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Ganstagrass kicks off Levitt Amp concert series

By Toni Milbourne - For the Chronicle | Jun 18, 2021

Gangstagrass took to the stage as the first band in the Levitt Amp Concert Series at Sam Michaels Park. Free concerts are scheduled every Thursday evening throughout the summer. Toni Milbourne

SHENANDOAH JUNCTION — A little rainfall did not deter more than 250 local residents from turning up for the music of Gangstagrass at the kick-off of the Levitt Amp Concert Series at Sam Michaels Park on June 10.

Gangstagrass has toured internationally, blowing minds on main stages from SXSW to Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, with a live act taking full advantage of the improvisational aspects of both hip-hop and bluegrass. With MCs R-SON and Dolio the Sleuth trading verses, Dan Whitener on banjo, Brian Farrow on fiddle, Rench on guitar and beats, and frequent three-part harmonies, the Gangstagrass stage show has garnered a reputation among fans for its dynamism and spontaneity.

The band, which hails from Brooklyn, N.Y., said the show at Sam Michaels Park was their first live concert since the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The audience was glad to see them, dancing in the rain to song after song.

“There were two inches of water standing in the field at one point,” said concert coordinator Becki Zaglifa. “But the music was amazing, the band was happy and people came from near and far despite the raindrops. We danced in the rain, and I remembered why I love doing what I do.”

The Levitt Concert Series came about when Jefferson County Parks and Recreation successfully obtained a grant in 2020. Restrictions imposed by the pandemic put a hold on the music in the park until this summer.

Ten concerts will be featured in the series this summer, throughout the summer. Bands take to the stage on Thursdays at 7 p.m. each week, and attendees are invited at no cost.

“The Amp stands for arts, music, people — and after a year of no music and no people, I am so excited for this summer season,” said JCPR Director Jennifer Myers.

On June 17, the concert featured Tony M Music — Martinsburg’s own elementary school teacher turned professional musician. He has visited and played for hundreds of different schools, libraries and family events, sharing the stage with Jolene, his guitar with a pair of googly eyes that he brought to the band in 2017.

Looking ahead, Jah Works, whose sound is firmly planted in the roots of Jamaican music and culture, encompassing rock steady, reggae and elements of dancehall and dub, will take to the Amp stage on June 24. Formed in 1993, the band found their identity while listening to the song, “Jah Works,” by the classic Jamaican vocal group The Gladiators. Starting with “Feast or Famine” in 1994, Jah Works has recorded and released nine albums to date.

West Virginia’s own Hillbilly Gypsies will bring “pickin’ and grinnin'” music to the ser8es to start off the month of July. The remainder of the summer line-up can be found at www.jcprc.org. Food vendors are available at each concert, although picnics are welcomed as well. Alcohol or glass containers are not permitted in the park.