Crowds gather in the city park for an evening of music by some of Bay City’s star musicians for the Summer Kickoff Party.
Located along the Saginaw River in downtown Bay City, Wenonah Park plays host to many musical events throughout the summer months in the World Friendship Shell. Over the past year while all events were cancelled, the park took on the task of updating it’s amphitheatre that included the reformation of an acoustic bandshell.
With social gatherings and music events beginning again after the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, it only seems fitting to get the summer concert season at Wenonah Park started with a Summer Kickoff Party. And what better way to get the party started than with a multi genre event featuring some of Bay City’s own favorite musicians and friends with headliner Matt Ferranti wrapping up the evening.
The show gets underway with pop-country singer/songwriter J. Hartley taking the stage with a short three song set. Calling Bay City home, J. now resides in Nashville for the past five years. Although being a late add to the show’s line up, he doesn’t disappoint in his performance with “Radio,” the first song released after making the move to Nashville in 2017. J. also includes his single “Boy Meets Girl,” written for his wife after their home delivery birth of their son who came two weeks early.
Getting off to a slow start, The Racks kick it in high gear with their rock and roll garage band tunes. Coming from the beaches of Los Angeles, the band is now stationed in Nashville while making a name for themselves. Songs like “Stop Right Now,” “One Way Ride” and “Same Old Story” are sure to help solidify their existence.
Bay City resident, Josh Sharrard gets the crowd swaying with dance steps during his classical renditions of “Brown Eyed Girl,” “Benny And The Jets” and “Summer Of ’69.” Proclaiming this is the biggest piano bar he has ever played, Josh is assisted with crowd participation in “Africa” by the rock band Toto and “Hey Jude” by The Beatles.
Next up is a fan favorite to country music lovers across the Midwest region and hailed as Bay City’s country King and his Court, Steve Armstrong and the 25 Cent Beer Band.
Steve Armstrong and the 25 Cent Beer Band is a five piece country band from the Bay City area. The band consists of: Steve Armstrong on guitar and lead vocals, Zach Brunett on drums and background vocals, Jerome Ratell on guitar and background vocals, Jake Satawa on guitar and background vocals along with Scott Ratell on bass guitar and background vocals.
Changing things up today, Steve tells the crowd that the band is going to play originals from their self titled debut album for the show and if time allows, they will throw in a cover tune. The setlist includes “Looking For A Bar,” “I Miss My Truck,” along with two dedications, “Ride” that is for those on motorcycles and “The Good Drugs” that he sends out to our veterans while thanking them for their service.
“Her Tail Lights” has become a favorite hit to many. Steve made a fun, loving video to the song that includes his beautiful wife Denise.
Being fortunate to record with the lead singer Danny Shirley of Confederate Railroad, Steve and the guys have some fun with the crowd as they admit they like “Trashy Women.”
With a group of country dancers displaying their appreciation to live music again, the band concludes their set with “Tommy’s Song” and “Redneck Side.” The latter was released for radio air play at the local Saginaw country radio station The Moose 94.5. Steve gives a big shout out to the radio station and it’s radio personality Jody K for all the love and support they show to the local talent and events throughout their listening area.
As Steve Armstrong and the 25 Cent Beer Band conclude and are exiting off stage, the newest addition to The Moose radio station Josh Sharrow rushes the stage holding Steve’s guitar. Playing the guitar, Josh entertains the crowd with a humorous parody “Mr. Hotdog.”
While clearing the stage from earlier performers and preparing for the headlining act, Josh Sharrard returns to the stage with his keyboard for a few more crowd participating songs. With the crowd singing along, Josh performs “Jack And Diane,” “Sweet Caroline” and ending with “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Now darkness has fallen over Bay City and Wenonah Park after a sun soaked beautiful day along the river while the crowds have enjoyed the musical entertainment provided by their own city’s talent. One act is remaining, and that is headliner Matt Ferranti.
If you are not from the Bay City area, you may know Matt Ferranti as the talented multi-instrumentalist that assists musically and vocally behind pop-country star Brett Young. You may have even seen him perform a short set prior to his boss’s show on their national tour last year before Covid-19 stopped everything.
But…if you are from Bay City, you know Matt Ferranti is a star in his own right. Playing music since an early age, Matt would perform in church, and anywhere he could and was allowed. He made a name for himself in Bay City and created a positive fan base before heading to Nashville in 2013 to expand on his dreams. Since then, Matt has achieved his dreams and on this Saturday evening, he returns for a homecoming show to kickoff the summer concert series and be the first to headline inside the new bandshell at Wenonah Park.
Standing center stage behind his keyboard, Matt starts his high energy show with “Hold On To Whatever.” During the song he takes a moment inside to introduces his band, Bay City Central.
The band got it’s name from the respect that Matt holds for his hometown, and is now able to take it with him when he performs elsewhere. The band includes James Jones of Chicago on bass guitar, Juju Winfield of North Carolina on drums and Keaton Simons of Los Angeles on lead guitar. Matt adds that Keaton is also his brother from another mother and has been bandmates for the past few years as they both play for Brett Young.
Matt puts his own swirl on the musical arrangements of Mark Cohn’s cover “Walking In Memphis” and Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough” for a more pop dance beat to fit into his style as he bounces and dances his way across the stage.
After his 2017 debut single “Rollercoaster,” Matt proclaims that it is harder getting over a habit than people say it is in his 2020 single “21 Days.”
Bouncing back to a few more covers tunes, Matt gets some crowd participation in Bruno Mars’ “Just The Way You Are” and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” before inviting his buddy J. Hartley back to the stage for a pop/rap duet of “So What.”
Being that it is a homecoming event here in Bay City, Matt brings his wife and in-laws to the show. It is his father-in-law’s birthday today. He dedicates “Real Thing” to his mother-in-law and wife, to whom he wrote the song for.
Wearing a #25 Derrick Rose Detroit Pistons City Edition jersey, “I use to try and play basketball” Matt said. “But I’m 5’9, can’t jump, so I realized I can’t play basketball. But I love it.”
Matt calls Matt Nemode to the stage for acknowledgment saying, “he is one of my favorite people and he was my seventh grade basketball coach. He always stays in touch and has always supported me. He now owns Mode’s Tavern across the river and supports all local music.” He then calls the rest of Nemode’s family to the stage for a photo.
As the family exits off the stage, Matt and the band rush into “Love Somebody” and “Closer” before ending with the N’SYNC cover of “Bye Bye Bye.”
After a quick exit off stage, Matt returns to a loud and rowdy crowd calling for more. He shows his gratitude with a short bow and a thank you.
Recalling when Mrs. Barnes would kick him out of class, he claims he would come to Wenonah Park and sit up on the stage. He could picture himself playing music for people right here. He thanks the crowd again for making the dream come true. That leads into his newest single “Leave Me At The Bar.”
Matt throws the control over to Keaton as Keaton takes the lead in “Masterpiece” before closing out the evening with Usher’s “Burn.”
Before leaving the stage for the final time, Matt thanks the crowd again and shows how truly fortunate he is to be on stage in front of the people by traveling the length of the stage shaking hands to all those at the front of the stage.
The evening was a success as the weather was perfect for an outdoor festival, and the many people in attendance had a great time getting out and participating in a live music event that celebrated music by the city’s own musicians.
The Summer Kickoff Party at Wenonah Park is exactly what it is intended to be, a preparation event for artists as they begin to tour again, and the first musical event of the year at the park. Be sure to click on the links below to follow the artists and their travels, along with upcoming shows later this year at the park. As many have been forced to sit home this past year due to the pandemic, there has been time to prepare for the upcoming return in the entertainment industry. Make sure to get out and support them as they need us to survive.
Event Date: 22-MAY-2021