Beat the summer heat at Concert on the Water
LA GRANDE — Playing music in unusual places is not on Andy Steele and Brent Smith’s bucket list. Not yet, anyway.
But the local musicians have been recruited to perform for the first Concert on the Water from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Saturday at Morgan Lake, located in the mountains three miles southwest of La Grande. Sponsored by the La Grande Parks and Recreation Commission, the concert is free, but there will be a tip jar for the band.
People are invited to bring their non-motorized boats or other floating devices and enjoy an evening of music. Boats more than 10 feet long need invasive species permits, which can be purchased at Bi-Mart or Walmart for $5.
“It’s a new idea, and we don’t know how it will go,” said Meg Hawks, a commission member for the last 1-1/2 years. “In theory it could be awesome, and we hope to make it an annual event.”
When Hawks was in college at BYU-Idaho, she was involved in planning and implementing outdoor events similar to this one.
“The university had a lot of creative outlets for the students, and I’ve missed being involved in that,” Hawks said. “I love canoeing at Morgan Lake, and I love good music. I talked it over with the other commission members and we made it a go. I want to do things to benefit the community and draw attention to our outdoor amenities. Being on the commission has given me that opportunity.”
Smith, for one, is excited about the prospect.
“I’ve been at Morgan Lake when the sun goes down and it’s totally beautiful,” said Smith, who will play guitar and sing on a drift boat anchored in the lake while Steele handles the drums. “I’m excited about trying this. As a music listener, I can imagine enjoying being on a boat in the water feeling the breeze enjoying the music.”
The musician and lawyer said they will perform acoustic folk music, covers and original songs.
“We’ll do a couple of Woody Guthrie tunes, like ‘Roll on, Columbia, Roll on’ and ‘Oregon Trail,’ Smith said, “songs from a famous collection he did while employed by the Bonneville Power Administration.
He said Guthrie was unknown when the BPA hired him in 1941 to record songs about the Columbia River hydroelectric system.
Smith and Steele will also perform some of Smith’s originals, such as “Grande Ronde,” which is named after the river.
Smith said he plays in a lot of projects, including Brent Smith & Friends, which is on track to play six to eight times this year.
Steele, meanwhile, is a recreation specialist for the La Grande Ranger District when he is not drumming in jazz gigs with keyboard master Matt Cooper, a rock band called the Catskills or playing in Smith’s projects.
“It should be a real intimate show,” Smith said, “with the sound reflecting off the water and the vibration of drums moving through the water.”
Steele has played music in some interesting places. Once he gave a concert at 8,600-feet elevation in Yosemite National Park in a building that is on the National Register of Historic Places.
But playing from a drift boat on a lake will be a new and interesting experience, he said.
“I suspect Brent’s voice and my base drum will carry really well,” he said.
Smith, for his part, hopes for a calm night for better acoustics. Waves on the water and wind in the pine trees will cause sound to be a varied experience.
“Andy is a great drummer, and I can at least sing really loud,” Smith said. “Morgan Lake is the kind of place that will really affect how people experience the art.”