Sunday, July 29, 2012

Saturday in the Park

The energetic Vicci Martinez topped the bill.
That famous song by Chicago begins, "Saturday in the park, you'd think it was the Fourth of July." Here in Duluth yesterday there was no confusion as the Reader Weekly capped off a free concert for the city of Duluth called ReaderFest. Publisher Bob Boone was celebrating the paper's 15th anniversary by "giving back" to the city that made his paper possible. After a week of free events that included free Duluth Superior Zoo passes, free tours of the William A. Irvin ore boat, free Beer and Wine Tasting at the Depot, and other such events, he threw a bash at Bayfront Park for the city, with the first ten thousand people to get in Free.

As parties go, the music was great. Sadly the crowd did not come anywhere near emulating the sardine-packed Fourth crowd. Nevertheless, the bands all played their hearts out and the weather Boone dialed in was stellar. What a beautiful setting for concerts, a gift to the city from Lois Paulucci.

Headliner Vicci Martinez flew into town from the west coast and once she took the stage it was easy to see why she's a rising star. A runner up on last year's The Voice, she gave her heart to Duluth and everyone there appreciated the opportunity to hear her again after stealing their hearts last year during Blues Fest.

Those who think she’s an overnight sensation have it wrong. With more than a dozen years in the business, Martinez “is a testament to the power of perseverance, soul, and hard work,” according to the Seattle Music Insider.

Tuesday evening I spoke with her as she was about to catch a plane. Music has always been a part of her life. “Growing up around my house, my parents played all kinds of music. I’m a big fan of Michael Jackson, The Beatles.”

But two performers made a special impact on her when she was a young teen. “For me, someone that really triggered and inspired me was Sarah McLachlan. She was doing Lilith Fair here when I was twelve or thirteen.” Lilith Fair was a travelling music festival consisting of female solo artists and female-led bands. “And I said, ‘Oh wow! Look at these women, these musicians that I never would have heard of.’”

The second performer who made a life-changing impact was Dave Matthews. “I went to his concert when I was fourteen and just the experience I had there made me say, ‘I want to be on stage doing the same thing that that guy is doing.’ It was so much fun sitting there watching it, but there was this pull in me that said, ‘I want to just do that. I want to be on stage with great musicians.’”

How long did it take for the Dave Matthews experience to take root? “I think probably right then, that actual day. I started putting a band together.”

Martinez knew it would be a lot of work, but she was excited about the possibilities. Nine albums later and getting signed with a record label, Universal Republic, has been more than rewarding. But very early on she saw the road ahead and went after her dream. “I think recently getting signed and having my songs played on the radio… made me say, ‘Wow, this really is happening.’”

Knowing her audience is “having an experience,” while she’s performing on stage is important to Martinez. “I’m playing for them, not for me,” she said.

Her current album is called Vicci. Like her other albums the songs and music are all her own. “I’m the writer, it’s my music, but when you play live it’s all of us on stage, so it’s important to have a great relationship with everybody.” As I watched them perform last night you could see they were all very much into it. Vicci is the leader, “but I make it fun for all of us.”

And for the audience as well.

It was a beautiful day to be down at the Bayfront. The playlist included Brothers Burn Mountain, Hannah Rey, Ultraday, The Cutthroats, Bryan Olds Band, Uprising, Centerville All-Stars, Molly & The Danger Band as well as Miss Vicci. You missed something good if you weren't there.

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