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Fennville ‘Tuesdays in the Park’ Concert Series
Posted: Jul 27, 2011

The Ninth Annual Fennville “Tuesdays in the Park” free community concert series concludes on August 9 with a performance by the band The Steel Wheels. The concert will be held at Memorial/Paradise Park on north Maple ST, downtown Fennville. Music begins at 7PM. In case of inclement weather the concert will be held in the lower level of the Fennville District Library.

Touring on bicycles The Steel Wheels will use pedal power to travel to 10 shows in 10 days in 3 states, stopping in Fennville for their August 9th performance as part of their “Spokesongs” tour.

This is anything but touring as usual,” said Trent Wagler, lead vocalist and instrumentalist, who initiated the idea for the bicycle tours several years ago and recruited band mate Jay Lapp to establish the tradition of an annual bike-and-music tour. “We’re all about doing things simply and differently both in our music and in how we think about our work as professional musicians. Spokesongs is a way for us to do a band tour differently, since we’re essentially commuting to our jobs, and show how cycling is not only recreational but a totally viable option for all kinds of everyday transportation.”

It was in October 2009 that Wagler and Lapp launched out as The Steel Wheels Duo, climbing the mountains of Virginia to perform seven shows in seven days while logging more than 300 miles on their bicycles. They chronicled the experience in an article published in Bicycle Times (June 2010 issue); a short documentary is also available on the band’s web site www.thesteelwheels.com.

In addition to Wagler and Lapp, bass player Brian Dickel and fiddler Oliver Craven, both of whom also contribute backup vocals, will join this year’s Spokesongs Tour. Dickel will stand out in the line of bikes with the largest instrument on tour; Wagler and Lapp will carry several instruments each, and all of the band members will carry their share of CDs and other merchandise.

Lapp, who lives in Ann Arbor, said that he and Wagler have learned a lot about cycling, endurance and finding unexpected support and inspiration on their previous Spokesongs tours. Yet this year’s venture poses new challenges.

“We’re touring as a full band, which means towing a bass and a fiddle, too; you can guess which one is going to be the toughest to haul,” Lapp said. “But you know, Lollapalooza couldn’t roll into Chicago on bike wheels instead of in huge semi trucks. So we have the opportunity to get people curious about why we’re doing this and maybe get them thinking.”  

The Steel Wheels have found support for their outside-of-the-ordinary tour from Tree Fort Bikes, now in its third year sponsoring Spokesongs, and are joined in generous sponsorship of the 2011 tour by Clif bar, Xtracycle, Colorado Case Company and Fretwell Bass and Acoustic Instruments.

In turn, The Steel Wheels will bring awareness on the tour to bicycle-friendly activities and organizations, including hosting an Aug. 8 benefit concert for Lose the Training Wheels, a not-for-profit group launched in 2007 with the mission of teaching individuals with disabilities how to ride “conventional” bikes. The goal is to cultivate not only the physical skills for life-long cycle, but to develop independence, self-reliance and other skills. The organization’s web site, at www.losethetrainingwheels.org, provides further description.

An official “Bike Blog” on the band’s web site will chronicle the trip, and already contains new material about the unusual pre-tour preparation. In addition, a film crew will follow The Steel Wheels on their August bicycle odyssey to shoot footage for a documentary. 

The Steel Wheels have also attracted plenty of attention on the Americana music scene. The independent band’s album Red Wing ranked in the Americana Music Association’s Top 100 Americana Albums of the Year in 2010, having spent 13 weeks on the AMA’s Top 40 radio charts, topping out at a 15th-place spot and, notably, finding its place as the second-highest ranked album of all independently produced releases. The album also cracked EuroAmericana Top 10 chart. Red Wing racked up five nominations in the Independent Music Awards, winning the “Best Song” category for “Nothing You Have That You Can’t Lose,” and was named “one of the best albums of the year” by Maverick magazine. Red Wing is a testament to the many forms roots music can take, exploring the regions between blues and bluegrass, old-time sing-alongs and foot-stompin’ fiddle tunes.

“Imagine a blend of the passion of the Avett Brothers, the instrumentals of Old Crow Medicine Show, and then sprinkle in the backwoods feel of The Legendary Shack Shakers,“ wrote John Walker of Americana Roots. “In truth, attempting to compare [The Steel Wheels] to anyone is an injustice, since after one listen you can hear that they stand very well on their own perch.”

The quartet recently brought their unmistakable authenticity, inspired lyricism, alchemic musicianship, and powerhouse harmonies to internationally recognized broadcasts: West Virginia public radio’s “Mountain Stage” and to Chicago public radio station WFMT’s “Folkstage.” The “Mountain Stage” broadcast in April was accompanied by tracks featured on the NPR Music site.

Martin Anderson, music director for the prominent North Carolina public radio station WNCW, said, “There is purity and power in the sound of this band that few come close to tapping. Tight pickin’, passionate energy, and Wagler’s voice soars like an eagle.” Wagler, whose voice WDVX’s Red Hickey compared to John Fogerty’s and Darrel Scott’s, penned most of the songs on Red Wing, including its title track; on the album, that song features special guests Robin and Linda Williams – who, like The Steel Wheels, are based in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley – providing back-up instrumentals and vocals. The title track was tied at no. 8 on the Folk DJ Top Songs of March 2010 list, and hit no. 21 on the Bluegrass Chart in April 2010.

The Steel Wheels have built a strong following from their backyard – the band was voted “best original music in the Shenandoah Valley” – and from Vermont to Texas, Calgary to New York, appearing at Americana festivals such as the Bristol Rhythm & Roots Festival, Floydfest, Ocrafolk, Kerrville Folk Festival, and Appalachian Uprising. The band enjoyed a featured showcase at Folk Alliance in 2011, and has performed on radio stations across the country for the past several years.

Find more information – music tracks, a tour schedule, band blog, newsletter sign-up and band member bios – at www.thesteelwheels.com .. The band welcomes friends at facebook.com/thesteelwheels.

NOTE: The Steel Wheels are available for interviews and live radio performances. Contact Lucy at publicity@thesteelwheels.com  or 919.489.4824.

Free to the public the concerts are sponsored by the following businesses;

Alexander’s Drug Store, Allegan Community Federal Credit Union, Allegan County News, Birds Eye Foods LLC, Charles P. Schreiner Photography, Chemical Bank, City of Fennville Downtown Development Authority, Crane’s Pie Pantry Restaurant, Cris’ Hairstyling, Darpel and Associates Builders Inc., Dickinson True Value Hardware, Fenn Valley Vineyards, Fennville Family Medicine, Fennville Main Street Market, Fennville Station Dining Coach  & Lounge, Fennville Tire Center, Formed Solutions Inc., Greater Fennville Chamber of Commerce, Hidden Pond B&B, Hilliard Lyons, Lakeshore Lodging, Lakeside Electric of Fennville LLC, Mac’s Landing Vet Services, Pleasant Hill Farm, Renzema Dentistry, Robert Hutchinson, Salt of the Earth-rustic American eatery, Septic Tank Systems Co. Inc.

Bring a lawn chair and a picnic dinner and enjoy Tuesdays in the Park.  Visit the Chamber website at www.greaterfennville.com  for more information.  Anyone wishing to contribute toward concert sponsorship should contact Martha Wickett-Schrock at 269.561.2420 or email mmschrock@frontier.com .


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