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New bands, atmosphere for Rockin' on the River

By Gina Mace
Ohio.com correspondent

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A Cuyahoga Falls police officer (left) keeps an eye on activity at the Falls Riverfront Parkway during Rockin' on the River on Friday, May 20, 2011, in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. Police will be enforcing the new curfew just passed in April that prohibits unsupervised minors on the mall after 8 p.m. (Ed Suba Jr./Akron Beacon Journal)

CUYAHOGA FALLS: The 26th season of Rockin' on the River kicks off May 25 with an Eagles tribute band and ends with a Rolling Stones tribute on Aug. 31.

In between, there are crowd favorites, new bands and a new street fair atmosphere.

River Concerts event chairman Bob Earley said Rockin' on the River will stay open an extra half hour, until midnight.

Besides local food vendors, artisans have been invited to show and sell their creations for a small fee.

"The whole idea is to bring creative people down there so they can make some money, and have something interesting for people to see as they walk around," Earley said.

He's also booked three new headliners for the Friday night concert series on Falls River Square, including Meatloaf tribute band Dashboard Lights will play July 20.

Earley is stepping away from tribute bands a little with Boatdrunks, a trop-rock band that has opened for Jimmy Buffett, the Beach Boys and Little Feat. They've released three CDs, and have Buffett covers along with originals tunes on their playlist. 

"They're from Illinois and their music plays on the Margaritaville (radio) station," Earley said. A member of the Northeast Ohio Parrot Head Club -- fans of all things Jimmy Buffett -- led Earley to the band. He liked what he heard and booked them for July 6.

Red Wanting Blue, a Columbus based band that plays all original music, will perform June 29. He worked with The Summit 91.3 to book the band, which does not normally play concerts where admission is not charged.

"According to everyone inside the industry, Red Wanting Blue will be the next Black Keys," he said.

Because of the city's bicentennial celebration and Festa Italiana, Rockin' will take a three-week break, from July 27 through Aug. 10.

Earley said he's turning it up a notch for the return of Rockin' on the River Aug. 17.

In conjunction with The Summit 91.3, and former Judas Priest lead singer and local restaurant owner Tim "Ripper" Owens, four or five of Owens' famous musician friends will ascend the stage for an all-star jam concert.

Because the concerts are free, Earley plans tougher enforcement of the no outside food or beverages rule. 

Last year, he was approached by a pizza delivery employee, holding six pizzas and looking for the "woman in row four."

"People are trying to take advantage of an event that's totally free," Earley said.

Rockin' on the River will continue to be a family-friendly event. And there is still an 8 p.m. curfew for Riverfront Square, so anyone under 18 not with a parent or guardian must leave the area by then.

Earley acknowledges Rockin's fan base is getting older. They don't go out as much, and they don't spend as much. That's why he's booked some opening acts and headliner Red Wanting Blue that should appeal to a younger audience.

"I'm trying to build Rocking on the River for the next 10 years," he said. "Our feeling has always been once you come to Rockin' on the River, you'll come back. It's that good of an event."

The complete concert schedule can be found at  http://rockinontheriver.com