MAIN STAGE ENTERTAINERS BIOS FROM PAST FESTIVALS



The Spongetones
What can one say about the Spongetones?  Quite a lot, actually.  More than I could possibly ruminate on in the allotted space of a measly one-sheet.  Pop Gods?  Certainly.  Merseybeat masters?  Once upon a time. A fun-loving bunch of good 'ol Southern boys who sound nothing like .38 Special?  You bet your life, Groucho.

I could mention that the 'Tones have been in-crowd with pure pop fanatics ever since the early '80s, when their fab one-two punch of Beat Music and Torn Apart neatly updated the sound and style of the early Beatles without resorting to geeky mimicry.

I could go on about subsequent records, like the cooler-than-cool Where-Ever-Land, whose leadoff tune, the crazy "Forget About May," somehow managed to combine folk, punk and Merseybeat cohesively.  Or maybe their cheekily titled, mid-'90s opus, Textural Drone Thing (which certainly was textured, but minus any measurable drone), which brought some stylistic expansion and echoes of the Zombies to the Spongetones' merry pop party.  Oh yeah, can't forget 1991's Oh Yeah, which saw a slight return to the Beatley days of yore while gently shoving the 'Tones' sound into the here and then.

I could blab about how these four ace musicians---Jamie Hoover, Steve Stoeckel, Pat Walters and Rob Thorne---used to inspire young girls to want to purchase bottles of their perspiration during the band's early days (I don't make this stuff up, folks). Oh, and the four aces write, sing and play pretty damned good, too.

Finally, I could tell you about the boys' new one that you're about to spin, called Odd Fellows.  It rocks.  It pops. It's where old meets new. Where melody and harmony collide, but no one gets hurt.  Where the Spongetones offer you, dear listener, some of the finest songs they've ever tracked. Where four Liverpool-lovin' dudes from the South finally realize a dream and record a song by Sir Paul McCartney himself ("On the Wings of A Nightingale").

Anyway, give Odd Fellows a listen or eight and see if it doesn't grab you like many of your favorite records do.  Me, I'm still listening fervently while trying to imagine what in the name of Ringo anyone would do with Spongetone Sweat.

-John M. Borack
Goldmine Magazine

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The Explorers Club

Ask The Explorers Club founder Jason Brewer about his hopes for the band’s sophomore album, Grand Hotel, and he’ll tell you straight up: “We really want this record to make a lot of people smile, to inject some positivity into the world. Let’s stop making things so serious and introspective, and get away on a musical vacation so we can bring a little bit of joy to people.” <<Read More>>

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Sonny Skyyz & The Rainmakers

Sonny Skyyz & The Rainmakers were formed in June of 2011 and has quickly become one of the hottest & most versatile bands in the southeast. The band delivers an uptown "Old School" R&B sound, hard hitting, down home Blues and a wide range of Rock & Roll, Funk & Pop. They are also capable of throwing in some Country if requested.
Members:

SONNY SKYYZ - influence by the soulful and powerful basslines that defined 60's & 70's soul & funk and honed his skills with friend & guitarist Joe Stark. Played extensively in the Sacramento & the Bay Area from San Francisco to San Jose. In San Diego, CA. he was recruited by the legendary blues band "The JukeStompers" as the bassist/frontman/lead vocalist. Relocating to Charlotte, NC, Sonny has continued to work as a bassist/vocalist with some of the best musicians in town. Sonny has played with, or opened up shows for the following: Hubert Sumlin, Blues Pianist Omar Sharriff, B.B. King, Joe Louis Walker, A.J. Croce, Bobby Parker, Sonny Rhodes, Robin Henkle, Johnnie Johnson, Bobby Bland, The Bel-Airs, Elvin Bishop, Tom Cat Courtney, William Clarke, Rick Estrin, Ann Rabson, Johnny Heartsman, Jr. Walker, Candye Kane, Jimmy Smith, Steve Foster, Louisiana Red, Buddy Guy, Frankie Lee, Coco Montoya, Johnny Dyer, The Paladins & Savoy Brown

JEFF HAWTHORNE - started playing drums at age 11 and started playing in professional bands by the time he was 14. Jeff has played in various genres including Rock, Blues, Top 40, Show, Country, Contemporary Christian and original bands. He has traveled on the road from Virginia, Colorado, Florida, New York and everywhere in between. Musically, Jeff was influenced by the likes of The Allman Brothers, Jeff Beck, Little Feat & Vince Gill just to name a few. Jeff's "clock-like" timing and strong drum play lays the goove-based foundation that is key to The Rainmaker Sound,

ROYCE "MARTY COFIELD - born in Suffolk,Virginia the son of Royce and Nicki Cofield. His father, a well known fiddle player, bought him his first guitar at the age of 6. By the age of ten, Marty was singing and playing in the family band. As he grew older, he started listening to different types of music, picked up an electric guitar, and began a love affair with the Blues that continues to this day. Marty's considered one of the best guitar players in the region by his peers. His vocals & genre versatility completes The Rainmakers sound.

GRUB - from Dallas,NC Grub is the most recognized, versatile and complete keyboard player in the Southeast. Grub has played, recorded with some of the best players and musical acts in Charlotte and the surrounding area including The Part Time Blues Band. His contributions to The Rainmakers are invaluable.

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Americamanta
The Oldest musical tradition of Latin America are those interpreted by the Indigenous population extended throughout the modern nations currently known as Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and to some extent Colombia.

When the Spanish arrived at the beginning of the 16th century, they found a population ruled by the Inca Empire, on of the most important civilizations of the Americas.

This whole process has continued for hundreds of years maintaining its musical expressions up to the pleasant sounds heard in modern presentations, in which the Indigenous people express themselves in the manner of Latin Jazz accompanied by an insinuating Andean Flavor.  Several musical styles reflect the clarity, profundity and hint of sadness mixed with the happiness found in the Andean Highlands of Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, performed at different traditional festivals and seasonal occasions.

Americamanta is an indigenous musical group from Otavalo-Ecuador.  The group has been performing together for the past 15 years in South America, Europe and the United States.  Each member plays a great variety of Native flutes and Andean pan-pipes which will transport you in a visionary manner around mountains and valleys and into the very heart of Pacha Mama (mother earth), projecting the delicate sound of rivers, birds, and waterfalls.

The name “Americamanta” (“of America”) comes from a deep sense of unity of all human beings in one single conglomerate without boundaries or differences of any kind.  Music has become the universal language joining us together, regardless of cultural or national differences.

This is what we say:“Men come and go, but the music is immortal”. Back to top

Little Lotus Troupe

The Little Lotus Troupe, led by Ms. Hè XiaoSong, has been in much demand in Charlotte and surrounding areas since they made their debut in the fall of 2004, with Chinese dances performed in authentic costumes, and even fashion shows.

The performance group was organized to offer a unique opportunity for children of Chinese heritage to learn and enjoy traditional and contemporary dance and other Chinese performing arts.

The Little Lotus Troupe consists of nineteen girls ranging in age from five to thirteen years old.  The Troupe is comprised of two groups: one is known as the “Mei Mei Class” (Mei Mei means younger sister in Chinese) and the other is referred to as the “Jie Jie Class” (Jie Jie means older sister in Chinese). 

Classes consist of stretching exercises and warm-ups, followed by instruction in dance technique, and then learning and perfecting their dances, which are performed to Chinese music or songs.  The troupe has also participated in fashion shows, where they modeled Chinese New Year outfits and colorful Chinese fashions, including qi paos, a traditional lady’s formal dress. In recent years, their fashion shows have been enjoyed at several Chinese New Year celebrations and children’s festivals.

To prepare for their dance season, the dancers attend a week-long workshop in the summer where they learn a new dance, while training rigorously to improve body strength and posture through ballet stretches and yoga. They also learn Chinese head, chest, arm, hand, leg and foot work through serious training and watching videos of Chinese dancers. The children have also learned to twirl dance handkerchiefs, even tossing them into the air and then catching them. It was both challenging and fun!

Each year, Little Lotus Troupe showcases a new dance during Chinese New Year for organizations such as the Chinese American Association of Charlotte, Davidson College, and the Charlotte Public Library at ImaginOn.  They also join in the Chinese New Year celebrations with Families with Children from China, a local group of families who have adopted children from China.  In the early Spring of 2008, the youngest in that audience gathered excitedly around the stage to watch the dancers with their hair in red ribbons, swinging lanterns and dancing in bright red costumes which were custom-made in China. 

In addition, the troupe typically performs each year at the Festival in the Park, UNC Charlotte’s International Festival, the Asian Festival/Dragon Boat Festival, and the Children’s Arts Festival in Charlotte’s South End.

In their well-known “Red Handkerchief Dance,” the dancers wear bright red and emerald-green costumes.  They flash sequined red handkerchiefs throughout the dance, even twirling them on their fingertips while lying on the floor!

Another of their earlier dances, called “Sunlight, Moonlight,” was performed in pink costumes with flowers fluttering in their hands and silver stars twinkling in their hair. 

Their repertoire for 2007 included both a Fan Dance and a Lantern Dance which became popular for the colorful props. They were performed many times, including a special remembrance service held in memory of victims of the earthquake in Sichuan Province. They also participated in other fund raising charity events, such as the Tsunami Disaster Relief Fundraiser in January, 2005.

New for 2008 is an Umbrella Dance, which was first performed at the Gandhi Memorial Dedication in uptown Charlotte on October 5. 

A Chinese drum dance is performed by the older members of the troupe. The drum dance requires a great deal of physical strength; it combines artistic and physical techniques, and mixes dance, gymnastics and Chinese drum art all in one.

Because of the growing demand, XiaoSong started a younger class, the Mei Mei Class, in the fall of 2008. She has been teaching a Chinese favorite: the Little Mouse Dance, which describes how cute little mouslings are caught by their traditional foes, the cats.   Half of the girls play the part of the cats, and the others are the mice.  It is a fun dance that was first performed by the older girls in the troupe several years ago.  A few members of the original troupe are enjoying this dance for a second time, with the youngest members who have recently joined the Little Lotus Troupe.

In addition to the dance classes and performance opportunities, the girls share pride in their Chinese heritage and a special relationship with each other, much like sisters.  Their dream is to perform in China someday!  Back to top

Peralta
The future of Latin Music has arrived! The incorporation of culture and sound has produced a defining moment in the direction of Latin music. These four brothers, whose roots stem from South American have been writing, recording, and performing whenever and wherever possible. Their individual influences come together to create a musical distinction that's apparent the moment you hear it. Performing live is their strength as the band adds a vibrant three-piece percussion section to the background. With a hypnotic combination of rhythm and melody, one encounter with Peralta will take you into a new and inspiring realm of entertainment. The numbers speak for themselves, as live performances ranging from Corporate to festivals in the Carolinas to Walt Disney World Resorts in Orlando, FL have boosted CD sales to over 4,500. Back to top

Doug Burns and the From The Top Big Band
The From The Top Big Band is a 17 piece swing band. They play the music of Sinatra, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Stan Kenton and many others. The band includes many of the top professional musicians in North Carolina, including players who have performed with bands such as Natalie Cole, Glenn Miller, Harry Connick, Tommy Dorsey and a host of others. You can dance all night to the great songs of the 1940's big bands. Join us for an evening of swing music you won't forget. Back to top

The Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestras (CSYO), founded in 1961, provide training for young musicians in a professional symphony atmosphere. There are 185 musicians from over 60 schools in the greater Charlotte area involved in the youth orchestras program. This year nearly 300 students auditioned for seats in one of the two youth orchestras. Each group rehearses weekly and one rehearsal a month is devoted to coaching sessions provided by members of the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra. Financial aid and scholarships for tuition and private instruction are provided by the Symphony Guild of Charlotte. Back to top

Cruis – o – Matic
To learn more about Cruis – o – Matic, Visit their website at http://www.cruis-o-matic.com/Home.html

Charlotte Civic Orchestra
The CCO is a fully functioning, volunteer based 75-piece orchestra made up of local musicians, many of whom are professionally trained. Players are selected through competitive auditions that take place throughout the year. Approximately one-fourth of the active musicians are charter members; that is, they have played with CCO since the organization's inception. Back to top

Tropic Culture Band
Our "fun and energetic" music encourages an uplifting syncopation. The Pop/Rock/Reggae fused with Latin Rhythms combination entices virgin ears to stop and listen. A mix between Cafe Tacuba, Ozomatli, Manu Chao, Santana and Dave Mathews Band, make the music experience a treat to anyone in presence. Family friendly to all ages and groups, our music is funky, rhythmically catchy and vibrant. Our instrumentation is powerful, skillful and relieving. We are musically influenced by jazz, Latin, rock and reggae backgrounds. Influential bands range from domestic to international bands. The collections of different cultures, ultimately, collide to form the Tropic Culture Band.
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Festival in the Park * 1409 East Boulevard * Charlotte, NC 28203
Phone: 704.338.1060
E-Mail: festival@FESTIVALinthePARK.org * Site by: EyeBenders