Band Jam celebrates two days of local original music

Rex Rutkoski – Trib Live – Tuesday, July 10, 2018

To Jeannette’s Rob Roush, the best thing about the annual Band Jam Grass Roots Music Festival is its commitment to original music.

“There is plenty of love for cover bands in this area, but not a lot of support for original music,” says the veteran musician, one of the singer-songwriters nominated for this year’s “Grassy Award,” which will be presented at the festive July 13-14 weekend at Cooper Lake Campground near Slippery Rock.


The all-ages, family-friendly event features more than 20 regional bands representing a variety of genres.

“It’s really a shame. I wonder how many more amazing writers there would be around if more people encouraged the original scene,” says Roush, who performs solo as Acoustic Fingers, on acoustic guitar. “That’s why people should attend: for original music you won’t hear anywhere else.

“This is not ‘bathroom break’ music,” he says. “These are real musicians making real music that will surprise you and make you a believer in the original scene.”


Roush, who sometimes performs with a band at other venues, delivers a repertoire that ranges from blues, rock and folk to progressive, melodic and pop-flavored sounds. He can be expected to include material from his new CD, “Look Before You Leap.”

Roush, scheduled to play at 5 p.m. July 14, made his Band Jam debut last year.

“I loved the positive vibe of everyone there. It’s all about recognizing talent that’s right under your nose,” he says.


West Deer’s John Vento, performing at this year’s Band Jam at 7 p.m. July 13 without the Nied’s Hotel Band, also appreciates the commitment to local original music

“It’s great music across the board,” he assures. “The sponsoring ‘The Rock Station (97.7 FM and,’ supports local musicians like none other, and the venue is warm and folks are so nice.”

Vento has been working with David Granati of the Granati Brothers for nearly two years on a major concept album.

“We are in the home stretch, with release by this fall,” he reports.


Utah Burgess of Buffalo Township, musician, radio host and promoter whose Shady Lady Productions is presenting Band Jam, founded the festival in 2007 at the Syria Shrine Center in Harmar.

“Our very first performer was (Hyde Park’s) Mia Z,” he says. She went on to national fame on NBC Television’s “The Voice.”


“We kind of consider this year’s lineup one of our most diverse, from singer/songwriter solo performances, through rock, country, bluegrass, acoustic, blues, hard rock and metal,” he says.

Among returning bands is the New Kensington-Oakmont-based Red Room Effect, a rock-funk outfit.

“They wowed us so much last year, we made them the Saturday night (10 p.m. July 14) headliner this year,” Burgess says

He often tells people that “local music is the best value for your entertainment dollar.”

At $20 in advance, the total price for admission to both days of this festival, with kids 17 and under free, it is as good as it gets, Burgess says.


Burgess says he fell in love with the natural amphitheater at Cooper’s Lake.

“It is perfect for our event. The facilities are top rate, from the incredible camp store to clean bathrooms, showers, laundry facilities, and grounds,” he explains. “There are over 400 acres to camp and play on, including a lake for fishing and canoeing. And it is also very easy to get to, right off the I-79/422 exchange.”


Side activities include food and craft vendors, hula hooping, Friday night wine tent, Saturday beer tent and “Belly Dance by Malissa” (of the Kiski Valley) .

“If you want to come and sit at a great outdoor location on a blanket or chair and listen to music that is as good as anything on the national scene, and let your kids run wild and enjoy the music, without borrowing against your house to be there, this is the place to be,” Burgess says.

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