By George Stahl
Special to the Sun
Riverside Park in Kernville has been the venue for the concert series called River Rhythms. For the past 7 years, hundreds of locals, as well as visitors to the valley, set aside at least one of their August Friday nights to sit in the relaxing venue on the banks of the Kern River. Under the canopy of shade trees and the cool evening breeze, what started as an avenue for local bands and individual performers to showcase their talents has grown into an event that groups from far away points in California come to entertain and be entertained.
The group dominating the second Friday of August this year were a local, well, mostly local group, Stoneflys. ‘Mostly local’ because several of the members of this ska/reggae/jazz band come from outside of the valley. The lead singer and keytar player, Guy Jeans, is from Kernville, and when the group started in 2013, he was right there in the mix of things. That same year, Stoneflys released an album, called Emergence, which was recorded at Colorbox recording Studios in Ventura and was engineered and mastered by Jeff Evans. They are currently working on a new recording which will be completed in 2018. Their new single “With You” has just been released by Po-Folk Records.
On Friday night, the group was in the process of making their first music video. Along with the project being a milestone for Stoneflys, it was a first for Kernville and River Rhythms as well. “We’re going to make a video of tonight’s performance and hope to have it up on our website very soon,” said Guy Jeans. “This is definitely a first for us, and I know it is a first for the valley. I am so proud to be able to do this here at this venue,” Jeans said.
Opening for Stoneflys was a returning musician from Atwater Village in Southern California. Jason Myers is a full-time music teacher and performer back home. Even with his busy schedule, he still manages to play several gigs around his hometown, and 2 years ago, Myers made his debut at River Rhythms. Myers presented some of his original music and one or two others accompanying himself on the ukulele.
Then it was time for Stoneflys. Jeans started in on his keytar and the other six members of the band joined in. The energy and excitement emitted by the group quickly permeated into the crowd of over 500 people. Many of them danced in front of the stage while others were content to sit in their chairs or on the grass, swaying back and forth to the music and mouthing the lyrics as they knew them.
After a few opening songs, Jeans called everyone to come up as close as they could to the stage. As the enthusiastic crowd began waving their arms and cheering, reminiscent of a good old-fashioned tent revival meeting, Stoneflys burst into song and the spectators soon became part of the video.
Stoneflys performed for about an hour and a half, cameras were following their every move, both the video and picture taking kind. The crowd listened intently to Jeans as he instructed them on what to do to be able to be seen in the video, all the while a drone with a video camera was buzzing overhead, lower at times, capturing not only the band, but the spectators as well. They were all part of the historic music video that night. There was even a music enthralled, dancing and hand clapping Bigfoot on the loose among the crowd. The legendary creature was readily accepted by everyone, including the band. “Ok, there is a Bigfoot walking around here. I want you to go and interact with him. Dance with him. It will be great!” Jeans commented.
By the end of the evening, when the last song had been sung, the drone had been grounded, the music video was in the can and Sasquatch had returned to the mountain, people were walking away still talking about the evenings performance.
Rounding things out that night, the vendors who have slowly been appearing on the scene provided refreshments and comfort for concert goers. Schroeder’s Kettle Corn, Tutus Shaved Ice, and Karen Hartfield made her Cold Neck Coolers available for the attendees, and Denise Peters was back with her face painting booth with something for both youngsters and oldsters alike. There was Stoneflys merchandise as well, making the event a real music festival.
“We really appreciate all of the support we get from the community at these concerts. It really makes a difference,” said CEO of the Kern River Valley Healthcare District, Tim McGlew. Last year, the Hospital Foundation took the reins of responsibility for River Rhythms from the Kern River Valley Education and Cultural Foundation. “Since we have assumed coordinating the event, we have continued to support the things the Foundation had been helping. We continue to fund scholarships, STEM programs in the valley and other programs important to the community. We are very proud of what we are doing here and we are extremely grateful to the community and to our sponsors,” McGlew said prior to the concert.
The rest of August Friday Nights and River Rhythms performers include Out of the Blue, Kern River Band, and the newly formed local band called Backflow. If you were not able to attend the first two, you can still make the next three outdoor concerts. Remember, the concerts are free and all donations collected by the Pink Ladies meandering through the spectators go to a good cause, namely the scholarships, STEM Programs and other community projects that need help.
Photos by Richard Peterson / Freelance Photographer
Stoneflys bandmates (top picture) Guy Jeans (keyboard and vocals), Skabone Stan (trombone), Dave Price (sax), Kevin Miller (trumpet) performed for the crowd while Big Foot mingled (bottom left) and concert goers danced (bottom right) during River Rhythms at Riverside Park on Aug. 10.