Islanders, get ready to kick off your shoes — it’s time to dance in the grass again at a series of free, outdoor summer concerts at Ober Park. The shows, presented by Vashon Events and the Vashon Park District, will be held weekly on Thursdays in August, with a roster of bands spanning the genres of Celtic bluegrass, traditional Cuban music, roots and bluegrass folk, country, indie folk-rock and homegrown reggae.
Pete Welch, of Vashon Events, said he loves booking the bands for this summertime staple on Vashon — evenings that include the whirl of children running back and forth to Ober Park’s playground, couples enjoying gourmet picnics on the grass and exuberant gaggles of high school kids and oldsters alike boogying down in front of the bandstand.
“The Concerts in the Park audience has grown in size over the last few years,” Welch said. “It’s really been fun to watch our community come together through music.”
This year, Welch added that he’s pleased to announce a bad-weather backup plan for the concert series: in case of rain or storms, the concerts will move from the park to the Katherine L. White Hall of Vashon Center for the Arts.
The first of the five outdoor concerts starts at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 2, with a show by the Canadian band The Paperboys. For 25 years, the group has toured the world, playing a freewheeling mix of music inspired by everything from Celtic sounds and bluegrass to Mexican son jarocho and brass bands. The Paperboys have won a Juno Award (the Canadian Grammy) and garnered two more Juno nominations and two West Coast Music Awards. They’ve also released nine albums and regularly play two-night gigs in the Pacific Northwest.
According to Welch, the band is a great live act.
“They shine most on stage,” he said, adding that the group has developed a large following with the benefit of a record label and radio play.
The next band in the concert series will be Kiki Valera & Cumbache, playing traditional Cuban music (7 p.m. Aug 9). The group’s bandleader, Welch said, is considered by many to be Cuba’s greatest living cuatro player. He is also a highly sought-after multi-instrumentalist (tres, guitar, bass, keyboards and percussion), composer, arranger, sound engineer and producer.
At 7 p.m. on Aug. 16, The Warren G. Hardings Band will bring high-octane bluegrass to the Concerts in the Park peformance, and at 7 p.m. Aug. 23, The Sarah Jane Scouten Band will play country music. According to Welch, Scouten, also from Canada, has a singing and songwriting flavor comparable to country icons Emmylou Harris, Iris Dement, Lucinda Williams and Nanci Griffiths.
The concert series will close out at 7 p.m. Aug. 30, with the beloved homegrown reggae band, Troll’s Cottage, fronted by islander Jacob Bain.
Dogs, smoking and alcohol are not permitted in Ober Park.