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Albany summer concerts: Big money, big acts, big benefits

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The city of Albany is paying big bucks for summertime music as a way to make the community better for locals and to draw visitors to town.

Roughly $750,000 is budgeted this fiscal year for the city’s performing arts series — including the River Rhythms concert series, Summer Sounds shows, the Northwest Art & Air Festival and more — though about $500,000 is in the form of donations, said Lynne Smith, event coordinator for Albany Parks & Recreation.

“We have great sponsors who are very committed to all of our series, so that’s a big help to us,” Smith added.

The total cost includes expenses for band fees, staffing and more. Smith said the budget is similar to previous years', despite performers’ fees drastically increasing. (In 2020, the city didn’t hold any outdoor concerts, and in 2021, one fewer show was held at both River Rhythms and Summer Sounds, and the Art & Air Fest was canceled as well.)

Smith said that when Albany announces its musical lineups, people call from throughout Oregon and even other states such as California and Idaho. “It’s amazing,” she added. The concerts drive a significant amount of tourism, including overnight stays and day trips to Hub City.

And that gives a boost to businesses, said Kim Jackson, marketing manager for the Albany Visitors Association.

“If you look back on some of the concerts that we’ve had, clearly you’re getting people from out of town coming in, and that’s what you want,” Jackson added. “They’re a great draw.”

Even many day-trippers to Albany get gas, dinner and perhaps even dessert afterward, he said. And the city has two concerts a week for much of the summer.

Part of the reason for the tourism boost is the low cost. River Rhythms and Summer Sounds concerts are free, with a suggested $1 donation, while the Art & Air Fest is free, though visitors have to pay $10 for parking.

“It’s one of the best deals around as far as entertainment,” Jackson said.

The shows also have become a tradition for Albany and mid-Willamette Valley residents, Smith said. “It’s something that people look forward to every summer, getting outside and enjoying music with their family and friends,” she added.

Regardless of whether they're visitors or locals, thousands of people typically attend the concerts.

River Rhythms

Last week, Albany Parks & Recreation released its full lineup for River Rhythms.

Pop star Sheena Easton, best known for 1980s hits, is scheduled to start the annual series on July 7.

History shows again and again that Blue Oyster Cult are Albany favorites, and the band returns to town on July 21 for River Rhythms. BOC’s top tunes include “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” “Burning for You” and “Godzilla.” The band played the Linn County Fair in 2021 and the Northwest Art & Air Festival in 2014.

Ruthie Foster, whose repertoire includes some folk, some blues, some rock and some gospel, is set to play on July 28. The Austin, Texas resident has been nominated for four Grammys and has won multiple Blues Music Awards.

ABBA cover band ARRIVAL of Sweden will take the stage on Aug. 4, performing tunes such as “Dancing Queen,” “Mamma Mia,” and “Waterloo,” which may or may not be about a small town on the South Santiam River.

Eddie Montgomery is set to close out the series on Aug. 11. He was part of the top country duo Montgomery Gentry, who played the Oregon Jamboree in Sweet Home in 2002 and 2009, but his partner in music, Troy Gentry, died in a helicopter crash in 2017. Montgomery is keeping the band’s honky-tonk sound alive. He’ll play the Montgomery Gentry hits, as well as tunes from his new album.

Smith said that the River Rhythms lineup has received strong feedback. “We’re excited. We think it’s a good variety,” she said.

Rose Lacey, recreation manager for Albany Parks & Recreation, added that country typically draws the biggest crowds, but ARRIVAL has been extremely popular in online comments and such.

River Rhythms are held at 7 p.m. on many summer Thursdays at Monteith Riverpark in downtown Albany.

For more information on River Rhythms, go to www.riverrhythms.org.

Summer Sounds

Albany announced performers this week for its Summer Sounds concerts, which are held 7 p.m. Mondays at Monteith.

The first act scheduled to play is the Bylines, who will be bringing their jazzy, pop tunes to town on July 11.

Country group Tylor & the Train Robbers are set to play on July 18.

Pop and R&B vocalist CJ Mickens, who competed on “American Idol,” is scheduled to perform on July 25.

LaRhonda Steele, “The First Lady of Portland Blues,” will close the series on Aug. 1. She played the Art & Air Festival in 2016.

For more information on Summer Sounds, go to https://www.cityofalbany.net/parks/events/summer-sounds.

Northwest Art & Air Fest

The city of Albany’s premier concert typically is the Saturday night show at the Northwest Art & Air Festival at Timber Linn Memorial Park.

The concert has drawn acts such as Joan Jett, Styx and Bret Michaels, and regularly brings in crowds of more than 20,000 people.

In 2021, however, the event was canceled due to the pandemic and outdoor mask restrictions in Oregon. The Guess Who had been tapped to perform.

The city is aiming to announce the Art & Air Fest’s headliner in early May.

“We’re just super excited for it to be here again,” Smith said.

Kyle Odegard can be contacted at 541-812-6077 or Kyle.Odegard@lee.net Follow him on Twitter via @KyleOdegard.

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Kyle Odegard graduated from Portland State, has been a journalist for 20 years and is currently deputy editor and an editorial board member for Mid-Valley Media. Hiker, skier, gardener, food-to-table fan.

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