Longview’s popular Downtown Live concert series will mark its “biggest season” yet when it returns for a 10-week run Aug. 30.
Melida Heien said that when she became the city’s Main Street coordinator 3 1/2 years ago, the series consisted of four concerts. Her first series was five weeks, and since then that number has doubled.
“We thought that was momentous, but the great thing is we have the support to be able to do 10,” she said. “I can’t thank our sponsors and other partners enough for wanting to step up and community members stepping up and seeing this as a valuable asset to the community. It’s great that it’s been able to grow so quickly. It gets better every season, but this is going to be the best.”
Increased funding means that Downtown Live organizers previously started paying bands to perform. Time is money for musicians, Heien said, so paying them was an important step toward making Downtown Live a more legitimate music event.
As a result, more bands express interest in performing on the Elaine Reynolds Stage at Heritage Plaza, Heien said. At the same time, audiences expressed interest in more Friday night concerts, with crowd estimates ranging from 300 to 800, depending on the evening.
Heien said Downtown Live holds its own even during Friday night football season, including last fall when the Lobos made their state championship run. She said when she’s putting up posters about the event around town, she likes hearing people talk about how much they enjoy the event.
“When I started, Heritage Plaza was underutilized. Now, a lot of people are starting to see that as a community gathering place,” she said. Plugs were added for the food trucks that attend each Friday, along with a covered stage and lighting. Downtown Live has turned into a special event, she said.
“I’m very proud of what it’s turning into and where it’s going,” Heien said.
Downtown Live is 5 to 8 p.m. each Friday night at Heritage Plaza at Methvin and Green streets in downtown Longview. This fall’s lineup includes several bands that are new to Downtown Live:
Black Ice – Aug. 30
Paul “Dog” Nelson, guitarist and vocalist, described Black Ice as “the classic rock band.” The group has been together about five years.
“We play today’s and yesterday’s classic rock,” Nelson said, from Jimi Hendrix to the Doors, Judas Priest, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Alice Cooper, for instance.
Other Black Ice members are Darrell “Night Wolf” Cook on bass and drummer Karter Staley.
“We have a really, really wide selection (of songs to play),” Nelson said. “I have a wide enough choice to really play the crowds and feel out the crowd.”
Down Home — Sept. 6
Kilgore-based Down Home has been playing together about two years.
“We’re more of a variety band. We do a little bit of everything,” including Southern rock, rock, country and blues, said lead vocalist Scott Hinton. The group has some original music but is mostly a cover band, he said.
Other Down Home band members are Mayson Garner, lead guitar and vocals; Phil Chifulio, drummer; and Kelly Bennette, bass.
Down Home is booked every weekend, but mostly in places such as Dallas and Shreveport, and occasionally in East Texas.
“For the Longview area, it’s tough for us to get into that loop,” Hinton said of the band’s desire to play at Downtown Live.
Wade Skinner — Oct. 4
Longview resident Wade Skinner found a new outlet for his poetry through music.
“I was writing poetry for years and realized that nobody reads poetry anymore,” said the full-time English teacher at Kilgore College. “The only way that people take in poetry is through songs lyrics.”
“My musical background and my professional life coalesced,” Skinner added.
He described his music as “roots country music” — his new song “Highway Going Down” can be heard on YouTube and on his website wadeskinner.com .
His sound developed out of a lifetime love of music instilled by family gatherings based around music. He recalls his grandfather playing records of early country music greats such as Ernest Tubbs and Hank Williams and bluegrass musicians The Stanley Brothers. His father and uncle, Alvin and Jesse Skinner, had a country music career when they were in their 20s.
“We do about 15 original songs, and then the rest of the concert is usually a mix of cover songs,” of people such as Waylon Jennings and his greatest influence, Merle Haggard, along with Hank Williams and Hank Williams Jr., Tyler Childers and Cody Jinks, he said.