Outdoor ambiance

Hear a new favorite, listen to crowd-pleaser Jazz Senators at Oly’s Music in the Park

Contributing writerJuly 5, 2013 

This summer’s Music in the Park offers something old, something new and something blue — but nothing classical and nothing military.

The 34th annual series, organized by the Olympia Downtown Association, launches Wednesday with a repeat appearance by Jacob Merlin, who was part of the series in 2011. The concerts happen at 7 p.m. Wednesdays through the end of August in Sylvester Park, with an additional longer show the first Friday in August at Port Plaza.

As always, the nine-concert lineup features a variety of musical styles — but this year, there’s no symphony and no military band.

“There is no military band due to sequestration,” said Kim Combs, the association’s event and volunteer coordinator. “We started seeking talent and the military said the budget was frozen at the time. They said they would have loved to be a part of it, but they had no way to know if they could come.

“We waited and didn’t get the season announced quite as early as we typically do, just hoping that something would come through.”

This year’s biggest band is the big band Olympia Jazz Senators, with 16 musicians.

“That was our effort to fill the hole left by the larger military or symphony bands,” Combs said. “They have that presence, and on top of that, they are local.”

The Jazz Senators opened Music in the Park last summer and drew the series’ biggest crowd — about 2,300 people compared to an average of about 1,500.

Among the seven artists new to the summer series, there’s one that Combs expects to draw an even bigger crowd: The Beatniks, a ’60s and ’70s pop/rock band from Gig Harbor.

“They’ve played Sand in the City before,” she said. “There was a great push to get them in because people are excited to hear them.”

The Beatniks have been wowing their hometown crowd at the City of Gig Harbor’s Summer Sounds at Skansie concerts every year since 2006, said Karen Scott, Gig Harbor’s marketing director.

“We’ve had 3,000-plus people each year,” she said.

“They play mainly cover songs of the ’60s and ’70s — the Beatles, the Monkees,” Scott said. “So it’s very well-known songs, and they are very energetic and entertaining.”

This summer, The Beatniks also will provide the music at Point Defiance Zoo’s black-tie Zoobilee on July 19.

How popular are The Beatniks? The band’s annual Summer Sounds show is the only one for which Gig Harbor closes Harborview Drive where it borders Skansie Park.

“It works well for that one block to be closed off so more people can see them,” Scott said. “Otherwise, people would be falling from the sidewalk into the street.”

Music in the Park

What: In its 34th year, the Olympia Downtown Association’s outdoor concert series attempts to offer something for every musical taste.

When: 7-8 p.m. Wednesdays through Aug. 28, plus a Friday concert from 7-8:30 p.m. Aug. 2

Where: Sylvester Park on Capitol Way, Olympia, except the Aug. 2 event, which is at Port Plaza at the Port of Olympia

Admission: Free

Information: 360-357-8948, musicintheparkolympia.com


Wednesday: Jacob Merlin with Sarah Billings (rhythm and blues), Portland

July 17: Bobby Medina and the Red Hot Band (variety), Seattle

July 24: Bevy (jazz), Olympia

July 31: Fishtrap (rock and soul), Olympia

Aug. 2: The Beatniks (’60s and ’70s pop and rock), Gig Harbor

Aug. 7: Olympia Jazz Senators (jazz), Olympia

Aug. 14: Longstride (rock and reggae), Seattle

Aug. 21: Jeanne Jolly (rock and country), North Carolina

Aug. 28: Blues County Sheriff (blues), Olympia

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