Columbia Festival of the Arts Part 1: Opening Night at the Lakefront

Last night the Columbia Festival of the Arts began on the Lakefront in Columbia. (This review is of the last two performances of the evening as those were the ones that were viewed and not to ignore the earlier performances.) It is the 48th Anniversary of the festival. The night was warm but the breeze from the lake and free cupcakes put everyone in a pleasant mood.

Muddy Crow. Photo courtesy of their website.
Muddy Crow. Photo courtesy of their website.

Booths selling arts and crafts and concessions selling food and wine surrounded the stage. You could listen to the music and browse or eat. You could just sit back and listen while watching the sun set on Lake Kittamaqundi while boats paddled by behind swimming geese.

The first group was Muddy Crows. The music is a little Lovin’ Spoonful and a little Garth Brooks. Their soft sound was in sync with the warm night, a little rock and roll and a little country. However, this group does have its own unique sound.

The music was toe-tapping and people got up to dance in front of the bandstand. The Muddy Crows have their own original music and also cover some other groups. One piece was so new it does not even have a name yet. Some favorites were Bruno Mars “I’m a Billionaire” written by Travie McCoy, Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie” and Stealers Wheel’s, “Stuck in the Middle” which ended the performance.

The group included Dan Wolff on guitar and lead vocalist, Eric Grabow on bass, Dan Perriello on drums, Bruce Campos on guitar and vocalist and Steve Mead on keyboard and vocalist.

 Chop teeth Afrofunk Big Band. Photo courtesy of their website.
Chop teeth Afrofunk Big Band. Photo courtesy of their website.

A change to a night’s sky came with a change in the music from the next group, Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band. Tonight there were 12 band members. Although they play music with an African sound, only a couple of the members have African ties. The lead singer and guitarist Michael Shereikis was in the Peace Corps in the Central African Republic and Mahiri Keita plays the conga drums. The rest of the group are highly trained musicians from the local area.

The conga drums supply the exotic sound, the baritone sax added the funk, the trumpets and other sax added the jazzy along with the keyboards and the guitars and keyboard added the rock. Several times they keyboardist switched to an accordion which gave the group a zydeco sound. Shereikis sang as easily in French or an African language as he did in English.

The music is hard to describe but it is West African. One piece, “The Good Husband” was attributed to Ghana, and was definitely funky, a little New Orleans jazz and zydego, a little reggae and, yet, there is a strong rock sound. It is certainly their own. Within 15 minutes many folks were up and dancing, especially when Chopteeth played “Come Dance with Me.” The song “You Cry like a Baby” was the funkiest lead by the baritone sax player, Trevor Specht, and the trumpet solo earlier in the performance by Justine Miller was a standout.

The Columbia Festival of the Arts goes on until 10:45 PM Saturday and from 12 noon-7 PM Sunday. Remember all the shows are free at the Lakefront this weekend. Also note, there are still tickets available for many of the shows and concerts over the next two weeks.

logocolumbia festival

Schedule and ticket information visit the festival’s website. Tickets can be purchased online or by phone from, or by calling (800) 955-5566.


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