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Frederick Road Fridays adds sounds of Appalachia and Caribbean

Summer concert series kicks off its fifth season on June 15

By Brian Conlin, bconlin@patuxent.com

3:51 PM EDT, June 12, 2012

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Same place. Same time. Some new toe-tapping tunes.

Frederick Road Fridays free concert series kicks off 6:30 p.m. on June 15 with a schedule that includes many of the favorite groups that performed on the Mellor Avenue outdoor stage last year.

But this summer's lineup also includes four bands who didn't play last year, including two that will provide sounds not often heard in the four previous summers.

The Klassix, One Flight Up and The Players Band will all make their Frederick Road Fridays debuts in 2012.

High Strung will return for the first time since the first season of the concert series in 2008.

The series, which ends Aug. 31, is hosted and presented by the Greater Catonsville Chamber of Commerce.

In addition to the soul and classic and modern rock familiar to the concerts, the event will feature a ska-reggae band and a bluegrass band during its 12-week season.

"We just wanted to appeal to a larger group of people," said Ryan Greer, the first-year chairman of the concert committee. "We're just trying to mix it up."

The Players Band will provide the ska horns and reggae beats and High Strung will serenade with its quick banjo playing.

The ska horns and bluegrass banjo strums fit the theme of the concert series because they perform crowd-pleasing ditties that people can dance to, Greer said.

Even with the additions, Greer said Frederick Road Fridays still uses bands with ties to the local areas.

Catonsville native Andy Schneider, 33, plays the drums for The Players Band, which has most of its gigs at venues in the Federal Hill neighborhood of Baltimore.

Schneider said he looks forward to wrapping up the concert series with a performance on Aug. 31 because the band's style of music matches the setting where they will play.

"Our music is especially suited toward outdoor festivals given the island feel of our music," the Ellicott City resident said. "It tends to work real well outdoors, especially if the weather works out."

The success of the 13-year-old band, Schneider said, comes from the diverse backgrounds of the eight to nine musicians they bring to the stage.

Instead of becoming to reliant on one style or sound, The Players Band strives to use influences from each performer, Schneider said.

"We like to think of ourselves as ambassadors for ska music," Schneider said. "What makes it exciting is the fact that people don't get the exposure to ska music at least locally just because there really aren't any other ska bands to think of in the direct Baltimore area."

The sound has brought success as they have performed with The Isley Brothers, Citizen Cope, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Matisyahu and Third Eye Blind among others.

His brother, Dan Schneider, a Halethorpe resident, provides the vocals and plays guitar for The Players Band and The Pietasters, a ska and soul band from Washington D.C.

"It's always exciting for us to try a new venue, a new crowd," Andy Schneider said. "I hope we end up seeing a lot of friendly faces in the area."

High Strung is no stranger to the Catonsville music scene, having played at the annual Catonsville Arts and Crafts Festival the past two years.

"We love playing in Catonsville," said Paul Schiminger, the band's banjo player. "There's a really good music community, especially a bluegrass one."

The five-person band plays mostly covers of traditional bluegrass songs such as "Fox on the Run" by Country Gentlemen, and classic rock songs like "Friend of the Devil" by The Grateful Dead, Schiminger said.

One of Schiminger's favorite parts about performing, and something he expects when he takes the stage at Frederick Road Fridays on Aug. 3, is when parents bring their kids and they enjoy the music, too.

"We play music we find fun and interesting for us," the Timonium resident said of the eight-year-old band. "We find if we enjoy the rhythms and melodies, the audience will enjoy them, too."

With the addition of the new sounds and simply as word of Frederick Road Fridays has spread, Greer predicted this year's series would be bigger than ever.

"Being our fifth year, we're going to expect larger crowds," Greer said. "Each year, it seems to get bigger and bigger."

The concerts' large crowds has helped the sponsors for the event grow from 18 last year to 24, Greer said.

"We're very appreciative of our sponsors," Greer said. "The whole point of this event originally was to promote the businesses on Frederick Road."

While promoting the downtown businesses, the concert series also made Catonsville a more close-knit community, Greer said.

"Catonsville is the music hub of Maryland," Greer said. "I like the fact that music can bring the community together in our own little town and our own little event."