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Rock for the River celebrates 10th anniversary

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CLAYTON — The annual Rock for the River concert here has some elements that are easily measured, such as attendance. For the past two years it has sold out the approximate 425-seat capacity of the Clayton Opera House.

“Now it’s just a matter of how quickly it sells out,” said Rock for the River founder Jay Nash.

Tickets went particularly swiftly for the 10th anniversary concert, which sold out on Thursday. But for those who will miss the celebration, a second wave of Rock for the River 10 has been scheduled.

Mr. Nash said Wednesday that he and some of his musical associates plan to put on a second Rock for the River 10 concert Sept. 1 at the opera house. Ticket information and full show details will be announced later.

Something more difficult to measure than attendance is the soul of Rock for the River, which keeps Mr. Nash and other musicians coming back each year to spread the word.

For the past nine years, Mr. Nash has brought a group of musicians from around the country for a night of music to support the work of the not-for-profit Save the River and its advocacy efforts to protect the St. Lawrence River. Last year’s concert raised approximately $15,000 for Save the River.

“We’ve certainly generated a good deal of capital,” Mr. Nash said in a phone interview last week from Oklahoma, where he was on tour. “But I think something more important is community enthusiasm and awareness, especially for the younger generation. Kids are making the transition from high school and college to conscientious adults while having Save the River’s efforts being part of that perspective.”

D. Lee Willibanks, executive director of Save the River, said the annual concert is more than a critical fundraiser.

“It is also a very important community-building event that our supporters, young and older, summer and year-round residents, look forward to every year,” he said. “For many it’s the unofficial kickoff to the summer season and a great chance to celebrate what being on the river means.”

Mr. Nash was living in Los Angeles nine years ago and found himself missing the Thousand Islands region, especially in the summers. Mr. Nash is a Syracuse-area native whose parents, Eric and Carol “Dede” Nash, moved to Clayton in 2005 after several years of summering in the community.

“We certainly weren’t looking ahead 10 years when we put that first concert together,” Mr. Nash said.

But one concert led to another.

“The first exceeded our expectations and we had such a great time we figured we’d do it again,” Mr. Nash said. “It’s grown a little bit every year.”

That growth is limited by the capacity of the opera house, but Mr. Nash has a hard time envisioning Rock for the River being held anyplace else.

“We toyed with the idea of taking it to a larger venue, but we think the venue is as an important component as anything for the success of the concert,” Mr. Nash said. “The Clayton Opera House is a really special place. We’re reluctant to have it anywhere else.”

Mr. Nash has released four EPs and seven albums. His latest album, “Letters From the Lost,” was released in May. He wrote the music on “Letters” in Vermont, where he moved two years ago, but recorded the basic tracks in Los Angeles before finishing production on the album back in Vermont.

“Working and creating in the somewhat isolated locale in Vermont had an influence on the music,” Mr. Nash said. “The biggest part was having the flexibility to create without neighbors — to explore creative channels and to be as loud as I want without having to worry about waking anybody up.”

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The 10th anniversary lineup of Rock for the River features artists who have been to at least one of the benefit concerts. But Mr. Nash said there may be surprises.

“We’ll see if any special guests show up,” he said.

Among the performers:

Garrison Starr: Ms. Starr, a Mississippi native, blends a pop/rock/alternative sound with her country vocal background. She’s released seven albums and has opened for Melissa Etheridge. Her hit song “Superhero” aired on ABC’s 1999 coverage of the Women’s World Cup Soccer Tournament. Her seventh album, “Amateur,” was released last year. A song on it, “I May Not Let Go,” was used for the CW network comedy-drama “Hart of Dixie.”

Chris Pierce: Mr. Pierce, a Los Angeles native, was a struggling local singer/songwriter until he met pop icon Seal at a living room gig in 2005. He was invited to be the opening act on the British singer’s world tour. Since then, he also has opened tours and shows for B.B. King, Al Green, Jack Johnson, Colbie Caillat, Toots & The Maytals and others. His latest album, released in December, is “When the Hustle Comes to a Stop.”

The Milk Carton Kids: This duo of Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale is based in Eagle Rock, Calif. The “minimalists” use two vintage guitars (Mr. Ryan on a 1951 Gibson J45 and Mr. Pattengale on a Martin 0-15) and vocals to create Americana and folk music. The duo has released three albums. The latest is “Ash and Clay.” In March, the duo performed a song from it, “Honey, Honey” on TBS’s “Conan.”

Eliza Moore: Using poetry and inspiration from writers such as W.B. Yeats, Pablo Neruda and Martin Luther King, Ms. Moore paints a musical picture of the text with her voice and violin. Her latest EP, “Everything in Me,” was produced by Mr. Nash.

Ms. Moore has recorded with the experimental electro-punk band Swedish Radar and played fiddle and sang with the bluegrass/roots group Althea Jean.

the details
WHAT: Save the River’s 10th annual Rock for the River benefit concert
WHEN/WHERE: 7 p.m. July 6 at the Clayton Opera House, 405 Riverside Drive
OF NOTE: It was announced Wednesday that because of the sold-out July 6 concert, a second Rock for the River 10 will be held Sept. 1 at the opera house. Artists will include Jay Nash, Joe Purdy, Amber Rubarth and Garrison Starr. Full show details will be announced later.
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