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Jul 1, 2012

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An excuse for people to stay in Rochester

An excuse for people to stay in Rochester

Brandon Sampson freely admits he organized the Americana Showcase concert series out of his frustration with living in Rochester.
“I hated it when I moved here seven years ago,” said Sampson, of the band Six Mile Grove. “But as the years went on, it got a little more tolerable.”

That’s due in large part, he said, to the burgeoning arts and music scene in the city, as exemplified by the Thursdays on First and Third summertime events.

Now, Sampson, with the cooperation of Rochester Civic Theatre, is hoping to keep the momentum going with the Americana Showcase concerts.

“Gregory Stavrou (executive director of RCT) shared with me his vision of creating an excuse for people to stay in Rochester rather than jetting off to the Twin Cities every weekend,” Sampson said.

Sampson and Stavrou decided to hold the showcase series in RCT’s main stage hall.

“People are really comfortable listening to music there, and the artists feel comfortable telling stories and swapping songs,” Sampson said.

That’s what will take place Sept. 30 when Grammy winner Don Henry, Grammy nominee Sally Barris and Sampson team up for a Nashville-style songwriters’ circle.

The series opened in August with acclaimed songwriter Chris Knight and continues through December.

“The news has traveled fast that this is a good gig,” Sampson said. “There’s a certain amount of trust to get people to come here. But they know the crowd at the showcase is there to listen. It’s fresh and it’s exciting for everyone involved.”

Henry collaborated with Jon Vezner on the Grammy-winning hit “Where’ve You Been.” Barris has written songs recorded by Trisha Yearwood, Martina McBride, Kellie Pickler and Lee Ann Womack.

Sampson met Barris when both performed one night at Nashville’s legendary Bluebird Cafe.

“After the show we figured out we were both from Minnesota,” he said. “I invited her to come up and play some shows. She has such a beautiful voice and well-crafted songs.”

In an indication that Rochester’s music scene is indeed becoming a destination, Minnesota Public Radio has announced it will record the Americana Showcase concerts for rebroadcast at a later date.

“They’re actually promoting leaving Minneapolis to come to Rochester for these things,” Sampson said.

- Tom Weber, Rochester Post Bulletin

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