They were the greatest rock stars you never heard of. The headliners at the Marco Music Festival ’09, held Sunday at Marco’s Veterans Community Park, are not individually household names. But the songs they wrote and the bands they fronted were, and they have 23 gold records between them to prove it.
The Classic Rock All Stars proved on their own that they can put on a great show, get a crowd on its feet, and deliver rocking renditions of the old hits the people came to hear.
They led off with the Rare Earth hit “Get Ready,” sung by drummer Peter Rivera, an original Rare Earth member. The audience, younger by a decade or two than that at many Marco Island functions, got ready indeed, and were treated to a high-energy set of classic rock hits.
Keyboardist Jerry Corbeta sang “Green Eyed Lady,” the hit he wrote for one-hit wonder Sugarloaf, triggering a wave of nostalgia, presumably even among those who do not have fond memories of a high school girlfriend whose eyes matched the song. Corbeta also played with Frankee Valle and the Four Seasons, acting as the band’s musical director for 20 years.
Mike Panera, the guitarist who played with Iron Butterfly, performed their classic “In-a-Gadda-da-Vida,” as well as “Ride, Captain, Ride,” the hit song he wrote for Blues Image. And if “Land of a Thousand Dances” doesn’t ring a bell, you may know it better as the “nah, na na na, nah” song, which gave bassist and whirling dervish Dennis Noda a chance to showcase some hot licks.
“We love old rockers — we are old rockers,” said Susan Thomasson, on the island from Naples to hear the music with her husband Mark. “They sound real good.” And that was before the All Stars took the stage, during the set by the Fort Myers-based trio Triple Shot.
Mark reminisced about concerts and festivals they had attended, and registered only one complaint, that they had been unable to find tickets ahead of the event and had to pay the higher at-the-door price.
The festival at Veterans Community Park, put on by the Marco Island Police Foundation, was a seven-hour event. The musical lineup was created by local entertainer and impresario Barry Newman, who led off the day’s music, delivering an a capella rendition of the national anthem. He then emceed the proceedings, along with island stalwart Steve Reynolds of radio station Oldies 92.
Four Southwest Florida bands played leading up to the main event: Lost Cause, the Lords of Cool, Jukebox, and Triple Shot. Rock and roll was the order of the day, everything from Motown favorites including “My Girl” and “Sugar Pie Honey Bunch” to the Allman Brothers’ “One Way Out” and Steve Miller’s classic “Takin’ Care of Business.”
The relaxed, well-mannered crowd grew steadily as the afternoon wore on, although, based on sheer festival attendance numbers, one might conclude that Marco Island likes seafood more than rock music.
Jimmy Hopkins of Franklinville, North Carolina, visiting his inlaws on Isles of Capri, had his 51st birthday announced from the stage, and David and Helen Aubel were surprised to hear they were the winners of a motor scooter from Gem of Marco that was raffled off.
In between songs, city manager Steve Thompson pointed out the contribution of infrastructure to the festivities, noting correctly that the well-tended grass underfoot was what made the event workable, and made the difference between a vacant lot and an attractive festival venue.
Attendees enjoyed food provided by CJ’s on the Bay, Cocomo’s, Joey’s Pizza, Kretch’s, and the Islander, while the beverage concession was handled by Police Foundation volunteers. Young kids enjoyed the bounce house, and older kids looked over a selection of boats on display from Walkers Marine.
“I think it’s great Marco Island is bringing in live music,” said festival promoter Newman.
“Everybody said it was well-organized, the crowd kept growing all day, and it seemed like everyone was having a good time.”
He thanked Dick Shanahan and Debbi Sanders of the Police Foundation, and said they are already talking about next year’s event.