As one of the region’s pioneering summer concert festival series, Friday Night Live is also one of the pivotal events for the the organizing group known as Positive Results in Downtown Saginaw that patented the concept for packaging six consecutive weekends that merge commerce, culture and community together in a series of weekly Theme Concerts that are held in Morley Plaza on Washington Avenue (M-13) in Downtown Saginaw.
Beginning on July 14th and running through August 18th, this year Friday Night Live celebrates its 19th Anniversary with a divergent array of talent that according to long-time Board Member Dr. Jack Nash evolved from a collective goal of striving to “freshen things up” and celebrate the remarkable renaissance that Positive Results has witnessed in the Downtown business district over the past two decades by assembling a “a top-flight roster of talent that allows us to stage a venue of entertainment for the people of Saginaw that cuts across cultural and economic boundaries and allows us to present a concert series that appeals to everybody in the community and representative of the City of Saginaw”.
Indeed, when asked what distinguishes Friday Night Live from the region’s many other summer concert series, Executive Director Jeanne Conger explains, “Ours is more of a cultural event that showcases some amazing talent in an urban setting in Downtown Saginaw. This year we’ve been talking to the Saginaw Art Museum about bringing different visual artists on site and adding more depth to the arts and culture we showcase in the area, which we’ll be building upon again next year as we celebrate our 20th Anniversary of Friday Night Live. Each year we see old familiar faces and many new faces and still hear people saying its their first year of attending the series, so our numbers keep growing.”
While the format for this 19th Annual Friday Night Live series will follow the successful structure of prior years, according to Nash this year a couple of theme nights will change. “We had a big demand for Disco and people have requested we add it into our mix for years, so this year we worked out a deal with a fantastic group out of Coldwater called Boogie Dynamite and fashioned together on evening on August 4th that will be called Disco & More, which will also showcase the resurrected Mick Furlo Band and also feature an appearance from Elvis, who will perform between sets.”
The rest of the 2017 itinerary is as follows:
July 14 • ROCKIN’ on the RIVERFRONT featuring headliners Da Blooze Brothers – A Tribute to Jake & Elwood, along with Saginaw’s The Chase Engel Band, and Saginaw Singer/Songwriter Andrew Kitzman. The Canadian based Blooze Brothers channel the spirit of this ‘70s phenomenon created by Saturday Night Live alumni Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi, and truly need to be seen to be believed.
“We intended to feature them last year,” explains Nash, “only the show got rained out so we are bringing them back this year. In addition to featuring bigger acts, we’re also trying to feature newer local acts, so have selected The Chase Engel Band as openers, along with Saginaw’s Andrew Kitzman.”
July 21 • COUNTRY NIGHT featuring the Simba Jordan Band, along with openers Tweed & Dixie and Laurie Middlebrook. “We’ve also changed Country Night up a little bit,” notes Nash. “In the past we’ve always featured up-and-coming national Country acts through our liaison Barb Sheltraw at WKCQ, but this year decided not to go through the national booking agency because Barb was really impressed with the Simba Jordan Band, who is based out of Columbus, Ohio. She saw them perform at Frankenmuth’s Snowfest and was really impressed by their performance, so we went with them. Jordan has a really good voice and is an Afro-American country singer on the level of Charlie Pride who is out on the country circuit.”
The Simba Jordan Band started in 2010 with influences from country artists like Randy Travis, Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Tim McGraw and others like Prince and Michael Jackson.
“We’ll also be featuring the local acts Tweed & Dixie that have won numerous Review Music Awards over the past couple years and have Laurie Middlebrook performing between sets, especially considering how she helped us out last year when our Country headliner got stranded in Florida.”
July 28 • LATIN FIESTA featuring Desastre, Villegas Brothers & Tejano Sound Band. “We’ve changed this theme a little bit this year by featuring three bands that will each perform for an hour set,” explains Nash. “Desastre is based out of Saginaw, the Villegas Brothers are from Walled Lake, and Tejano Sound is based out of Lansing. Each of these groups has a distinct Latin sound, but the headliner will feature horns in their mix, which separates them from the other bands.” Tejano Sound Band has a long rich history and won a 2013 Tejano Music Award for vocal duo of the year.
August 11 • CLASSIC ROCK featuring The Randy Brock Group along with regional groups The Hipakritz and Michelle O’Neil & Melissa Curry. Formed in 1966 The Randy Brock Group have been one of the most sought-after bands in the Detroit music scene. Randy and his group have had the honor of sharing the stage with some of the most legendary names in music history, such as Journey, Creedence Clearwater Revisited, Eddie Money and Ted Nugent.
“Randy performed for us a couple years ago and we decided to bring him back and also feature different regional artists that haven’t performed at Friday Night Live before, such as The Hipakritz out of Bay City and local duo Michelle O’Neil & Melissa Curry,’ explains Nash. “With the 2nd annual Hamilton St. BASH also going on that night, we decided to feature some different variations from the groups that will be performing at the BASH; plus, we had numerous requests to bring Randy back by popular demand.”
August 18 • MOTOWN NIGHT featuring Phase 5, Monique Ella Rose Band, and Mario Williams. “This is another night we wanted to freshen up a bit this year, so have selected Phase 5 to be our headliner,” notes Nash. “They’ve performed at many of Detroit’s top-notch casinos like the Motor City Casino, while Monique Ella Rose is another rising star on the regional R&B and Jazz circuit, and Mario Williams is quite a phenomenal young saxophone player, so this will be an excellent evening to close out the 19th season.”
Often compared to The Temptations and Whispers, Phase 5 has evolved to be one of the most electrifying acts to come out of Detroit in a long time. They have developed a sound of smooth jazz mixed with a slamming "in your face" style of today's Hip Hop and R&B. They are also known for their flashy well-choreographed dance moves, as well as their glittering and eye popping stage attire. Once you have seen this act you will leave knowing that you have just witnessed something unique and different.
The Legacy of ‘Positive Results’ and Looking to the Future
Having involved herself with Positive Results in Downtown Saginaw and Friday Night Live for 19 years now, Jeanne Conger has witnessed firsthand the renaissance of Downtown Saginaw that has occurred in recent years. “I’m very optimistic about the future and Downtown Saginaw is the best its been in years,” she enthuses.
“We are very excited about next year’s 20th Anniversary for Friday Night Live,” she continues. “By that time the new Farmers Market will be open and the new Delta College Downtown Saginaw campus should be well on its way. The new Bourbon & Co. recently opened along with The Gallery and Isabella Bank, so there is a lot happening that we intend to tie into next year.”
“We also want to thank Team One Credit Union and Covenant for being our lead sponsors every year, along with the ones that return each year to support us, such as Garber Automotive and Delta College, Wildfire Credit Union, St. Mary’s Hospital, and Saginaw Valley State University.”
“New this year we have State Bank helping sponsor our Country Night and will be doing something special Veteran’s Day on July 21st and this year the North Saginaw Charter Academy will be sponsoring our Children’s Area, so will be bringing their resources on board for that,” she continues.
“We also have Huntington Bank as a sponsor and are appreciative of always getting the support of the Saginaw Arts & Enrichment Commission, The Morley Foundation, and The Frankenmuth Credit Union. Plus, the Saginaw Reserve Officers always help us with traffic monitoring, which we are very thankful.”
“Our organization has grown so much over the past 40-plus years,” notes Jeanne. “When we started out back in the 1970s, we began with developing just a couple events each year and now we have a half dozen events, starting out with Bringing Back the Ice and Ice Blast with The Saginaw Spirit to the Outhouse Races, Holidays in the Heart of the City and The Memorial Day Parade, along with Harvest Days.”
As an organization the vision that began back in 1975 through the joint efforts of the downtown Saginaw business community, the Junior League and the City of Saginaw began with a core group of volunteers concerned with the future of Downtown Saginaw. Setting goals centered upon attracting new business to the downtown district, encouraging and supporting the existing business & professional community, and beautifying the downtown environment, the organization also strives to create a positive and constructive image of the Downtown area, while unifying and coordinating support within the efforts of numerous organizations all with an eye towards promoting and stimulating ongoing activities that are attractive to people and businesses.
Without doubt, Friday Night Live is their signature event and if you have yet to experience the fun, fellowship, and camaraderie that resonates throughout the grounds of Morley Park, you owe it to yourself to experience the musical and cultural richness of this annual extravaganza.