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Rotary concerts kick off this week

Johnny Limbo performs at 6:30 p.m. July 24; rock violinist Aaron Meyer follows July 31


by: SPOKESMAN FILE PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Johnny Limbo and the Lugnuts, shown here at a past Rotary show at Town Center Park, will open Rotarys Summer Concert Series Thursday at 6:30 p.m. with a set of their oldie favorites. These days, Portland concert rock violinist Aaron Meyer is staying as busy as ever.

Meyer and longtime musical partner Tim Ellis are rapidly wrapping up work on a new record, the follow-up to “Two Sides to This Story,” the acclaimed 2011 release highlighted by six tracks featuring a 28-member orchestra.

The new album, by contrast, will feature anywhere from 10 to 15 songs of “other people’s music” from the 1960s through 80s. Think Kansas, Neil Young and the like, Meyer said.

“We’re working on new material and we’ll be releasing another record, probably by November, December or early next year,” said Meyer, who is a longtime fixture in the south metro area music scene, including Wilsonville, where he has performed on many occasions. And that’s not to mention his educational work in West Linn-Wilsonville School District schools, where he has helped provide stringed instrument instruction.

His next appearance in Wilsonville, however, will be strictly for entertainment. Set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, July 31, in Town Center Park, Meyer, Ellis and their six-piece band will perform live as part of the Wilsonville Rotary Club’s Summer Concert Series.

Wilsonville singer/songwriter Michele Van Kleef will perform in support with a 5:30 p.m. set.

The new record, Meyer said, is going to be recognizable to the average listener, but also will also veer off into more exotic territory, sometimes even within the same song.

by: SPOKESMAN FILE PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Concert rock violinist Aaron Meyer, shown here at Wilsonvilles Festival of Art, is staying as busy as ever alongside renowned guitarist and producer Tim Ellis. The pair and their 6-piece band play at Town Center Park on July 31.  “For example, we’re taking Kansas’ tune “Carry On My Wayward Son” and some Neil Young tunes,” he said. “You’ll recognize the riffs and melodies, and then we’ll go off into Aaron and Tim land, which is what we love to do — to take ideas and music that is awesome and we love to turn it into our own interpretation.”

Meyer and Ellis will be the second performers of this year’s Summer Concert Series. Longtime Wilsonville favorites Johnny Limbo and the Lugnuts will open the series Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in Town Center Park. Wilsonville’s own Naomi LaViolette is supporting them with a 5:30 set of her own featuring songs from her new EP “You’ve Got Me.”

Johnny Limbo and the Lugnuts are the traditional first band of the series each summer and typically pack Town Center Park above and beyond the rest of the shows. So plan to arrive early and catch LaViolette’s set at the very least.

Limbo, as most of the metro area is well aware, is one of the region’s longest-running acts and also one of the most popular. Started as a lark back in the 1980s, the Lugnuts quickly became an established presence in the Portland scene and have never relinquished that footing. Playing 50s, 60s and 70s songs — with costumes to match — their onstage presence and antics are almost as much fun as the music.

Following Meyer and Ellis in the lineup will be Big Night Out with a 6:30 p.m. show on Aug. 7. One of Portland’s favorite cover bands, the 12-piece Big Night Out specializes in 70s and 80s “Solid Gold” era tunes and will have the crowd up and dancing the entire time.

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Big Night Out performs Aug. 7 in Wilsonville's Town Center Park, part of the Rotary Summer Concert Series.Finally, one of Portland’s favorite showmen, Tony Starlight, rounds out the series on Aug. 14 with another 6:30 p.m. show full of music and comedy from the Rat Pack era of the 1950s and 60s. As Tony himself puts it, his show is “a love letter to the bygone days of live stage entertainment.”

The Wilsonville Rotary Concert Series started in 2001 as a ‘thank you’ to the Wilsonville community for their involvement in Rotary events. It’s also one of the club’s biggest fundraising efforts of the year, with virtually all the proceeds going to the Rotary Club’s ongoing international fight against polio.

Past series performers have included Curtis Salgado, Pink Martini, Hit Machine, Radical Revolution, Ellen Whyte, Ty Curtis, Michael Allen Harrison, Patrick Lamb, Norman Sylvester, Paul deLay, Linda Hornbuckle and many others.

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Portlands Tony Starlight performs Aug. 14 at Town Center Park to wrap up the Summer Concert Series. Bring a lawn chair or blanket and enjoy the tunes while kids splash in the nearby water feature. Food is available from on-site vendors, but you are free to bring a feast to the park if you like.

Meanwhile, Meyer Ellis have been doing plenty of overseas traveling, and there’s plenty more in the near future. They played in January with the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra in Thailand and have another concert planned for later this year in Cambodia.

“That’s going to be in front of a 900-year-old temple,” Meyer said. “Which is something we’ve wanted to do for a long time.”

Between public performances the duo will give musical workshops to young students as they travel, part of the way in which they give back to the wider musical community. In Wilsonville, West Linn and the rest of the metro area, that effort has looked much the same, with Meyer regularly giving classes and workshops in local schools.

“We really do it all over the world,” Meyer said.

Ellis, owner of the renowned Kung Fu Bakery recording studio and a celebrated, in-demand guitarist in his own right, provides part of the “rock” edge that helps define Meyers’ sound. They’ve played together since 1997, Meyer is fond of recounting, and their skills have always complimented each other.

“I come up with all sorts of descriptions for our music,” he said. “And I sort of got tired of saying it because it sounds ridiculous, but what I came up with as is that I bill myself as a “concert rock violinist.”

Simply calling him a concert violinist isn’t sufficient, he added.

“A concert violinist is a Joshua Bell, a classical virtuoso,” he explained. “ I was trained classically, with a very rigorous approach – and I threw the rock in there not because I know exactly what rock violin is, but I know rock is something edgy and I was thinking more in terms of rocking out and intense playing and that’s where I came up with the term.”

by: SPOKESMAN FILE PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Johnny Limbo and the Lugnuts, shown here at a past Rotary show at Town Center Park, will open Rotarys Summer Concert Series Thursday at 6:30 p.m. with a set of their oldie favorites.


By Josh Kulla
Assistant Editor / Photographer
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