City Block Concert series a jewel in Springfield: Guest Viewpoint

By The Republican Editorials

By Peter Newland, NEIL HAWLEY PHOTO

peter cityblock

I want to thank everyone who made the Aug. 27 final City Block FAT concert in Court Square possible and who gave me and my fellow musicians the opportunity to be a part of such a special event.

I have long thought that the FAT City Block/Stearns Square/Biker Night/City Block shows were about much more than two hours of music by Peter J. Newland, Jim Kaminski, Guy DeVito, Chris Newland, William (Benjie) Benjamin and Michael Benson (in absentia) collectively known as FAT.

To me, the night has always been about Springfield. FAT belongs to Springfield. We were born in the Downtown Lounge on Chestnut Street, we developed our muscle in the Capital and Paramount theatres, we came here back to refuel and regroup during our 12 year wild ride and quest for success in the music business and it was here that we came to rest when we came oh..so.. close to the big time and fell back to earth.

In the midst of the continuous cavalcade of fabulous national and regional touring acts that the Springfield Business Improvement District (SBID) has been serving up as a summertime treat for Springfield folk since the summer of 2000, FAT night has always been a night for the citizens of Springfield to celebrate our city, ourselves and our own. A night where people in the crowds could look up on the stage and say “I know that guy, I work with him.” “I was watching the Red Sox with him at The Fort last night” I shot pool with him at Theodore’s.” “He was out with his wife for dinner at Adolfo’s last weekend” “He was jamming with Tommy at 350”. It was a night for us to shout out our love and loyalty for our city during good times and bad. The music coming off of the stage connected all of us, friends, relatives, co-workers – the people of Springfield.

For quite a while now it has been a dream of mine to do a show that would extend beyond the band and utilize and showcase the wealth of talent and the seasoned professionals that Springfield has in every aspect of performance music: writing, performing, playing, singing, booking, promotion, production, operations, sound and lighting and publicity. On Thursday night that dream came true.

Every aspect of that seamless, streamlined, spectacular event was Springfield. Corporate sponsors like MassMutual and Nick Fyntrilakis and others provided the funding, without which, let’s face it, we can do nothing. SBID, now under the able leadership of Executive Director Chris Russell was our producing organization. City Block was booked by Blues Promoter of the year Steve Walbridge who along with his partner, press and marketing maven, Donnie Moorhouse executed a daring and challenging makeover that gave the concert series a new life and direction. Steve and Donnie were aided in marketing efforts by Jill Monson-Bishop from Inspired Marketing and Shannon Plaquet from Wicked Cool Productions. State of the art sound and lighting was provided by Tony Caliente and ATC Productions. Standing in the crowd like a teenager at his first rock concert was Evan Plotkin, you wouldn’t have known to look at him that he is the driving wheel behind all that is creative and fun in Springfield.

Add Springfield artists FAT; Janet Ryan, Springfield’s Queen of Soul; the ever youthful, euro stylin’ Livio Gravini; Wailin’ Tommy Whalen guitar afficianado and Frank Manzi, singer/songwriter and son of a multi generational, musical Springfield family. His music comes from these streets and he teaches in the Springfield schools (inner city teachers are my new heroes). No musician has more street cred that Frank.

This is a 100% Springfield – administrative, operational, marketing, performance team.

Stir in our special guest, an Amherst import, the Magnificent Mitch Chakour, who has been paying Springfield dues since way back when the 5th Alarm was a rock and roll joint.

With Miles Morgan standing guard a near full moon rose over Court Square, Springfield’s crown jewel. Against a backdrop of the old Gothic Stone Court House, the First Church with the Campanille rising into the starlight, magic happened.

I have been playing and performing for 45 years and I have never felt the joy and elation that I felt when we all connected music to community on Aug. 27, 2015

There was one star last Thursday.

That star was Springfield.

Peter Newland is the lead singer of FAT.