I’ve interviewed dozens of nationally known musical artists who’ve shared Moondog’s memories.
From Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi, to Joe Bonamassa and Pat Travers, to Samantha Fish (featured in today’s Times), they’ve all lit up when speaking fondly of Moondog’s, the Blawnox blues bar that is struggling to stay open, like many other area music venues amid the pandemic.
Concerns over Moondog’s survival activated area musicians and fans who’ve launched a GoFundMe.com campaign and a three-night Save Moondog’s Virtual Benefit on March 26 to 28.
People from across the country can donate to the fundraiser and watch highly talented local and national artists. Plus special items like autographed guitars and exclusive concert photos will be auctioned now through next Sunday on the Save Moondog’s Facebook page.
The last Moondog’s live show, held on March 15, 2020, featured Erie-based and Center Township-bred Ron Yarosz and his band The Vehicle. Yarosz’s band is former winners of the Blues Society of Western Pennsylvania (BSWPA) Blues Challenge and its automatic berth in Memphis to compete in an international tournament, and also have played the Pittsburgh Blues Festival at Hartwood Acres.
Moondog’s has been a launching pad and a trusty landing spot for bands like Yarosz and The Vehicle, who can count on a jam-packed room of blues enthusiasts.
“For 30-plus years, Moondog’s has hosted countless national, regional and local blues and roots artists,” Center bluesman Charlie Barath, another former BSWPA champion, and one of the virtual concert performers, said.
“In addition to that, (Moondog’s owner) Ron Esser has made it a mission to give back to the community through his philanthropic efforts and fundraising events. How valuable to our music community is Moondog’s? Being one of the last real blues bars in this area, I would say it’s crucial,” Barath said.
Aliquippa’s Jonnye Weber, president of the Blues Society of Western Pennsylvania, said, “Moondog’s has introduced us to many jaw-dropping greats over the years. Ronnie has given many musicians far and wide, local and nationally, their start.
“Moondog’s and its music has developed a music family, one that gathers not only for the music but the friendships that have developed. The up-close and personal experiences that have been created at Moondog’s are to be treasured. That feeling is something rare and hard to replicate. We owe much to Ron Esser. He has brought joy, smiles and a sense of belonging to everyone that has passed through his doors.”
There’s a reason the national Blues Foundation bestowed its “Keeping The Blues Alive” award to the blue-collar bar seven miles from Pittsburgh (if you trust the math of Dutch rock band 7 Miles to Pittsburgh, which picked that name in honor of a Moondog’s waitress they met.)
Streaming on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, the lineup for the March 26 to 28 virtual benefit numbers 70 artists, including national acts Tommy Castro, Barbara Blue, Joanna Connor, Selwyn Birchwood, Mike Zito, Vanessa Collier, Jerry Cortez (from Tower of Power) and Jason Ricci, and a who’s who of local acts such as Joe Grushecky, Bill Toms, Billy Price, Norm Nardini, Soulful Femme, Bobby Thompson, the Granati Bros., Charlie Barath, Matt Barranti, Ms. Freddye and the Neids Hotel Band.
The GoFundMe campaign (gofundme.com/f/savemoondogs) has raised $4,100 toward a $30,000 goal.
Gigs are back
Slowly but surely, live entertainment is returning. Some notable gigs on the calendar:
• Rock band Concrete Soul, 8 p.m. Friday at Thursday’s restaurant in Bridgewater.
• Gary Prisby, playing acoustic rock and blues, 7 to 10 p.m. March 27 at Koehler Brewing in Ellwood City.
• Freedom native Christian Beck and Big 104.7 FM’s J.D. Greene, perform as a country duo from 7 to 9 p.m. March 31 at Jergel’s Rhythm Grille.
• Nationally touring comedian Marcus Cox, of Aliquippa, entertains April 9 at Spanky D’s Restaurant and Boat Yard Bar in Bridgewater. Also taking the stage that night will be hypnotist Justin Christopher.
• Beaver County’s own DD and the Lost Decade put their edgy spin on classic and current pop hits on April 24 at Mastic Trail Brewing, the Caribbean-themed craft brewery in Shaler Township. Or get there at 7 p.m. Saturday to see soul, funk & R&B band Elmoz Fire.
Ready to sing?
You can sing with the Beaver Valley Choral Society for its next YouTube performance, “God of Our Fathers,” in May.
But you’ll be expected to rehearse.
The BVCS invites the general public — adult, collegiate and high-school age singers and instrumentalists, as well as youth singers from 8 and up — to rehearse and participate virtually.
The first of four weekly virtual choral rehearsals headed by artistic director and conductor Sharon Burchill, takes place 7 p.m. Monday on Zoom.us. These rehearsals will be recorded and available at a later date.
Children and the BVCS Treble Youth Chorale will rehearse separately, beginning in April.
Once parts are distributed, singers and musicians alike will rehearse and record their individual contributions using their own devices. They will be aided during the recording by a rhythm-and-sync track.
Participants must register by March 31 on the Choral Society website www.bvchoralsociety.org. A $20 fee covers sheet music and engineering expenses.
Bryan Helsel, owner of Helsel Music Services, will digitally engineer, edit and balance all the submitted raw video.
The finished product will be uploaded on YouTube and the Choral Society’s Facebook page by Memorial Day. The four-verse performance is adapted from “God of Our Fathers,” written in 1876 to commemorate the centennial anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.
This web performance follows up the first BVCS virtual ensemble project, “Climb Every Mountain” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” produced in November 2020, and viewed by more than 3,700 people on YouTube and when shared by the website for Distinguished Concerts International New York.
Scott Tady is the local Entertainment Reporter for The Beaver County Times and Ellwood City Ledger. He’s easy to reach at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @scotttady