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A Music-a-holic's Tailgate Adventure
October 22, 2008 - Jim Price
This past Saturday, during Penn State Homecoming weekend, well over 100,000 people descended upon Beaver Stadium to watch the 3rd-ranked Nittany Lions clobber Michigan 46-17.
I was in attendance at Beaver Stadium this past Saturday on a different mission. Sure, I was there to enjoy the pageantry and festivities and cheer on the Nittany Lions from afar, as I didn’t have a ticket for the game. But as a live music-aholic, I was also there to sample the live music happening at various tailgate parties in the parking areas surrounding the stadium. And on this bright, crisp fall day, live music was not hard to find.
I first followed the sounds of a live band to the Penn State Tailgate Association tailgate party, near the corner of Porter Road and Park Avenue. The band was Clearfield County’s Loudmouth, firing up a good-sized contingent of Penn State alumni and students. Featuring bassist/singer John Cimino, guitarist/singer Brandon Giuffre, drummer Michael Hughes and part-time keyboardist/singer Billy Moore; Loudmouth fired the folks up with a mixture of rock favorites from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Their setlist included numbers from Maroon 5, Phish, The Clash, Pearl Jam, the Doors, White Stripes, Weezer and more. A medley of 80’s hair-band tunes sparked some spirited dancing, and the group’s rendition of Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll Pt. 2” rallied the troops to cheer on the Lions.
Walking past Beaver Stadium along Porter Road, I heard more live band sounds emanating from the Medlar Field area. It didn’t take long to find the source, Penn State favorites Velveeta, entertaining under a large tent for the Penn State Alumni Association tailgate. I witnessed only the last few songs, but the Velveeta roster of singer/guitarist Brian Kriley, singer/keyboardist/guitarist Brent Martin, bassist John Matthews and drummer John Harper satisfied the audience of alumni, families and friends with their 80’s-geared mixture of “cheesy” rocking favorites.
The next live music tailgate I happened upon was taking place among the RV parking area behind the Bryce Jordan Center. I followed the sound of an amplified acoustic guitar to the site of a special benefit tailgate being presented by the Cure Tay-Sachs Foundation. Jointly presented by both Penn State and Michigan alumni, this tailgate featured food and live music, while collecting donations to battle Tay-Sachs disease. Performing acoustic rock’n’roll and country sounds at this tailgate was Penn State music professor Chris Mincer, who wrapped up the performance a half-hour before game time with a singalong rendition of Don McLean’s “American Pie.”
One performer I expected to encounter this day but did not see was Altoona’s one-man band, Zupe. Zupe is often hired to entertain the alumni of the Nittany Lions’ opponents; and he had initially been booked to entertain the Michigan alumni this day. But I heard no signs of music when I walked by the Michigan tent area. I later learned that the Michigan alumni had changed their minds, and wanted to go with an Oktoberfest theme before the game, opting instead to go with a German oom-pa band. (Zupe informed me that he will be performing for the Indiana and Michigan State alumni before those respective games in November.)
Although I didn’t have a ticket for the game itself, I did get to witness the second half of the game in a special environment, arriving at the HUB building on the Penn State main campus and joining a gathered group of students and alumni watching the game on the large-screen lounge televisions. The mood was festive here as well, as Penn State staged their second half rally to win the game.
As huge and festive as this population at Beaver Stadium was on this day, I’m sure there were other live music tailgates happening that I did not get to. And even after the game, as I returned to Beaver Stadium, I observed the tail end of a bluegrass/jam group performing at a post-game tailgate as the mass of traffic and humanity cleared out of the Beaver Stadium lots.
I’m tentatively planning to return to Beaver Stadium on Nov. 22 to catch some live music tailgates before the Michigan State game. (Hopefully the temperatures won’t be Arctic-cold that day.) And after the fun I had catching live music at this year’s Penn State homecoming tailgates, I expect to return for more at next year’s Homecoming!
Loudmouth, entertaining at the Penn State Tailgate Association tailgate.