Prairie Dogma takes the stage at historic Brandon Park Bandshell
Trio Prairie Dogma will take the stage Sunday at the Brandon Park Bandshell as part of the Summer Concert Series. This popular outdoor entertainment venue has been making a comeback over the past few years thanks to the support of the City of Williamsport’s Recreation Department. Each of the 13 concerts, which began in June and will wrap up Aug. 27 with Miss Ida and the All Nightaz, takes place from 6-8 p.m. in the Dr. Kenneth Cooper Bandshell, Brandon Park.
“It is to highlight the beauty and serenity of Brandon Park, along with the long-standing history of the Bandshell,” said Jessie D. Novinger, director of recreation and special events.
Prairie Dogma, based in central Pennsylvania, is self-described as “simply three guys who enjoy playing music, writing songs and continuing to grow and improve” their craft. Bruce Barr of Winfield plays lead guitar and handles vocal duties for the band, while Dave Jackson of Lewisburg (originally from Virginia) is the backbone of the group with various percussion and vocal duties. Michael Lundy of Warrensville is in the second guitar chair and he provides vocals, as well.
Lundy also plays what he calls “not-ready-for-prime-time-banjo” that will debut in the act very soon. Although Barr plays guitar for the band, he also is a top-shelf bass player and, along with Jackson’s standard drum kit, he also has mastered various hand percussion, such as the African djembe and Peruvian cajon.
Lundy, who retired back to the region in 2012 after serving 32 years in the United States Air Force, began playing music with Jackson in 2015, with Barr joining the mix in early 2016. He said he and his bandmates share eclectic musical tastes and enjoy a variety of songs and styles.
“We really try to keep a sense of humor in our music — especially our original tunes,” Lundy said. “Our goal is to play good songs that are not in the usual set lists and introduce people to new tunes and musical experiences. We also hope to jog some memories about old favorites brought into the light again.”
Fan favorites, Lundy said Prairie Dogma’s versions of Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al” and the Talking Heads’ “And She Was” always gets folks up and dancing and singing along. The band has also recently introduced a reggae version of the Monkees’ “I’m A Believer” that is quite popular, as well.
“We enjoy playing these songs, too, so it’s a win-win for us,” Lundy said. “We all have a very deep and wide musical pallet that influences us.”
He and Jackson, for instance, connected through their enjoyment of the Grateful Dead. Lundy was also influenced by the works of Michael Nesmith. Barr, a trained musician, leans toward upbeat songs with strong guitar work, like James Taylor and Mark Knopfler. And it was Jackson who introduced the band to Jeff Tweedy and Wilco. The band also covers songs by Tom Waits, Bruce Springsteen, Johnny Cash and Nick Lowe, along with classic rock from the Beatles, Pink Floyd and Tom Petty.
“If the song has a good groove, a strong message, and we like it, we’ll play it,” Lundy said. “If we don’t connect with the song, we’ll put it on the back burner and perhaps approach it later with a new arrangement.”
Barr has been writing songs for years and released “Simple Pleasures,” a compilation of 14 original tunes. It was he who encouraged Lundy to try his hand at songwriting and he now has about a half-dozen “keepers,” such as “Watching the River Run” (written with the Susquehanna River in mind, with mentions of deep fried pierogis and mountain pies) and “Dirt Circus” about the local carnivals that the fire companies put on. Barr’s original, “What to Do,” is a favorite for the band to play, with its fun groove and lively guitar arrangement.
Prairie Dogma tries to book at least two shows each month throughout the year and is making room in the schedule to finish recording an album of original songs.
The band has been featured at Barrel 135; the Smiling Chameleon, Lewisburg; and the Broken Axe, Lock Haven; and played at the Brandon Park Bandshell for last year’s Summer Concert Series.
A bucket list item as a teenager, Lundy was happy Prairie Dogma was given the opportunity to play at the outdoor venue for several reasons.
“It’s an outdoor event and they are always enjoyable — as long as the weather cooperates, of course,” Lundy said. “These shows tend to draw an audience that wants to listen to music. They are very attentive and they very much appreciate the music. It’s fun for us to watch people having a good time, dancing, enjoying the park and just spending some time with their family and friends. Lastly, we get to play at the historic Brandon Park Bandshell — how cool is that?”
Upcoming Summer Concert Series performances include Gabe Stillman & the Billtown Giants (July 23), The Family Ties (July 30), High Strung (Aug. 6), Williamsport City Jazz Orchestra (Aug. 13), Williamsport Symphony Orchestra Billtown Brass (Aug. 20) and Miss Ida and the All Nightaz (Aug. 27).
For more information about Prairie Dogma, visit www.prairiedog ma.net.
Find more details about the Summer Concert Series, call the City of Williamsport Recreation Department at 570-327-7510 or follow them on Facebook @WilliamsportRecreationDepartment.