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Changing of the green in Johnstown

Very special guests, Nixon Pit Crew
Very special guests, Nixon Pit Crew
Nixon Pit Crew

St. Patrick’s Day is something of an institution in Johnstown, Penna., as it is in many other cities across the nation. With or without an Irish-American population, it seems everyone loves to go green for a boisterous holiday in the midst of the long, late winter siege. In addition to revelry at nearly every corner pub, this year several local bands have come together with a worthwhile cause to bring a whole new St. Patrick’s Day party to the J – the first annual ShamRock Firehouse Music Festival at the Richland Township Volunteer Fire Department on Scalp Avenue. Featured bands are Shades of June, YUM, and Nixon Pit Crew.

First annual ShamRock Firehouse Music Festival
Mary Beegle

Here, Daniel Vavrek, Jr. of YUM and Ryan Krinjeck from Shades of June share their insight on the ShamRock event:

Examiner: Yum has been a fixture at the St. Patrick’s Day party at Ace’s Lounge for awhile. Why the change in venue?

Dany: Aces is a great place to have any type of gathering, but we were looking to add something more than just a place to go and listen to some music from some of the area’s best bands. There is more parking, it’s centrally located, and just an overall atmosphere change. This event is going to feature a lot more than just music. We teamed up with the Richland Volunteer Fire Department, for a wider selection of beers, mixed drinks, and food from their award winning kitchen. Also, Color My World Entertainment is going to be offering a chance to have your picture taken on the Green Carpet to share with friends via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Local Celebrity Entertainment’s DJ PUMP, is will be providing non-stop dance music between bands, giving this event more energy and a wider fan base. We are all really excited for this.

Ryan: We’ve been getting feedback that fans were ready for something new this year. We wanted to come up with a location that would be easier to find, in a well-lit neighborhood, with plenty of parking. Brian Scaletta, YUM’s drummer, has a connection with the Richland Volunteer Fire Department, so it seemed like a natural match. A chance to reinvent this event, while doing something good. It was a collective agreement. It’s about providing a really nice event for the community and a fundraiser for the Fire Department.

Examiner: Do you expect a good public turnout?

Ryan: We started planning ShamRock a couple of months ago, and every indication on our social media and websites says the turnout is going to be really good.

Dany: I think we are going to have a very nice turnout. We have always done well in the past and there has been more targeted advertisement then in previous years. There is a lighted billboard along Scalp Avenue in front of the Fire Hall, and Richland has a community flier that the event was mentioned in as well. All three bands are also advertising on social media, so I think this will be the best one yet!

Examiner: How do you feel about playing an event with this band line up?

Dany: We always loved playing with Shades of June. Ryan, Jesse, and Chris “Stewie” are not only great guys, but great friends as well. I mean, come-on, they let us borrow Ryan for a few weeks while we were searching for our new guitar player. Shades of June added female vocalist, Greta Shepardson, to their line-up, and let’s just say we are looking forward to a long lasting friendship with her as well. Nixon Pit Crew, WOW! What can I say about these guys . . . never actually got a chance to share the same stage with them until now, and let me just tell you these guys are the real deal. I remember going to see them every chance I could, so it’s truly an honor to play with J.D, Donn, and Mike now that they’ve returned to the music scene after a long hiatus.

Ryan: Shades of June has a great relationship with YUM both professionally and personally. I sat in as their guitar player for awhile and we totally meshed. They are good guys, good musicians, and good business men. Nixon Pit Crew adds a whole new dimension to the show. They were a big regional influence for me personally, packing the house when I was just getting into music. We’re fortunate to have them on board, and to offer a variety of musical styles for the event. I expect to see some “sitting in” between bands, taking this opportunity to play together.

Examiner: What changes have your bands seen recently?

Ryan: After trying to cover all the bases for awhile as a three-piece, we’ve added a female vocalist, Greta Shepardson. She’s sung the National Anthem at Steelers and Pens games, and at the Pittsburgh marathon. Greta recently moved back to the Johnstown area from LA, and heard that we were auditioning. She blew us away with her talent and range.

Dany: The latest addition to the YUM family is Steve Toma. He has been playing around the area in a number of bands including The Boys and recently with Ribbon Grass. He is a true addition to YUM. He adds a new sound and a new energy to the whole atmosphere.

Examiner: Have these changes altered your sound or set list?

Dany: It really had no effect on the set list. Steve is a talented musician, and he was able to learn the material in a very short time. As for the sound, it’s truly amazing. We lucked out when we found him.

Ryan: Adding Greta on vocals lets me get back to working the crowd. It gives us diversity and energy to be a more engaging band. It’s given our set list a real kick in the butt, and a chance to showcase each of our abilities.

Examiner: Why do you enjoy playing a St. Patrick’s Day party?

Ryan: St. Patrick’s Day and Halloween are my favorite events – I love ‘em – and it’s not a coincidence since I get to play with this group of people. We go bigger on sound and lights and treat it more like a full-blown concert. The fans that come out on St. Patrick’s Day are the best, too.

Dany: We just love playing! It has grown to be one of my favorite events. Some of the people that we see don’t get out as much as they used too, but for this night, they mark it on their calendars. They start planning for it in January!

Examiner: Why does Johnstown love St. Patrick’s Day?

Dany: I want to say I think it’s for the same reason. It’s a holiday that everybody celebrates, and it’s a time to come together and pretend you are Irish. Everybody is Irish on St. Paddy’s Day!

Ryan: Johnstown just loves being Irish for a day. But it’s events like this that generate the enthusiasm for holiday celebrations.

The truly green get down at the ShamRock Firehouse Music Festival on Saturday, March 15, 2014, beginning at 8:00 p.m. when the kitchen and cash bar open. Bands start at 9:00 p.m. Admission is $10, at the door only. The more festive you dress, the more Irish you’ll feel!

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