Dave Rowley is no stranger to outdoor performances, as seen in this 2019 photo. Rowley & Friends moved their in-demand Pearson Lakes Art Center concert outside on Tuesday, Aug. 4. (File photo)
Seventeen years ago singer-songwriter Dave Rowley got some of his friends together to play a benefit to raise money for the Lakes Art Center. The show was so well received, they did again the next year and the next, etc.
Tuesday night, for the first time in those 17 years, Dave Rowley & Friends played an outdoor concert at the Pearson Lakes Art Center. Although the setting was different, the music was still top rate, fun and highly entertaining.
Rowley plays guitar, harmonica and sings as well as presiding as emcee. He lives in Spirit Lake.
Ryan Sather from Spencer is the keyboard player, singer and co-emcee. The banter between the two is very amusing and they both have a vast knowledge of music history. Sather is very upbeat and bounces all over his keyboard while singing with full-powered enthusiasm. While the rest of the band is attired in Hawaiian shirts, Sather actually wore a light, somewhat colorful shirt this year. He must have finally retired his usual black one.
Carlis Faurot makes the trip over to the Iowa Great Lakes Region from the Cedar Rapids area each year for this show. He is a premiere fiddle player and does occasional vocal backups. He is amazing to watch.
Carley Wells is the drummer. She recently graduated from Okoboji High School and will head off to college in Colorado next week. She has been the band's drummer since she was entering her freshman year of high school. Wells clearly loves playing with those "old guys." The best high school jazz band drummer in Iowa, she kept up with each change of pace and some of those fast fiddle numbers with skill and a huge smile on her face. She was having a blast and so were we, just watching her.
Brent Wallin, from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is the bass player. He also lends his voice for back up vocals. He played the whole show with a smile on his face.
Gary Lambert lives in Wahpeton. He played rhythm and lead guitar for the evening and also added his backup vocal skills.
These fine musicians began their show with the classic and appropriate "Summertime." After a soothing opening, they picked up the beat and delivered a toe tapping performance of the song.
Sather performed for us a beautiful rendition of Zach Brown's "My Old Man" that his dedicated to his father. The audience was mesmerized.
He switched gears and got us all dancing in our lawn chairs to an Irish jig he said is played in all the pubs of Ireland. The song gave Rowley the opportunity to play a penny whistle which provided a nice change from the usual version.
Rowley sang for us his usual enthusiastic version of a song he wrote called "Walleye." It is about casting out and catching the fish and is done to the tune "Rawhide" so, of course, it is a lively tune. The audience waits to hear this song every year.
Faurot's fantastic skills on the fiddle were showcased as he performed "Orange Blossom Special" with Wells on drums. The audience rewarded this delivery of the classic fiddle tune with a standing ovation.
After intermission, the Rowley Friends started the second set with a fast-paced "Country Roads." The rest of the show kept up the high quality entertainment value displayed in the first set. Faurot did two more Irish jig-style fast numbers that had us all tapping our toes, clapping to the beat and some even got up to dance and hop around.
Soon the band, with the exception of Sather, donned masks. They performed for us a ditty that Rowley wrote to the tune of "Harlem Shuffle." He called it the "Covid Shuffle" and the lyrics were humorously to the point: "Put on the mask, like it or not." At the song's conclusion, Rowley told the audience that he was predicting that we "won't hear that song anywhere else, ever again."
The song "Hotel California" was very well done and a favorite with the audience. For their encore, the band asked us to sing along to "Piano Man" by Billy Joel. Sather's incredible skills on the keyboard enticed many in the audience to stand and sway as they sang.
It was a fun end to a wonderful evening of humorous banter and fabulous music. Rowley promised us they will return next year. We will hold them to it!