The Professor’s “Live Reviews” – July 2024

The outdoor live music season reaches its full stride this month, with various festivals, concerts, benefits and other outdoor shows populating the schedule throughout the region. Get out and enjoy them while you can!

Roundhouse Harley-Davidson in Duncansville is again hosting the PA Roundhouse Rally events each month from May through Labor Day weekend. Their three-day Memorial Day weekend rally opened on Thursday with “Bike Night” and live music from The Pines. Singer Daman Mills, guitarist Logan Warner, bassist and keyboardist Alex Snyder and drummer Ben Brumbaugh mixed it up with a wide variety of rock’n’roll favorites – everything from 60s hits from the Beatles and Doors to 70s gems from Foghat, Billy Joel and Wild Cherry; 80s favorites from Poison and The Romantics to 90s tunes from Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Weezer, Red Hot Chili Peppers, their original songs “That’s All Right,” “Shoot to Kill” and more…The Friday leg of the Roundhouse continued the live music with two bands; Altoona’s Ages brought the classic rock, as singer Mike Castine, guitarist Tyler Bryan, and the father-and-son rhythm tandem of drummer Jerry Naugle and bassist Jacob Naugle sounded strong on numbers from Jimi Hendrix, Cream, the Doors, ZZ Top, Marshall Tucker Band, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and more. Hair Force One then capped the night with their celebration of 80s hair band rock. This group has a new bass player since the last time I saw them, with Finn Gürer taking over the four strings, joining singer Victor Synn, guitarists Michael J. Cox and Milo Nuttz, and drummer Shawn Toppuver. Hair Force instantly packed the floor in front of the stage with fans as they did favorites from Poison, Motley Crue, Cinderella, Guns N’Roses, Bon Jovi, Scorpions, Ratt, Quiet Riot and more. They kept the crowd riding at a feverish high through their two sets, and answered demands for an encore with Motley Crue’s “Girls Girls Girls” to close the night…Three bands then performed on Saturday, with teen rockers Open Ends opening the action; singer and guitarist Tyler Bollman, new bass player Noah Martin and drummer Gino Passanita delivered their powerful set with poise and confidence, firing off a variety of rocking favorites from Green Day, Ramones, John Mellencamp, Elvis Presley, The Kinks, Sponge, Seven Mary Three, Alice In Chains, the Offspring, and several of their own original songs as well. Avenue Of Kings then rocked a “captive” audience as arriving thunderstorms drove folks inside the stage structure; singer Matt Stoyanoff, lead guitarist Chris Silva, rhythm guitarist Joe Lybarger, bassist Beau Cabassa and drummer Randy Wilson delivered plentiful and powerful 80s-era rock from Judas Priest, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Guns N’Roses, Poison, Whitesnake, Megadeth, Firehouse and more. Onlookers experienced a pleasant surprise before the final band of the Rally, as a quick wedding happened on the stage; with Land Of Ozz frontman and “Ozzy” Stephen J. Desko (who is ordained) presiding, Roundhouse Rally team member Brent and wife Manndi were united in matrimony before of a festive crowd. Philadelphia’s Land Of Ozz then provided the “reception” with the music of Ozzy Osbourne. Stephen in the “Ozzy” role; the father-and-sons tandem of dad Mike Stanley on rhythm guitar, Nate Stanley on drums and “Randy Rhoads” Matt Stanley on lead guitar; plus Mike Vivial on keys and former Krank bassist Frank Mercer brought all the Ozzy favorites and craziness, including favorites like “Over the Mountain,” “I Don’t Know,” “Perry Mason,” “No More Tears,” “Mama I’m Coming Home,” “Mr. Crowley,” “Flying High Again” and – of course – “Crazy Train.” They also broke out some deeper Ozzy tracks such as “Revelation Mother Earth/Steal Away the Night,” “S.A.T.O.” and “Believer,” and some Ozzy-era Black Sabbath favorites such as “Children of the Grave” and “Paranoid.” Land Of Ozz kept the energy level high, with “Ozzy” parading the stage, and Matt providing precision guitar fireworks early and often…The next PA Roundhouse Rally happens July 25-27.   

Polka fun time again took over Johnstown’s People’s Natural Gas (PNG) Park in early June for the 26th annual 1st Summit Johnstown PolkaFest. I took in a good portion of the middle day, Saturday, and saw several performers. Local polka favorites Rosie & the Jammers – who formed for the very first PolkaFest in 1997 – were under way as I arrived. Namesake, accordionist and keyboardist Rosie Sida, singer and keyboardist Jim Mosey, accordionist and singer Eric Furfari, and sax players Brian Regala and Brian Anater played plentiful polkas plus several pop, rock’n’roll and country standards. They triggered enthusiastic polka dancing on the floor, and it was great to hear Jim’s high-ranging singing voice once again. Following them, Cleveland’s Don Wojtila Band and Lenny Gomulka and Chicago Push alternated two sets each back and forth on the main stage. Eight members strong including namesake Don on accordion plus the Wojtila Brothers Joe, Michael and Dan, the Don Wojtila Band mixed up various polkas, waltzes, and their own arrangements on popular hits during their sets; keeping the dance floor busy as they went. Some of their highlights included their popular “Beer Drinking Song,” the rowdy “Ee-I-Ee-I-Oh” polka, their versions of John Denver’s “Take Me Home Country Roads,” Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” and more. A member of the International Polka Hall Of Fame, Lenny Gomulka has played polka music for more than 50 years, and developed the “push” style of polka music through his group. Lenny and Chicago Push delivered spirited and feisty sets, with many uptempo polka numbers such as the “Kiss Me I’m Polish Polka,” “The Fisherman’s Polka,” “Brothers and Sisters Polka,” “Witchdoctor Polka,” “Holiday in Poland Polka” and many more.

Many locales celebrate their people with special community-themed events through the summer season. The Nanty Glo Fire Department hosted their three-day Nanty Glo Community Days event early last month. I attended the Saturday leg of the event, with Johnstown rockers Octane providing the high-octane music. From the get-go, Octane – singer Mike Prebehalla, guitarists Kenny Murdick and Ian Kordish-Murdick (with a cameo appearance by Joe Lybarger), bassist Dave Bambino and drummer Chris Jimerson – had folks up and dancing to a variety of rocking favorites spanning the 1970s to present. Octane had something for nearly everyone, playing modern rock favorites from Killers, Fall Out Boy and Good Charlotte to metal classics from Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne and Motley Crue, plus hits from Journey, REO Speedwagon, Def Leppard, Rolling Stones and much more. Mike demonstrated a powerful, high-ranging voice that handled all of Octane’s setlist, while Kenny showed his guitar finesse early and often, and Dave and Chris provided the high-powered rhythm section behind it all. When the packed dance floor demanded the encore at night’s end, Octane responded with the heavy artillery – ending the night with the double-shot of Pantera’s “Cowboys From Hell” (by request) and Drowning Pool’s “Bodies.” 

When “The Reigning Queen of Beale Street” Barbara Blue kicked off the “Music in the Burg” concert series last month at Hollidaysburg’s Canal Basin Park, it became an evening blues-based doubleheader with Felix & the Hurricanes. A Pittsburgh native and career blues singer who earned her nickname from performing five nights a week for nearly 25 years at Silky O’Sullivan’s on Memphis’ Beale Street, Barbara Blue and her band – including three-piece horn section – electrified the audience with spirited and spunky blues and soul sounds. She immediately set the tone with her bold opener and statement of purpose “My Heart Belongs to the Blues,” before celebrating Memphis with “Meet Me in Memphis.” She did a number of songs off her latest CD, “From the Shoals” (see the CD review elsewhere in this issue) – including “The Shoals,” “Nutthouse Blues,” “Curse of Beauty,” the funky “Nothing Lasts Forever” and her feisty rendition of Etta James’ “Tell Mama.” Celebrating her birthday, Barbara delivered her big and soulful voice, and eagerly shared her joy and a few stories with the audience between songs. And a big highlight was when Felix Kos and drummer Bob Watters of the Hurricanes joined Barbara onstage for several songs; it was exciting to witness Felix and Barbara’s guitar ace, Davor “Hutch” Hăcić, blending their guitar talents on the Allman Brothers triple-shot of “Jessica,” “Whipping Post” and “Ramblin’ Man.” 

After Barbara Blue’s concert finished, the party relocated to Altoona’s Black & Gold Tavern, as Felix & the Hurricanes closed out their Sunday night residency at this venue with an unforgettable blues-rocking wallop! Felix, Bob, Randy Rutherford on bass and Dave Villani on keys started off with their blend of classic, southern and blues rock favorites – including numbers from Molly Hatchet, ZZ Top, the Doors, Marshall Tucker Band, Steely Dan, Lynyrd Skynyrd and more. Then special guests arrived – Barbara Blue, plus her guitarist “Hutch” and drummer Joe Cunningham. After a special blue-icing birthday cake for Barbara was shared out among audience members during intermission, the musical fun escalated as all three guests joined the Hurricanes onstage. After the instrumentalists joined in for songs from Delbert McClinton, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton, Barbara sang lead on several songs, including the Allman Brothers’ “Midnight Rider,” Carole King’s “It’s Too Late,” a duet version of Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” with Dave and more. Again, Felix and “Hutch” blended their guitar talents for exciting displays on songs such as Gary Moore’s “Still Got the Blues,” Molly Hatchet’s “Flirtin’ with Disaster,” Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Gimme Three Steps” and Pat Travers’ “Snortin’ Whiskey.” When the ecstatic crowd called for the encore, Felix, “Hutch” and the Hurricanes ended the festivities with Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker” and The Outlaws’ “Green Grass and High Tides.” 

Last month’s outdoor SummerFest at Levity Brewing Co.’s downtown Altoona location enabled me to see a brand new area band – RighteousNow – as they played their first full-band show. This group features six skilled musicians; including the sibling singing tandem of Natalie and Andrae Holsey, acoustic guitarist and singer Matt Sheedy, bassist Kevin Neely, guitarist Matt Markham and drummer Erich Walls. Together, they kept the mood festive and fun with their fresh-sounding mix of acoustic-driven rock and soul favorites. Natalie, Andrae and Matt all displayed smooth and soulful voices as RighteousNow introduced fresh-sounding arrangements on such numbers as Grover Washington, Jr.’s “Just the Two of Us,” Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” the mash-up of Dispatch’s “Out Loud” with Bob Marley’s “Stir It Up” and “Get Up, Stand Up,” plus songs from The Animals, Chris Stapleton, Johnny Cash, Roberta Flack, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dolly Parton and more. 

Formerly known as Challenger Deep, The Dang Band – now based in Pittsburgh – made their maiden Altoona visit last month during the inaugural Wingfest Express event at Altoona’s Railroaders Memorial Museum. As hungry chicken wing enthusiasts sampled and voted for their favorite wings from eight different competing eateries, The Dang Band – singer Hay Hal, acoustic guitarist and singer Brian Lasinski and acoustic guitarist Maxwell Knott (drummer Lisle Weaver was not available this day) – performed a blend of acoustic favorites. Since I was doing live radio duties at this event, I only got to catch a few of The Dang Band’s songs; their versions of Blues Traveler’s “Hook,” the Rolling Stones’ “Dead Flowers” and James’ “Laid” all sounded good.

It had been many moons since Emily’s Toybox had last played on an Altoona stage, but that drought ended in late May when the group brought their brand of rocking decadence to Altoona’s Concordia Society. Group founding member Mike Wise still lead the way on lead vocals, flanked by guitarist Brandon Reese, bassist Rick Lienhard (formerly of Clove) and drummer Muff. It couldn’t have been more appropriate that the song Emily’s Toybox was playing as I entered the Concordia was their ever-popular “Bionic,” with the large dance floor crowd shouting back the call about a body part smelling like Chapstick. True to form, Emily’s Toybox mixed some of their original songs with their uniquely fractured takes on popular songs, generating dancing and laughter along the way. Mike offered an R-rated take on Bon Jovi’s “Living on A Prayer,” plus funny lyrical variations to Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music,” Walk The Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance” and more. Brandon sang lead on Tom Petty’s “American Girl” and The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside,” and the group rocked the floor with songs from Def Leppard, Puddle Of Mudd, Buck Cherry, Disturbed, and their rowdy original “Back of the Bus” to end their last set. When the crowd yelled for an encore, Emily’s Toybox answered with versions of Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and Drowning Pool’s Bodies.” Still a rowdy good time – Emily’s Toybox returns to the Concordia in November.

Live music started recently at the Westwood Bar & Grill in Johnstown, and I visited there last month to catch my blues fix courtesy of the Stone Bridge Blues Band. Singer and bassist Brian Moore, lead guitarist and singer Mike Borstnar, guitarist Jake Moore, harmonica player Rick Rhodes and drummer John Mundy played classic electric blues favorites from such names as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Dixon, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert Collins, Delbert McClinton, the Allman Brothers and others. During their nightcap set, the group welcomed a number of guests up to do some classic rock favorites from Bad Company and AC/DC, and guest Dave Distefano sang and played guitar on a fiery version of Bill Withers’ “Use Me.” The group finished out with a fiery version of B.B. King’s classic “The Thrill Is Gone,” with Mike and Rick trading licks on guitar and harmonica. The Stone Bridge Blues Band was scheduled to open for Williamsport bluesman Gabe Stillman in late June at People’s Natural Gas Field in Johnstown; look for the review of that show in next month’s column. 

Hate Grenade headlined a four-band metal music triple-bill at McGarvey’s early last month. I missed openers SamarA, who took over the opening slot late after scheduled openers End Bringer had to bow out. I arrived as Theriaca was performing; based in the Ohio Valley just west of Pittsburgh, this group – singer and guitarist Kyle Batenburg, guitarists Brennan Davies and Nate Kepner, bassist Cory Wiley and drummer Bryce Barrett – introduced a melody-geared brand of nu- and power-metal as they did songs from their album “A Different Shade of Grey.” Theriaca’s songs demonstrated firepower, melody and some progressive elements, and their execution was tight and powerful. Next was Columbus, Ohio-based foursome FiveByFive, who delivered incendiary rap-laced metal. FiveByFive provided constant grooves, movement and explosiveness throughout their set of original songs, and closed out the set with a version of Limp Bizkit’s “Break Stuff.” Eleven years and one day after their debut show on this very stage, Hate Grenade celebrated the occasion with their volatile set of nu-metal and rap-metal. Singer Jeff Glace, guitarist Chuck Lavera, bassist Donny Death and drummer Mike Powers did many of the songs from their latest album “iSociety” – including the title song, “Hollywood,” “Bind,” “My Hell,” “R/X,” “Ghosts” and “Chaos.” Hate Grenade also pulled out “Left Behind” from their debut EP, “One of a Kind” off their “Pull the Pin” album and the title track from “The King Is Dead.” Hate Grenade is at work on new songs toward their next album, and they will be rejoining national recording group (hed)PE at Blue Fox Billiards in Winchester, Virginia on August 31. 

For the Giants Of Science, the show must go on…Faced with no available drummer for one of their shows last month at the 4D’s Lounge, the group “rewired” things this night so the show could go on. Frontman and guitarist Mick took over behind the drum kit – a left-handed kit at that – while Mike Fox of area country-rockers K4 Kountry handled lead guitar and vocals in the early going. Midway through the night, though, stability returned to the Giants Of Science continuum, as Eric Wertz – who handled drumming the night before and whose kit was on the stage – showed up after an earlier gig he was involved with to provide the drum beats for the rest of the night. Through it all, the Giants didn’t miss a beat, keeping the Dees’ dance floor packed with their upbeat mixture of 80s-era pop and rock classics and other fun songs. Whatever it takes, the Giants Of Science brought the party – watch for their numerous area appearances throughout this month!  

I caught a few songs from Silver Linings’ outdoor performance last month during the Grand Opening Weekend of 814 Distillery at Oak Spring Winery’s Altoona location. Both playing acoustic guitars and singing, Rick Wertz and Michelle Barnes sounded pleasant and crisp on their renditions of Jackson Browne’s “Doctor My Eyes,” Linda Ronstadt’s “Blue Bayou,” K.T. Tunstall’s “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” and more. The folks gathered enjoyed the pair’s blend of voices, harmonies and musicianship; and apparently a reptilian was enjoying the show as well, as a 3-4 foot-long black snake slithered from a shadowy corner over the lot and past the stage before disappearing into its adjacent woodland home just seconds after the performance concluded!

Other performances I enjoyed in recent weeks included 90s Rising – the one-night merger of Autumn Rising and Without Zerb – as they partied down a lively audience at McGarvey’s last month…The PennSoulvanians as they brought their funky brand of musical joy to the 4D’s Lounge on Memorial Day weekend…Zac Grace and Eric Wertz as they provided the pregame concert early last month before the Altoona Curve-Portland Sea Dogs baseball game at People’s Natural Gas Field…and I again got to watch and play percussion with Wasted Talent during one of their weekly Thursday night jams at the Roaring Spring VFW.

News and notes…Returning this month after two years away will be the Route 22 Rock & Blues Festival, happening July 12-13 at Lincoln Caverns Campground hear Huntingdon; performing will be The PennSoulvanians, Hot Fudge Mondaes, Kevo Can’t Dance, Alice In Chains tribute Deny Your Maker, Strait & Miller, Mysterytrain, On The Brink, Abstentious, Juju Bone, Black Sun, The Zuds, Walkney and Maul…The Jeremy Edge Project, Screamin’ Egrets, Jack Squat, Xorillion, 7th Virtue, Jack Squat, Ganister and Donimo will perform at this year’s “We Care Music Fest,” happening July 20 at Shawnee Park in Roaring Spring with proceeds benefiting the We Care Foundation of Central PA…The 11th annual “Wam Bam Mountain Jam” takes place on July 6 at 1547 East Mountain Road near Port Matilda; performing will be Liv and the Juveniles, The Narrows, Luke & Steve & Paul, JCKT UP, The Roof, Cajons & Cajones, Homegrown, Daystruck, Forester Grey, Donny Burns & the 3rd Degree, Goatsmoker, the Sorters, Dickie & the Boys, and Sidewinder – Admission is free…Wam Bam will be the final appearance for the time being for The Roof, who announced that they are taking a hiatus and separating to pursue individual projects…Van Wagner recently began recording an album with State College blues rocker Kevin Briggs; the two musicians have been recording original songs at Steve Treado’s Hedgerow Recording Studio near State College. The album will be called “Briggs and Wagner: 12 Horsepower”…Good luck to area musician and broadcaster Don Bedell, who is departing the area this month to continue his broadcasting career in Maine; besides his work in commercial and public radio, Don has sung and played guitar in such area band projects as Your Dad’s Friends, The Centrefugues and others, and he has also been part of The Screaming Ducks’ 40th anniversary tour…Currently the bass player for Huntingdon group Reboot, musician Brian Smith announced that he will be stepping away from the group after their remaining schedule of shows this summer and retiring from music, cited his family and job as reasons for the decision…And sad news from the Johnstown music scene in late June with the unexpected passing of Sam Paonessa, the owner and operator of popular live music venue Slammin Sam’s in Johnstown. Sam is survived by his wife and daughters.

Please send correspondence and recordings to: Jim Price, 1104 S. Catherine St., Altoona, PA  16602. You can also e-mail me at And if you’re into social networking, look me up on Facebook. SUPPORT LOCAL MUSIC!