matter on Friday night on the Ped Mall in the summer.”

The event is designed to be family-oriented, taking place next to playground equipment so children can play as their parents listen.

“You can go to a movie at the theater anytime and pay money, overpriced concession fare, and increasingly overpriced ticket costs,” Keller said. “This is all free: done for the community, done to enhance awareness and participation for the arts.”

The eclectic community of Iowa City shines on Friday nights on the Ped Mall. Rita Schmidt, in her first year as head of the concert series, has attended the event for years.

“It really brings the community together, gives it a small-town feel,” she said. “This is something people look forward to. They can’t wait till the first one in May, and they’re always sorry when it’s done at the end.”


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