For festival's teenagers, a day to call their own

June 29, 2007|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,sun reporter

Columbia's peaceful lakefront has seen a lot of musical acts over the years, but not too many mosh pits.

So when a group of young men began enthusiastically throwing themselves into each other in front of a hard-rock band Tuesday night a few feet from the serene statue of James W. Rouse, it appeared the Columbia Association's Lakefront Festival had succeeded in broadening its appeal.

The festival offers more than 60 nights of free movies or musical performances each summer. This year, for the first time, Tuesdays will be dedicated to teenage solo musicians and bands.

The festival will run every evening through Aug. 20 and then Fridays and Saturdays through Sept. 15.

The new Tuesday focus "gives the teen bands and the teen solo performers an opportunity for exposure and to perform and to perfect their craft," said Carol Wasser, the Columbia Association's teen outreach program manager.

She said the association's teen committee organized one teen band night during the festival last summer and "we had a great crowd of teens in the audience. From that came the idea to try to do that on a consistent basis this summer."

The teen committee has been rounding up bands to perform with additional booking assistance from Music Box Promotions.

Wasser said she hears teens complain they have nothing to do, and she hopes the lakefront concerts will become a safe place for them to socialize.

"Local bands tend to bring a bigger audience," said Skye Lorren, one of the members of the teen committee who is helping organize the Tuesday performances. "A lot of people are friends with them."

Friendship drew Paige Belli, 14, of Ellicott City to her first lakefront concert Tuesday to see Ricky Nguyen perform. She said the idea of Teen Tuesdays is a good one.

"It's music that we listen to," she said.

She was sitting with Kelsey Anderson, 15, of Columbia, who also liked the idea.

"It's summer. Not a lot of kids are doing stuff," she said. "Tuesdays you can just come chill out here."

Skye, 15, of Ellicott City said she is excited about her scheduled Aug. 7 performance because it will be the first time she has played her original music in front of a crowd. Previously, she sang covers at talent contests and open-mic shows.

"I'm kind of nervous," she said. "I'm definitely hoping to get some advertisement and a good reaction, hopefully, so that people will continue to look for my music."

The six-piece, Glenelg-based band Victory by Revenge is eager to introduce its "happy hard core" sound and its new singer to the lakefront audience Tuesday.

Rick Butler, a singer and synthesizer player, said that after playing some local venues and then pausing to look for a new lead vocalist, "hopefully we're going to start back up, playing local shows like this. ... We think we have a much more mature sound now than we used to have."

Most of the musical acts will be local, but the organizers have filled in a few slots with younger bands that are touring through the area.

The five-piece band Chatam, which describes its sound as a hip-hop style over a classic rock feel, is from Albany, N.Y. It added a July 3 date at the lakefront festival to its East Coast tour after connecting with local band Drop Out Year through the MySpace networking Web site.

The concert started with acoustic guitarist/singer/songwriter Danny Hallis of Eldersburg.

"It's definitely a great experience to further my music career," he said before the show. "I'm hoping to play some covers that people are familiar with to draw the crowd in, then play some of my original pieces that they'll hopefully like."

Danny was followed by Ricky, 14, of Columbia, who performs acoustic indie music under the name the Autumn Scene.

Then the hard rock act Words in Red took the stage to open for the group Harloe. Both bands are from Jacksonville Beach, Fla., and were able to add the lakefront to their tour schedules.

"We're a little bit heavier than the last two people," Words in Red singer Brandon Wagner told the crowd. "If you older people don't like noise and screaming, we're sorry."

Then they cranked up the electric guitars and pounding drums that inspired the mosh pit.

Verna Parker, 76, of Columbia was likely one of those people Wagner was apologizing to, but she said she was game for all types of music.

A regular attendee of the lakefront concerts for many years, with her friends Pat and John Beam, she said, "We stick it out regardless. We're supporting the program. It's a good time to visit with people. I want to be out with people."

Pat Beam, 79, said her grandson is in a successful rock band and she enjoys the music. "The louder the better." she said.

Lakefront Summer Festival concerts start at 8 p.m., except Sundays, when they start at 6:30 p.m. Films are scheduled Monday and Friday evenings until September and then on Fridays and Saturdays through Sept. 15. They start at dusk. On Fridays in July and August, the movie is preceded by free dance lessons from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Admission and parking are free. Information: 877-713-9674. Enter Ext. 9010 for rain cancellations, Ext. 9030 for movies or Ext. 9020 for concerts. Online information: www.lakefrontfestival.com.

sandy.alexander@baltsun.com

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