“The Weekend” kick-off party brings music but not a big crowd

James Kennedy

Some say that radio is dead. Others say that live music is in decline. Walla Walla’s 107.7 The Vine wanted to reject both of those notions with a multi-concert party using regional and local talent to promote their new radio show, “The Weekend,” held on Friday, Sept. 19.

The event was held in the Gesa Power House Theatre, a converted utility station a few minutes drive from Whitman. If nothing else, this is a great venue. The setting is still very clearly industrial, but it fully functions as a musical space.

The show opened with performances from the Walla Walla Kids Rock ‘N Roll Camp, and all the ticket proceeds went to supporting the group. For high school kids, I was certainly impressed –– the guitar chords were relatively simple in most cases, but all three performers showed a respectable level of confidence.

Photo by Denali Elliot.
Photo by Denali Elliot.

Despite middling guitar skills, singing prowess carried the three Rock ‘N Roll Campers through. Taylor Swift and Dixie Chicks were well-represented in the track list, but the performers, two female and one male, played songs from a variety of different artists. One song included an impressive guitar solo, making up for the simpler melodies earlier in the set. There was even a (Taylor Swift-inspired) original song in the mix.

Following a brief interview with the students, local artist Kory Nagler took the stage, and he was definitely the highlight of the night. Refreshingly, almost all of his songs were original compositions with clever lyrics and excellent guitar riffs to back them up. In terms of vocals, Nagler completely surpassed the already high bar set by the Rock Camp performers –– you could tell he was pouring all his passion for music into each individual word.

If I had one complaint about Nagler’s music, it would be the over-abundance of similar-sounding love songs in his track list. However, despite repeated subject matter, each song remained different enough in rhythm and composition to warrant the hour he spent on stage.

I wish I had kinder words for the next group, JD Kindle and the Eastern Oregon Playboys, but they couldn’t meet the standards set by the previous performance. Walking on stage, band members were brandishing novel instruments like the xylophone and saxophone, but those additional sounds didn’t contribute to an enjoyable performance. They just sounded too quirky to be truly enjoyable.

The closing band, Roaming Herds of Buffalo, was definitely a step up.  They provided a more traditional rock sound. Just looking at the instrumental component, this would be the strongest performance of the night. The chord progression flowed really smoothly and no instrument was slacking. While the lead singer may have been a little too whiny for me, the performance capped off the night’s celebration nicely.

The consistent problem throughout the concert was not the fault of any of the artists, but the production itself. During the opening, the audience was greeted with a five-second-long microphone screech. This would become an ill omen to many more microphone and speaker problems. Poor microphone adjustment led to muffled vocals in the earlier parts of the show, which detracted for the actual performances.

Attendance to the event was rather low. It seemed to me that there was a larger crowd outside eating pizza from the food trucks than there was actually inside listening to music. Several of the crowd members were relatives of the artists or the artists themselves waiting for their turn.

As a promotion for a radio show, I can’t call this concert a success. I learned very little about “The Weekend” other than its focus on regional and local artists. But as a concert in itself, there was some serious local talent on display from some unexpected sources. The production was far from perfect, but at least it showed the diverse local and regional talent that “The Weekend” is hoping to promote in full force.+