The proud members of the State College music scene are certainly a charitable bunch, proving this once again on the stage of The State Theatre this weekend.
On Saturday night, the State Theatre presented “BeCause the Night,” its second annual benefit concert for Easter Seals Central Pennsylvania, this time honoring several of rock music’s most influential females with covers of songs spanning multiple decades.
Saturday’s sold-out show got off to a bit of a late start in order for the theatre to fill up to capacity. But when the concert’s emcee, Penn State women’s studies and English professor Jennifer Wagner-Lawlor finally came into view, she introduced a special guest that assuredly warmed the hearts of many in attendance.
Easter Seals child ambassador Mitchell Case, a nine-year-old who has cerebral palsy, was brought onto the stage and shared stories of how the organization helped him participate in everyday activities in spite of cerebral palsy.
“I hope I’m not boring you,” Case told the audience to much laughter.
With this, Case introduced the first act of the night, Jason McIntyre — who also produced the show — and Junior Tutwiler, both former members of the nationally touring group the Rustlanders for covers of Gillian Welch’s “Barroom Girls” and Linda Ronstadt’s “Willin’,” originally recorded by Little Feat.
Six-piece follow-up act, the Nightcrawlers, which Wagner-Lawlor joked “[needed] some time to crawl out,” did justice to covers of Duffy’s “Mercy” — which featured a jazzy saxophone solo courtesy of Domenick Swentosky — as well as Gin Wigmore’s “Man Like That” and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals’ “Ah Mary,” both of which showcased frontwoman Robin Tuttle’s powerful falsetto and Noah Figlin’s enviable guitar chops.
After performances by Hannah Bingman, and Chris Vipond and the Stanley Street Band and Ginger Woolridge and Billy Bucha, Wagner-Lawlor presided over a brief auction along with State Theatre Board of Directors President Roy Love.
“I am never more proud than when we highlight the local musicians here,” Love said. “The fun has just begun.”
Ted McCloskey and the Hi-Fi’s — well known around State College for their high-energy gigs at The Phyrst and Bar Bleu — resumed the show with a cover of Wanda Jackson’s “Hard Headed Woman,” but it wasn’t until Pure Cane Sugar songstress Molly Countermine joined the band that things got really exciting.
Countermine had no problem adding sex appeal to the Hi-Fi’s set as they thundered through Chaka Khan’s “Tell Me Something Good” and Blondie’s “One Way or Another,” though McCloskey ended up reclaiming the spotlight with a high-octane guitar solo during the group’s rendition of Lucinda Williams’ “Joy.”
The second half of the show proved to be a slightly more downscale affair with intimate performances by Grain, the Hot Mamas and Miss Melanie and the Valley Rats, the latter of whom served up a tribute to Tonya Browne, the late lead singer of guitarist Mark Ross’ previous musical outfit, Queen Bee and the Blue Hornet Band.
Penn State Altoona Professor Jerry Zolten, as well as Richard Sleigh, Chris Younkin and Olivia Jones, picked up the reigns from there with the original version of “Hound Dog.” And following covers of Jefferson Airplane, Patty Griffin and Janis Joplin by the always-captivating Pure Cane Sugar, Erin Condo and the Hoofties closed the show beginning with Wanda Jackson’s ‘Let’s Have a Party.”
“I was worried about this show just because [there] was an extreme pool of songs to pull from,” said Hoofties guitarist Bill Wiggus, who added that his concerns abated after hearing the concert’s soundcheck. “I think it was as good as last year’s [show]”
“I’m just happy to be done,” McIntyre said. “But it was great.”