The Columbus Area Arts Council’s recipe for a quick summertime party remains as simple as when the agency first successfully mixed the ingredients 26 years ago.
Close a downtown street in the early evening the first Thursday of the month from June to September. Open the avenue to those milling about and socializing after work.
Add one live cover band with timeless tunes, endless energy and a gift for audience involvement. Make the performance free. Pour in the option of refreshments such as beer or wine and other concessions from nearby restaurants.
And there you have JCB NeighborFEST, which kicks off at 5:30 p.m. June 1 in front of The Commons, 300 Washington St., Columbus. Crowds average about 450 people of all ages, according to Tami Sharp, the arts council’s program director who books the entertainment.
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“Every band has a different sound, but they all put on a great show,” Sharp said.
My Yellow Rickshaw, a popular Indianapolis-based band for nearly a decade, opens the latest installment of the series. Members considers themselves as eclectic as any other act around. Its performances include material from Lynyrd Skynard to Usher, Zac Brown Band to Miley Cyrus, The Temptations to Justin Bieber, and “even rap and an Irish jig or two,” according to the group’s promotional material.
And the quartet carries along an ample sense of humor about its musical roots and much more.
“One cold evening around a trash can fire, four strangers randomly broke out into the sweetest harmonies,” reads the band’s Facebook page.
False, of course.
True story, though: The band was named by two of its founding members after returning from a mission trip to India, where they befriended a friendly man who drove a yellow rickshaw for a living.
“We’re all about transporting people from a rough day to a little fun with some good tunes they might know,” Klatt said.
It’s that simple.
“We’re not rock stars and we’re not trying to set the whole world on fire,” said Nathan Klatt, vocalist, mandolin and fiddle player. “We’re just doing what we love.”
And having a great time and a laugh or two while doing it — all without a script. Meaning no set lists, whether the guys are playing outdoors at The Rathskellar in Indianapolis or inside a small club in Greenwood.
“We literally look out at the people, and quickly judge the demographics,” Klatt said.
If he sees youngsters in the NeighborFEST crowd, Klatt and his band mates are liable to tear into a high-energy Taylor Swift or Bruno Mars tune, for instance. But Klatt broke into laughter over the group’s musical influences. Online, he has listed them as “lots of Bette Midler, early Air Supply … John Tesh’s instrumental compilations, and Flavor Flav.”
All lies, of course.
“We figure that something that’s written as rather catchy or creative is going to be a good thing to catch someone’s eye,” Klatt said.
But he stopped for a moment.
“If (at the concert) you call out ‘Wind Beneath My Wings,’ I’ll sing at least the beginning of it,” he said.
Concerts are free and run from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in front of The Commons, 300 Washington St. in downtown Columbus. Rain location is inside The Commons.
People must bring their own seating.
June 1: My Yellow Rickshaw with pop, rock, bluegrass and rhythm and blues.
July 6: Parrots of the Caribbean: A Salute to Jimmy Buffett’s trop-rock.
Aug. 3: Terry Lee and the Rockaboogie Band presenting rollicking rock.
Sept. 7: Pork N Beans Brass Band with New Orleans-style jazz.
Information: 812-376-2539 or artsincolumbus.org.