CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The 15th season of Charleston’s free Friday concerts begins in two weeks on the Schoenbaum Stage of Haddad Riverfront Park. Today dozens of people involved with Moses Auto Group Live on the Levee gathered to announce the schedule for the 2018 series, which covers 15 weeks from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend and includes 29 different groups – including 20 first time performers, ten national touring acts and seven returning favorites.
“Live on the Levee began in 2004 with local bands playing on a temporary stage for ten Fridays in a wide open and often overheated concrete park,” Charleston Mayor Danny Jones recalled. “Now, thanks to the canopy in Haddad Park, the Schoenbaum Stage and growing commitment of our sponsors and organizers, the Moses Auto Group Live on the Levee is a 15-week showcase of talent on Charleston’s front porch along the river, a staple of summer in our city and a centerpiece of several special weekends.”
“Fifteen years ago we were looking for a way to use Haddad Park more often and create a free concert series to bring our community together,” said City Council President Tom Lane, who first proposed the concert series in 2003. “We started with the theme, ‘Good Fun for a Good Cause,’ and built on that promise every year with great music, great fun and strong support for our agencies that focus on homelessness in our city.”
“Thanks to 38 sponsors, led by Moses Auto Group, Live on the Levee has become a community celebration that is funded through the community for the enjoyment of people in Charleston and beyond,” said Jim Strawn who serves as primary emcee for the season and raises sponsorship money. “Clearly Live on the Levee has grown to where it adds great value to our community as a whole – and serious value to the businesses and organizations that sponsor it throughout the summer.”
“With one of our primary dealerships downtown, Moses Auto Group has a significant stake in Charleston, and we are proud to support such a great event that brings our community together every Friday during the summer months,” said Suzanne Moses Persinger. “As someone who likes a wide variety or music, I appreciate very much that this year’s lineup offers something for just about everyone.”
“Some returning favorites and lots of new faces make this year one of the most diverse and genre-spanning seasons yet,” said Adam Harris chair of the Live on the Levee Music Committee and executive producer of West Virginia Public Radio’s Mountain Stage. “Highlights include: Resurrection – A Journey Tribute, American Idol winner Trent Harmon, top-tier Louisiana group The New Orleans Suspects, beloved ska group The Cherry Poppin’ Daddies and an all-star tribute to West Virginia native and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Bill Withers, led by local bassist John Inghram, with special appearances from several West Virginia Music luminaries.”
The city continues to collaborate with various organizations in Charleston to present performances that will reflect several special events during the summer months that coincide with Friday evenings. This year organizations and/or events include: Special Olympics’ Summer Games, Capitol City Biker Bash, FestivALL Charleston, WTSQ – the Status Quo, Multi-Fest, and the annual Sportsfest.
The non-profit agency partners include the Roark Sullivan Lifeway Center, YWCA’s Sojourners Shelter, Covenant House, RCCR’s Samaritan Inn and Manna Meal.
CONCERT HIGHLIGHTS AND HEADLINERS
Some returning favorites and lots of new faces make this year one of the most diverse and genre-spanning seasons yet. Highlights include: Resurrection – A Journey Tribute, American Idol winner Trent Harmon, top-tier Louisiana group The New Orleans Suspects, beloved ska group The Cherry Poppin’ Daddies and an all-star tribute to West Virginia native and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Bill Withers, led by local bassist John Inghram, with special appearances from several West Virginia Music luminaries.
More national touring acts on this season’s line-up includes soul and R&B band Biscuit Miller & the Mix (August 3), roots-folk acoustic group The Steel Wheels (July 27), Philadelphia’s Ron Gallo (July 13), and blues singer and saxophonist Vanessa Collier (August 31).
This year’s schedule showcases seven favorite acts returning to the Schoenbaum Stage, including regional favorites Qiet, indie-Rockers Ona, classic rock and pop-hits from Mothers Nature, reggae by Beggars Clan, rhythmically charged dance music from The Voodoo Katz and the 60s/70s hits review of The Soul Doctors.
On August 24 Charleston will play host to Resurrection – A Journey Tribute. Performing the iconic, chart-topping hits like “More Than a Feeling”, “Wheel in the Sky,” and “Don’t Stop Believin’,” Resurrection is one of the most highly sought after tribute experiences in the country. The LC Band, Lincoln County’s premiere rock and roll band, is scheduled to open the night.
Mississippi native and country-soul sensation Trent Harmon landed in the mainstream spotlight as a contestant on the 15th season of American Idol, and he’ll grace the stage on August 17. Since winning the competition and releasing his debut single, “Falling,” co-written by Idol judge Keith Urban, Harmon has been crafting his debut record, “You’ve Got Em All,” set for release on May 18. The Hobb Sisters, who will open the evening, have moved from their home in Pittsburgh to Nashville to pursue their music careers.
On July 20 we are throwing it back to the late-90s and revisiting the ska and jump jazz resurgence with “Zoot Suit Riot” hit-makers Cherry Poppin Daddies. Reviving the big band sound with some swing and blues influences, they have released the 20th anniversary reissue of their landmark album “Zoot Suit Riot,” to include some live tracks and remastered versions of the original. Longtime Charleston favorites, The Voodoo Katz kick off the evening with their rhythmically charged dance tunes.
July 4th weekend is always a special celebration, and this year means an extra special anniversary on July 6 for a West Virginia native who would go on to become a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Musician John Inghram will produce and perform in a star-studded tribute to hit songwriter and singer Bill Withers in honor Withers’ 80th birthday. Bill Withers wrote and recorded some of the most timeless hit songs in popular music, including “Use Me”, “Ain’t No Sunshine”, “Lean On Me” and “Just The Two of Us.” Inghram will navigate the house-band through the many styles and sounds of Withers’ entire career, with special guest appearances from Levee alumni like Landau Eugene Murphy Jr., Christian Lopez, Bob Thompson, Larry Groce, Shayla Leftridge (Hybrid Soul Project), Casey Litz (The Company Stores) and many others.
The first weekend of FestivALL Charleston will kick off with a bang on June 15. First, we’ll welcome The Change, a group of ladies that have been gigging since before they were old enough to drive. They’ve played the Children’s stage at FestivALL and two years ago they wowed the audience at Smoke on the Water Chili Cook Off. They’ll be opening for The New Orleans Suspects, who bring an undeniably fun, gulf coast sound steeped in rock, funk and New Orleans Soul.
Week two of FestivALL welcomes back a favorite on June 22nd when Qiet returns to the Schoenbaum stage for a headlining set after opening last year for 10,000 Maniacs at one of our event’s largest crowds to date. They’ll be sharing the stage that night with the wonderfully slick guitar-blues of Short & Company. Short is a veteran guitarist who was in Sasha Colette & the Magnolias and Downtown King, before forming this trio and releasing “Lost In A Spin” in March.
Opening week will kick off in style as we welcome The Charles Walker Band. With the incredible vocals of Porsche Carmon, who also plays bass and percussion, and Walker leading the charge on keyboards and saxophone, this band have shared the stage with Earth Wind & Fire, the Commodores, BB King, Cameo, Aaron Neville, and Richard Marx. Huntington’s The Dividends, who have amassed a large local following in a very short time, will open the night and season.
Ron Gallo, who performed at this year’s Coachella Festival, will perform as guests of WTSQ-FM, as the low-power FM radio station celebrates its third anniversary this summer. After he plays massive music festivals like Bonnaroo, Hangout Festival, and completes a tour of Italy, he’ll be here in Charleston to take part in Live on the Levee, along with West Virginia indie-rockers, Ona. Since Ona first played Live on the Levee in 2016, they’ve released their debut album, been featured on Sirius XM Satellite Radio and appeared twice on West Virginia’s NPR show Mountain Stage.
Mothers Nature headlines the opening ceremony for the Special Olympics’ summer games on June 1, and the Capitol City Biker Bash will feature hard rock with Non Friction, and 5 Star Rebellion on June 8. on Friction are regulars at Roni’s, EZ Street in St. Albans, and the Mountain Pie Company, entertaining crowds playing everything from Nirvana to Queen to Joan Jett. 5 Star Rebellion, based out of Clay County, are regulars at several local establishments and released their new album “10 Feet Tall” in May.
Title: Moses Auto Group
Diamond: WCHS-TV8, and West Virginia Radio Corporation;
Platinum: Mardi Gras Casino & Resort, Brewer & Company, Four Points by Sheraton, and Jim Strawn & Company;
Gold: Aetna Health Care, Amherst Madison, Charleston Convention & Visitors Bureau, Fast Signs, Sears Monument, Terradon Corporation, Walker Machinery, Redeemer Lutheran Church, Spriggs Distributing, Mountain State Beverage, CASCI, HealthSmart, Capitol Beverage, WV 811, and WTSQ;
Contributing Sponsors: Bowles Rice, C.B. Hall Insurance Agency, Express Employment, The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield West Virginia, United Talent, University of Charleston, Pickering Associates, ServPro, Recovery Bar and Grille, Budget Towing, Bell Law Firm, CAMC, C&H Taxi, CHS Class of ’68 and FOOTMAD.