Eisenbrown fills town with beautiful music

Published 12:38 pm Monday, June 30, 2008

Peter Eisenbrown is a name I&squo;ve heard as a &dquo;mover and shaker&dquo; when it comes to live music in Tryon since I first moved here. Whether he&squo;s recording the Community Chorus concert or lining up the acts for the BBQ festival, he always seems to be involved when it comes to making music accessible to the community.

After some schedule juggling, we managed to sit down for a bit so I could learn more about what he&squo;s been doing behind the scenes to help fill the local stages with great music. As he finished a cell phone call and sat down he was already abuzz with good news.

&dquo;Giardini Catering has agreed this summer to bring wraps to the park!,&dquo; he said. &dquo;For the fourth season we&squo;ll also have Don the hot dog man and ice cream from Simple Simon&squo;s.&dquo;

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How long have you been organizing these concerts?

From the beginning. This is the ninth season. Back in April 2000 the town had the grand opening for the park. At the time I was on the Upstairs Gallery board with Chris Tinkler and we were sitting around having a drink talking about doing something with the park now that it was officially open. It&squo;s grown every year. The name and logo are from the first concerts when the train was still running. I would tell the musicians to have a &dquo;train song&dquo; ready and often the train would come through during the concert.

Originally the Upstairs Gallery (now the Upstairs Artspace in Tryon) provided support to get the series started. The park was built by the town but then private citizens like Jim Farrell were helping to maintain it. The town started some more direct involvement when Jim Fatland became involved. I approached Jim and said &dquo;Hey, I got a summer series about to start and the park doesn&squo;t look so good.&dquo;

So the town started taking care of port-a-lets, grooming the park, and handling the trash. They even have voted to support it financially one year. Mainly the series is paid for by sponsors and then we take donations at the gate. We&squo;ve tried to make it a venture that if the people of the town want it they will help to support it financially. The town of Tryon has a maintenance budget, but really can&squo;t take care of funding for the events in the space.

What all do you do for the series?

Basically I do about 90 percent of the leg work, designing posters, ads, soliciting money, scheduling the bands. I&squo;m good at the fundraising, but I&squo;d rather turn that over to someone else. I know there are plenty of places asking for money so I try to make it easy for people. A hundred bucks will get their name on a big banner at the gate and perhaps in an ad. I try to get people to participate because it&squo;s a good thing for the community. I send lots of photos to the paper and make sure the word gets out.

This will be third full year for a professional sound company, which improves the quality of the concerts tenfold. It&squo;s loud enough to carry over conversations, but clear, allowing you to hear the music. I used to bring in my own sound to set up for the bands, but that was too much. The company handling it this summer is the same that did it for the BBQ festival, L&N Productions out of Hickory. It makes it pretty much plug and play for the bands, from a drum kit to a Russ Wilson&squo;s ten piece orchestra that needs more than 15 microphones.

What have you put together for this summer?

It would be possible to do a show every other weekend, but it&squo;s a matter of the financial support. We start this Friday then will have two in July, two in August, and one in September (see full schedule, page 5).

We&squo;ve also started the roof system. We have done some fundraising events and received a grant from Polk County Community Foundation. Right now we have the stone pillars and an arch and then there will be cables running into the hillside. We&squo;ll then be able to pull a cover over the stage without having to rent and set up a tent in case of rain. Last year was the first time we had a rained out concert, but when we get a cover that&squo;s more permanent it will be possible to do it rain or shine.

How did you get involved booking bands?

Everybody assumes I know everything about music. I don&squo;t know everything, but I go out to hear live music, and people give me music. I grew up with family members who played and formed my first rock band when I was 13. I realized when I started working with the BBQ festival that I&squo;m a much better booker than performer.

How so?

I took over booking in 1996 after the big loss of 1995. I brought in a nice portable stage and booked regional acts and cut the budget. In 1995 they brought in the top country chart performer for $30,000, and my whole budget is less than that one act. I booked the whole festival the first two years for right around $10,000. This will also be my third year booking the Columbus Fourth. We now have a better stage, and (I think) better acts. For ten years now I&squo;ve been the DJ for Shuckin&squo; and Shaggin&squo; and I help with Flat Rock Music Festivals, too.

Mostly, I go out and listen to the music. We are so rich in talent locally and regionally. I grew up in Cleveland going to shows and was lucky to see amazing bands on their rise to fame. WNCW and WGWG underwrite the Summer Tracks series because they support our local artists. I buy a lot of music and listen to a lot. For instance, last Saturday night I went to the Music Camp and heard Green Card and Belleville Outfit. I&squo;m glad I have a lot of friends who suggest stuff, because I haven&squo;t heard everything.

What type of music have you chosen for this summer?

I&squo;ve tried with Summer Tracks to book for a wide range of ages and tastes. Jackson Crossing with The Watts will be a loud rocking show. Reagan Boggs will be a little bit country Americana with real talent. She came a year ago to Columbus and had a really tight band playing with her. I like to book two performers to fill the time from 7-10 p.m. with a bit of variety. We don&squo;t charge at the gate, but we hope people will consider donating to see these live professional musicians.

I don&squo;t know of a more beautiful setting in the area to go and listen to music. If there was I would go to it. I like the Peace Center for some shows. But they still make the bands bring their own PA for the shows at the amphitheatre there and it&squo;s not always as good as it could sound. Rogers Park is a beautiful little park and we&squo;re really lucky to have it. You can picnic and enjoy yourself.

Which acts are you most excited about this summer?

Firecracker will be a blast. I&squo;ve had them twice and couldn&squo;t get them last year, but am happy to have them back. They&squo;re a &dquo;do not miss.&dquo; Gigi Dover is a big favorite and will be performing with her full band. She will even work a bit with Bob Sinclair to mix it up. This first one with Fayssoux McLain will also be a special treat. Fayssoux sang with Emmylou Harris and was her &dquo;harmony singer of choice.&dquo;

Reading through some of the press Peter has handed me about Fayssoux I notice that now on Fayssoux&squo;s debut solo album &dquo;Early&dquo; it&squo;s Emmylou singing harmonies with her. She is mixing her original music with traditional folk songs and contemporary country-rock. As a counter point to Fayssoux&squo;s charming country vocals Gas House Mouse will be mixing up the evening with some fun rhythm and blues.

You definitely have a diverse collection of music lined up for the series.

Somebody has to entertain this community. Phil & Gaye have used the park and occasionally the school holds events there. That&squo;s the thing. If someone wants to put on a show down there, it&squo;s available. I prefer original music or something particularly unique. If I&squo;m going to put on a show it&squo;s going to be well promoted and will have professional musicians who are out and playing a variety of venues that put on a high quality show.

This Friday bring the whole family and pack a picnic, or prepare to sample the tasty offerings of the local businesses supporting the series. The music will fill Roger&squo;s Park from 7-10 p.m. kicking off a great ninth year of Summer Tracks concerts.