Rock The River returns for 2nd year

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Gadsden’s riverfront will be rocking on Friday, July 10 for the Hardin Center’s second annual Rock the River.

Rock the River takes place at Coosa Landing, Gadsden’s large boat launch facility between the Memorial Bridge and the railroad trestle on the east side of the river. 

Last year’s event was forced indoors due to rain, but Deborah Hawkins, Hardin Center development officer said, “We’re very optimistic about a better forecast this year and being able to enjoy a live music festival along the Coosa’s majestic riverfront.”

This year’s event features two bands to entertain music lovers all evening. Chevy 6, the venerable oldies revue band that has been entertaining Alabama party-goers since the mid-1970s, will take the stage at 7 p.m. Chevy 6 remains a favorite of several generations of Alabamians and brings everyone to their feet with rock and roll classics.  The band was the featured entrainment for last year’s inaugural Rock the River and is expected to draw a large crowd.

In addition to Chevy 6, this year’s Rock the River attendees will be treated to an additional band. Austin, Texas-based ROXY ROCA hits the stage at 10 p.m. and will bring its “dynamite Texas soul” to the crowd. In fact, ROXY ROCA uses several terms to describe its music including “powerhouse Southern soul” and “green-eyed Texas funk.” 

“Whatever term you want to use to describe them, we’re thrilled to present them at this year’s event,” said Hardin Center deputy director Tom Banks. “They have a powerful sound with booming vocals and a thunderous soulful beat. They are really taking off and we’re pleased that their impressive tour includes a stop in Gadsden.”

ROXY ROCA has a local connection; lead singer Taye Cannon grew up in Attalla and he cites the music his father listened to as an influence on his music taste and career. 

“I grew up in the Deep South immersed in my dad’s music — Jackie Wilson, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, James Brown. Basically, if it had a groove, my dad had it. When Motown 25 hit the TV, it was all over; I knew this was what I wanted to do. I remember staying up all night with my cousins, emulating James Brown and Michael Jackson in our grandfather’s carport.”

After his teenage years and a stint fronting a dark wave band, Cannon decided he wanted to be a soul singer. After a chance meeting, veteran Austin guitar slinger Errol Siegel joined him and they recruited Roger Wuthrich.

“I knew these guys were great players, so I had no doubt they could do it,” said Cannon. “For whatever reason, they saw something that made them think I could, too. So, we were on our way.”

One by one they filled out the band with Tom Hays on trombone, tenor saxman Houston Rawls, Peter Phoenix on alto sax and Ryan Greenblatt on drums. 

“We just started connecting the dots, figuring out who we knew that had a passion for soul music, the chops to play it right,” said Siegel. 

After a year of recruiting, woodshedding, and writing, ROXY ROCA made its debut at an ACL Festival after-party. 

“We felt like we had one chance to prove ourselves so we knew we had to leave it all on the stage that night,” said guitarist Errol Siegel.

Since that night, the buzz has spread quickly, leading to more high-profile shows with B.B. King, Tom Jones, Lee Fields, Fitz and The Tantrums, Mayer Hawthorne, Trombone Shorty, Fred Wesley, Vintage Trouble, Anthony Hamilton, Tamia, Ludacris, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Orgone, JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound, Robert Walter, Dumpstaphunk, Honey Island Swamp Band, Brownout, Sister Sparrow and The Dirty Birds, The Monophonics, Maneja Beto, T-Bird and The Breaks, Guy Forsyth, and others.

In February, the band released its new record, “Ain’t Nothin’ Fancy,” on Stag Records and recorded at EAR Studio in Austin. To learn more about ROXY ROCA and to hear some of their music, visit roxyroca.com.

In addition to the two bands from 7 p.m. to midnight, food vendors will have a wide array of offerings at Rock the River. Gates open at 6 p.m., coolers and lawn chairs are welcome, and Coosa Landing will provide plenty of space for attendees to spread out and enjoy the evening. People are encouraged to park in the former K-Mart parking lot and use the short path under the Memorial Bridge to enter the event. Tickets are $25 per person and are on sale at the Hardin Center.  In the event of rain, the event will take place inside 210 at the Tracks on Locust Street. Funds raised by Rock the River go to support the programs and projects of the Hardin Center.

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