by Rory D. Webb
Prepared for an evening of fun with performances from several reputable alternative and indie rockers, thousands of people covered the Schenley Plaza in Oakland with their picnic blankets, lawn chairs, and coolers last Friday.
"The Summer Music Festival is WYEP's way of saying thanks to our listeners by inviting them to a free outdoor show featuring some of their favorite bands," host of the festival and WYEP’s weekday morning show, Cindy Howes, told me. "WYEP is a member-funded radio station that relies on donations from our listeners, so this event is our way of showing appreciation to our supporters. It's also a nice way of getting our community together in a great part of the city."
That it did. WYEP’s 15th Annual Summer Music Festival was a family affair, attended by a diverse group of people of all ages. As the first act to perform and sole local band on the night’s bill, Donora attracted a large crowd early in the evening.
"We at WYEP have been repeatedly impressed with all aspects of this band; the energy during live shows, songwriting, production and general presentation," Howes says. "We knew they would do a great job kicking off the day with a fun set of their high-energy music and great attitudes!"
The sun shined bright as Donora took their act to the stage. Appeasing to summer skies, lead singer and guitarist Casey Hanner dressed fashionably in light gray brimmed sunglasses, a light orange-salmon colored short-sleeve button-up shirt, and light green pants that matched the swoosh on her Nike shoes. The band’s set opened with “The Untouchables,” a song from their late-2011 album release Boyfriends, Girlfriends.
"Their latest CD has really resonated with our audience, they’ve been growing their audience locally and regionally for the past few years, and they are superb live," says Kyle Smith, Director of Content and Programming with WYEP. "They are definitely a band that has the talent to break outside of the local band scene."
Donora’s showcase at WYEP’s Summer Music Festival preceded their Friends Forever Tour that the band has since embarked on. As they put the finishing touches on an EP that they predict will release this fall, they'll be performing several songs from the new release while on tour. The tour started in Boston and will end in Columbus, with a return date to Pittsburgh mid-tour at the Brillobox on June 29. Donora is joined on the road by Rostrum Records label-mates TeamMate.
"It will be a fun tour because we're all friends and I think we have a lot of fan crossover potential," says Hanner. "Both bands love to see crowds dancing and having fun."
Surely Hanner and her Donora band-mates were thrilled as youthful audience members stepped to the front of the stage to dance and sing-a-long during their set at WYEP's Summer Music Festival. The sole local band on the bill, Donora attracted a large crowd early in the evening.
"We owe a lot of our Pittsburgh success to WYEP. They've been supporting us since our first self-titled album," explains Hanner. "We've played a number of events for them and have gotten the chance to play with some really great national acts because of that."
At WYEP’s Summer Music Festival, Donora’s performance preceded three national acts – Great Lake Swimmers, Sharon Van Etten, and Dr. Dog, who had sold out Mr. Small’s Theater in February.
"This year was easily our largest and most successful Summer Music festival to date," says Smith, who’s been working with the festival for 13 years. "The crowd for the day and evening was estimated at over 10,000 attendees by the staff and security at Schenley Plaza. The ideal summer weather helped, along with the excellent line up and performances."
"I circled the park to check out the crowd," adds Howes, this being her fifth year working the festival. "The number of people that were on the plaza was overwhelming. The amount of people and also the diversity of the crowd was a great sight to observe. It looked like all ages and all walks of life were in attendance."
(For photos, head over to WYEP's Flickr page.)