10th Summer Sounds season begins in Danville

10th Summer Sounds season begins in Danville

DANVILLE – Downtown Danville will begin its 10th season of Summer Sounds concerts Friday.

The six concerts offered from 6 to 8 p.m. every other Friday throughout the summer have seen a radical increase in attendance since moving to Temple Plaza at North and Vermilion streets downtown.

"When we started, it was Gary Ludwig, Hank Norris and I who first discussed it," said Peter Blackmon, then the executive director of Downtown Danville and now general manager of the David S. Palmer Arena. "We planned on it being in Palace Park, but the south wall of the Fischer Theater had some issues at the time, so the concerts moved to the Kresge lot."

Palace Park was thought to be a nice intimate place to start the concept of summer concerts. The Kresge was quite accessible but posed some new problems. The entertainment used the Danville Recreation Department's band shell and people brought in lawn chairs to supplement picnic tables. Even when a concert drew a couple hundred people, the lot was so large, it still made the number of people seem sparse.

"The first concert was a quintet from the Danville Symphony Orchestra. It was the most expensive concert of the season at $400," Blackmon said. "We used a lot groups that played together, but not necessarily all of the time."

In the early years, the season consisted of eight concerts. Blackmon said the concerts have never lacked for volunteers and in the third year, AMBUCS decided to take on the series as a community service project.

"Most of the regular volunteers were AMBUCS anyway, so it was a natural partnership," Blackmon said. "It was a great time."

Also in the third year, Blackmon had seen a zydeco band while visiting New Orleans. He took their card and came back with the idea of bringing the band to town.

"It was the first year we really went for some large scale sponsors and we tried the idea of double booking – playing for Summer Sounds, then playing at a second venue later in the evening," Blackmon said. "The band also played at Turtle Run.

"Now it was no longer just about simply entertaining the crowd, but about introducing diversity in the music."

What was a novelty soon became a given. Each concert now has a different style of music. Bands travel from as far as Toronto, Canada, and always play a second concert at Gino's Place at the Days Inn, the presenting sponsor.

"It's easier to get sponsors because people just love the concerts. It's not just about advertising, but they genuinely believe in bringing various kinds of music to the downtown plaza," Blackmon said.

Another participant from the beginning has been Earl Gaudio and Son Budweiser distributors sales manager Tony Baszis.

"It has really grown," Baszis said. "But then, how can you beat free entertainment outside in a place like Temple Plaza."

Over the years, Baszis has worked with the organizing committee, not only to provide regular Budweiser products, but also to bring new products for people to try.

"I've taken my family to the concerts and it's a nice place to be," Baszis said. "You don't see a lot of overindulgence, but everyone seems to have a good time and they book quality bands."

Blackmon has stepped in to follow up where former Downtown Danville Executive Director Michelle Blanchard left off and while the new director Rachel Dietkus is getting settled.

This year's concerts include:

– June 1: Renegade takes to the stage with a Southern rock format.

– June 15: Ann McWilliams of Indianapolis – the voice of the Indiana State Fair, according to Blackmon –brings her alternative country style.

– June 29:Duke Tumatoe returns from last year's packed concert and presents blues and rock tunes.

– July 13:It might be Friday the 13th, but those lucky enough to be in attendance will hear Kilborn Alley, nominated for Blues Foundation Best New Artist Debut Album of the Year.

– July 27:Big Groove Zydeco brings its zydeco and Cajun-style music energy to the stage.

– Aug. 10 Mike Ingram and Kayla Brown, known around Danville as a duo and by themselves for their acoustic guitar playing and vocals, will perform backed by a full band.