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Bandshell Bash goes big-time

By LOGAN NEILL
Published March 9, 2007


BROOKSVILLE - A little more than two years after establishing the Bandshell Bash concerts in downtown Brooksville, organizer Brian Brijbag is eagerly anticipating what might be the biggest crowd to attend the monthly shows.

"We can hardly wait," Brijbag said of Saturday's concert, which will be headlined by the legendary doo-wop group the Coasters. "The last time we had a doo-wop show, we had a massive crowd. This time, we're having a group that not only sings doo-wop, but had a lot of huge hits. It's going to be spectacular."

Fifty-one years after the group debuted with Down in Mexico, the Coasters, which are once again led by founding lead singer Carl Gardner, continue to please audiences everywhere. Between 1957 and 1963 the group's chart-topping successes - Poison Ivy, Yakety-Yak, Youngblood, Searchin' and Charlie Brown - made the Coasters one of the most often heard acts on radio.

The arrival of big-name talent is a bonus for the Hernando County Fine Arts Council, which has sponsored the Bandshell Bash since February 2005 and struggles to find adequate funding for the event. Fortunately, Brijbag said, enough true believers continue to make it happen.

"It's a bit strange to still be having to hunt for the money considering the tremendous community support the concerts generate," said Brijbag, who is on the board of the fine arts council and is redevelopment coordinator for the city of Brooksville. "We have several businesses that chip in regularly. But we've never had the comfort of knowing that the money will definitely be there the next time."

Along with members of the downtown business community, the arts council established the free concerts in Hernando Park in the hope that they would spark a subtle reshaping of Brooksville's sleepy downtown. Over time, the series has managed to attract a faithful following of mostly middle-aged and older listeners who relax in lawn chairs or on blankets and listen to professional jazz, blues, doo-wop, country and reggae artists. In 2006, the Bandshell Bash earned the state's Cultural Enhancement Award for outstanding public event.

The family-friendly atmosphere makes the concerts appealing for all ages, Brijbag said.

"We've deliberately kept it kind of middle-of-the-road because those are the people who have turned out to support it."

Brijbag said he believes the Coasters are likely to attract a diverse audience.

"This is a group that crossed a lot of barriers during its heyday," he said. "They appeal to a lot do different people."

Contact Logan Neill at lneill@sptimes.com.

If you go

Bandshell Bash

The concert series presents the Coasters, with special guests Alfred Nickoles (formerly of the Buck Ram Platters) and Charlie Vegas, at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Hernando Park band shell on Fort Dade Avenue in downtown Brooksville. The concert is free. Call (352) 754-4788 or visit www.bandshellbash.com for information.