AMPlify the goodness of music and community

  • Aaron Kamm and the One Drops
Levitt AMP concert #8 on Friday, July 22

Aaron Kamm and the One Drops merged reggae, Mississippi river blues, improvisational jams with vocals that ended up with a unique sound. They create a “create a sublime fusion of lighthearted reggae and old school funky blues …” according to Levitt.  Aaron Kamm on vocals was bare-footed and full of feeling during the concert. Additionally, the youth attending this concert had a special treat - the City had the sprinklers turned on. This led to fun in the sun and sounds.
  • Old Salt Union
Levitt AMP concert #10 on Saturday, August 6

The last concert in the series was a fine finale to Jacksonville’s Levitt AMP Music Series.  With their own set of rules, witty side commentary and a repertoire of wonderfully innocent jokes, Old Salt Union was a performance not to be missed. The group was special, proven by “their ability to further explore the jazz and blues roots of bluegrass in a mature and refreshing manner. With in-depth musical compositions, a catchy hook and a high- energy metaphorical punch to the gut, they are truly frontrunners in the new generation of string music,” noted their Levitt write-up. Old Salt Union certainly exposed the audience “to a purer, more exciting and more original form of music.” The band unplugged and ventured out off the square’s pergola and onto the grass for the encore instigated by a cheering crowd. The concert was packed with dancing in the sunshine on a Saturday afternoon.
  • Angela Perley & the Howlin’ Moons
Levitt AMP concert #9 on Friday, July 29

It was bunches to take in. Something similar to a nostalgic and energetic rock unfolding in the songs telling stories of “love, death, railroads and everything in-between.” Perhaps the connection was the music rooted in her small midwestern hometown, made between three longtime friends. Perhaps it was the fact that Perley played a saw during the show. No matter - this band dove in, socializing with the crowd and partaking in amusing photo opportunities, such as “throwing pseudo Frisbees” with area disc golfers or mimicking what the local self-named artist Moon Draw Boy calls the “international symbol” for a crescent moon.
  • Fivefold
Levitt AMP concert #6 on Friday, July 8

These five guys even had some fans that followed them to Jacksonville for their appearance in the Levitt AMP Music Series. Fivefold is a heavy rock band; still, the band members’ attitudes and demeanor with the crowd were positive and super smiley. Starting in St. Louis, this band branched out and has even opening for mainstream acts such as The Offspring or Buckcherry. The concert also featured a visit from Levitt AMP bigwigs to Jacksonville.
  • Rapture Ruckus
Levitt AMP concert #7 on Friday, July 15

Christian rock rocked. It may look odd due to the repetition of word base used consecutively in print, but it’s the truth. Rapture Ruckus, a New Zealand Christian rock band, began as a “straight CCM hip-hop crew,” growing to infuse additional genres into their sound as their career grew. The group rocked out close up and personal, off the stage and interacting with fans. It was high-fivin’, spirit-liftin’ feel-good fun.
  • Radio Birds
Levitt AMP concert #5 on Friday, July 1

You can’t go wrong with some Americana style. The fifth concert in the series featured four guys who write their music together. The want to play live, and they want to play everywhere. The harmonies of this group had people tapping along. Energy of longhaired, scruffy bearded dudes whose love and joy in the music they make was clearly detected. The concert was heightened by smiles in the crowd and a splendid sunset.
  • Sarah Ross
Levitt AMP concert #4 on Friday, June 24

Nineteen years old. Described as “already helping to blaze a trail for women in the fast -growing country/rap/hip-hop genre of music,” Sarah Ross probably intrigued those thinking of marking this concert down on their calendar. I’d venture to bet that most everyone in the crowd that evening was thrown off when the young lady started to bust out some lyrics.  Remarkably, she was fresh and fun. The innovative style entertained and brought out the community.
  • Marina V.
Levitt AMP concert #2 on Friday, June 10

An Illinois College (I.C.) alumna, Russian born Marina V is an award-winning singer and songwriter. Her music is pop/rock with added electronic elements. She quotes her music as “Songs about seeing beauty in this life & being brave enough to be yourself.” Marina V was the main act, performed after opener, Liz Bentley. Another beautiful evening in Jacksonville that brought out more dancing, more of the community and even some local college alumni pride.
  • David Gerald
Levitt AMP concert #3 on Friday, June 17

More good weather was present for the third concert, which featured blues and rock soulful guitarist David Gerald.  Levitt described Gerald as someone who “grew up to the sounds of the blues and R&B music in his hometown, Detroit,” adding, “Gerald started playing guitar at the age of 15, influenced by Prince and ‘80s rock guitarists.” Along with the weather, some dancing and also crowds having fun were present yet again.
  • Benton Blount 
Levitt AMP concert #1 on Friday, June 3

The kickoff concert for the series of 10 music performances was country singer Benton Blount. His “powerful voice and heartfelt songs” started the series on a lovely evening in downtown Jacksonville. His gift for song had even taken him to the finals rounds of “America’s Got Talent.” The evening proved a strong start to the series, as the square was filled with scenes of mother/daughter dancing, a full downtown and friends not only enjoying the music but also each other.

Photos/Kyla Hurt

Jacksonville’s Levitt AMP Music Series introduced our community to 10 up-and-coming musicians or musical groups. “The energetic and eclectic sounds of the 2016 Levitt AMP Music Series are now filling the air, bringing you a fun-filled summer and fall of free concerts that give new life to underused public spaces,” notes Now that each of the 10 free concerts have been performed, it is really special to look back and recall some of the incredible musical artists who have performed intimate concerts on the downtown square of Jacksonville. It is especially rewarding to have had such an array of musical genres performing for anyone interested. We have many public spaces that go unused; it is worthwhile to make use of these spaces. The downtown square was filled with friends, families, groups, pets and music-lovers interested in taking part of the free concert series in our community. From event sponsors in their VIP tent or a hoard of children wiggling and giggling on the grass in front of the pergola stage … to friends and family in lawn chairs … to those simply standing around the square or passing by, the opportunity to hear live music coming from downtown Jacksonville inspires delight. For those unaware, the website also states, “The Levitt AMP [Jacksonville] Grant Awards is an exciting matching grant program made possible by the Mortimer & Mimi Levitt Foundation, a national private foundation dedicated to strengthening the social fabric of America through the power of free, live music. With Levitt AMP, the joy of free, live music is bringing communities together in small and mid-sized towns and cities across the country.” Let’s take a look back.

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About the author

Kyla Hurt is a capable boondoggler trained in the arts; she’s also an accomplished event coordinator with experience from museum fundraising to art festivals. She enjoys puppies, sunshine, and good radishes – and wit. Wit is good, too.

View all articles by Kyla Hurt

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