(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — While Billboard-charting artists will headline each night, local artists are set to support the mainstage during CelebrateErie Aug. 19-21.
On Friday, two local acts will open for X Ambassadors, a New York based pop, rock band that has been nominated for nearly a dozen music awards since 2015. X Ambassadors takes the mainstage at 8 p.m.
The music, however, begins hours earlier.
At 5:30 p.m. Six Year Stretch with take the stage. The band was started more than six years ago by two brothers, Andy and Adam Brown. Their friend Mike Wolfe joined the group, and their brother, Alex Brown, played bass to complete the group. Now, so many years later, the group has changed and continues to change. Jason Shaner is taking over on bass, and Jared Cooney plays electric guitar.
“It’s more of a family affair with us,” Andy Brown said. “Three brothers started the band with Mike Wolfe on drums. We always have each other’s back, we vibe with each other, we know what the other is thinking, and it’s been really fun.”
Six Year Stretch has opened for bigger acts in the past, including Sugar Ray and Gin Blossoms, but opening for a major act isn’t a normal, everyday occurrence for the band.
“Whenever we get an opportunity like this, it’s an honor and I feel blessed just to be able to do it,” Andy Brown said. “I personally love X Ambassadors, and I’ve been listening to them for years.”
On Saturday, Aug. 20, Erie rapper CEE Brown will open for headlining acts Mya and Ja Rule, but on Friday, CEE Brown also will be on the mainstage with Six Year Stretch and Jonny Evans to perform a song they wrote together years ago called, “The Fight.”
“We haven’t played with them on stage for a while, but we’re bringing the boys back — it’s going to be really fun,” Andy Brown said.
At 6:30 p.m., the Erie band First to Eleven takes the mainstage. The group truly is Erie born — they’re a product of Rock School Studios. The band was founded with students from the Rock School Studios music program. They were 9 and 10 years old at the time (2009). Now they’re adults, and they’ve amassed quite the following. Ryan Krysiak, their former teacher, now plays bass for the group.
First to Eleven has nearly 1.5 million subscribers on its YouTube channel. On Friday, they’ll be rock stars IRL (that’s Internet lingo for “In real life”). But it’s not like they’re not already rock stars. In fact, just last week First to Eleven played a music festival in Montana with acts such as Jefferson Starship and Don Felder.
“Sometimes it’s hard being a YouTube band trying to explain to people that we have a million followers and we’re working with these other big YouTube channels — not everybody is on YouTube and understands that stuff,” Krysiak said. “These sort of opportunities, Erie likes to see that, like, ‘Oh, I can come watch that.’ But when we say we get a million views, that’s just off in space and doesn’t really feel tangible.
“Erie giving us a space to get on stage and do what bands do is really incredible.”
CelebrateErie — like so many other events — was put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Much of the world was on pause. Certainly, the live entertainment industry seemed like it was on pause. But First to Eleven kept working.
“We just kept growing using the Internet to get more fans and more credibility to our names,” Krysiak said. “Now that live shows are returning and unrestricted, we’re in a significantly different place then when we were playing shows before the pandemic. Now people are calling us for bigger opportunities than we would have had two or three years ago.”
Every week, the band releases a new song at noon on Thursdays on it’s YouTube page. Every Thursday. Krysiak said First to Eleven puts out some 60 songs each year.
Friday night’s mainstage is just one evening of music in what is a much larger event. The entire event is held Aug. 19-21 on State Street between Fourth streets (both east and west) and Ninth Streets.
The CelebrateErie website says the three-day festival is “designed to bring us together for a regional showcase of all things Erie.” In addition to live music, the event will host hands-on activities for children and adults, shopping, art (including a chalk-walk), food and drinks from food trucks, restaurants, breweries, wineries and distilleries, and artisan vendors.
Other mainstage headliners include, Mya beginning at 7:15 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 20, and Ja Rule will take the stage at 8:30 p.m. that same day. Jimmie Allen will be on the mainstage at 8 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 21. Mya and Ja Rule had hits in the late 1990s, early 2000s. Country musician Jimmie Allen was nominated in the Best New Artist category at the 2022 Grammy Awards.
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Dozens of local artists will perform on stages throughout the weekend. In fact, the local artists and musicians make up a bulk of the entertainment during the three-day event with music beginning at noon on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. For a complete list of performers, including local acts, go to the CelebrateErie website.