Sha Na Na has been booked into Pig Out in the Park, a big outdoor festival, almost exactly 41 years after the band was booked into a slightly more gigantic outdoor festival: Woodstock.
Amid all the psychedelia and tie-dye, these Columbia University students sported sleeveless T-shirts, gold lamé jumpsuits and played “At the Hop,” a 1957 Danny and the Juniors hit.
The mud-soaked crowd lapped it up. Jimi Hendrix stood in the wings and nodded his approval.
Woodstock made unlikely stars of this ’50s-rock throwback act – or, it would be more accurate to say, the film documentary and soundtrack album made them stars.
“It was after the movie was released that the lore and glamour of Woodstock found a lot of traction out there,” said Donny York, a Sha Na Na member from the beginning. “That was a very significant badge of approval in pop culture of the time.”
York, who moved to Spokane last year, grew up in Boise and Lewiston and visited Spokane often. He returned to what he calls his “home turf” so that he could be nearer to his “family center of gravity.”
He flies around the country for about 50 shows a year with Sha Na Na, which has never stopped touring in 41 years. He pronounced himself appreciative of the fact that for this gig, he can stay right at home.
The group was formed in New York just months before Woodstock by York and some of his Columbia University classmates. When the band took off, his plans to go on to law school went out the window.
“I have only regretted that a time or two,” he said.
And what can we expect from Sha Na Na’s two sets at Pig Out? They’ll do the same thing they were doing at Woodstock in 1969 and on their syndicated TV show from 1977 to 1981.
“We’re always mindful of the public wanting us to do what we do, which is to celebrate the first rock and roll of the 1950s,” said York.
Catch them on Sunday, 2:30 and 8:15 p.m. at the Clocktower Stage.
There will be two stages again this year, but the second stage has a new name – the River Bank Acoustic Stage – and a shifted location, on the north side of the Gondola ride, instead of across the street from City Hall.
This new configuration will open up more space for the food booths and covered seating. An adult beverage garden will be nearby.
Most of the national-name acts will be at the bigger Clocktower Stage location, next to, of course, the old Burlington Northern clocktower. Here are a few of the notables:
• Coco Montoya, Friday, 8:15 p.m., Clocktower Stage – This Santa Monica blues wizard knocked out a Pig Out crowd in 1992, as the star guitarist for John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Montoya toured for 10 years with John Mayall, famous for grooming guitar geniuses.
Montoya was also a protégé of bluesman Albert Collins, and played with him as both a drummer and guitarist. Expect to hear a searing blues set.
• Pat Travers Band and the Rick Derringer Band, Saturday, 8 p.m., Clocktower Stage – This will be the place to hear “Boom Boom (Out Go the Lights)” and “Rock and Roll Hootchie Koo” together in one place.
“Boom Boom” was Travers’ monster hit in 1979 and “Hootchie Koo” was Derringer’s monster hit from 1974. These two acts have joined forces for one big Pig Out show.
You might be surprised at some of the other familiar songs connected with these guitar masters. Derringer was responsible for the 1965 hit “Hang On, Sloopy” when he was a 17-year guitarist for the McCoys. He was also the producer (and player) on many of Edgar Winter’s hits, including “Frankenstein” and “Free Ride.”
Travers also had another hit with “Snortin’ Whiskey.”
• Jr. Cadillac, Saturday, 2:45 p.m., Clocktower Stage – Seattle’s legendary band has been honoring the roots of rock and roll for almost as long as Sha Na Na. This summer they are celebrating their 40th anniversary.
• Too Slim and the Taildraggers, tonight, 8:15, Clocktower Stage – Spokane’s favorite blues-rockers – now based in Seattle – return for their traditional Pig Out appearance.
• Star Anna and the Laughing Dogs, Friday, 8:15 p.m., River Bank Acoustic Stage – This Ellensburg band fronted by Star Anna has created serious buzz in the alt-country scene in Seattle and up and down the West Coast. NPR described her voice as “world-weary” and “head-turning.” This may be the sleeper act of Pig Out.
The lineup also features plenty of local favorites, including 6 Foot Swing (tonight, 8:15, River Bank Acoustic Stage); the Hot Club of Spokane (Sunday, 8:15 p.m. River Bank Acoustic Stage); Prairie Flyer (Monday, 7:45 p.m., River Bank Acoustic Stage); Mon Cherie, (Sunday, 12:30 p.m., Clocktower Stage); and Sammy Eubanks (Friday, 6:30 p.m., Clocktower Stage).
And a few familiar names are resurfacing from Spokane’s musical past. Daryl Redeker, who fronted the folk-rock Minstrel String Guild in the 1970s with sister Renee, plays a solo set Saturday at noon on the River Bank stage, while ’80s new-wave faves the Exploding Fifis reunite for a show Sunday at 4:30 p.m. on the Clocktower Stage.