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Are You Ready To Rock?

INDEPENDENCE — Independence could be the next Woodstock when bands from around the nation take the stage at Riverview Park on Saturday.    The sounds of rock ‘n’ roll, pop and even a harmonica or two will beat throughout the park as part of perhaps the biggest music event Polk County has ever seen.    The park will be transformed into a rock concert event, the River’s Edge Music Fest, featuring more than a dozen bands on two stages — proper 40-by-40 foot stages, too.    It is the first of what organizers Joe Gingerella and Alex Trevino hope to be many more large-format events in the amphitheater.    “It’s not just about the music, it’s about the atmosphere and everything that comes with it,” Trevino of Independence said.    Gingerella, who has promoted concerts for 30 years, said he is happy with ticket pre-sales. He expects 2,000 to 5,000 people in attendance. Musician Matt Beltz of Monmouth will help give the festival a hometown flavor.    One of the headliners is multi-platinum alt-rockers Lit, whose last album, “The View from the Bottom,” was released in 2012.    Since then, the band has been on tour in China and Europe, including the United Kingdom, Germany and Holland, as well as here in the States.    Fan reaction to the album has been amazing, said Lit bassist Kevin Baldes.    “We got great feedback from the audience when we played songs from the recent album,” he said.    Baldes is always a little surprised at which songs impact people.    “You have maybe five songs that stand out (on an album), and then there’s some songs you wouldn’t even think about that other people like,” he said.    Baldes spoke with the Itemizer-Observer from his home in Fullerton, Calif., while his 2-year-old son practiced on the drums.    “My kid is literally playing a drum,” he said with a laugh before telling his son, “We can bang it when daddy gets off the phone.”    Baldes met bandmates Allen Shellenberger and brothers Jeremy and A. Jay Popoff when they were teenagers.    “It was kind of heavy metal that brought (us) together,” he said. “If you’re into punk rock … you have something in common. That’s how you become friends.”    Baldes enjoys the life of a musician, from the writing and recording music to the performing and touring.    “I love performing live, hopping on stage and performing,” he said. “You take four guys, each playing their parts — it’s the birth of a song, and then it’s done. I like that.”    The group has stuck together, except for Shellenberger, who succumbed to brain cancer in 2009. Valora, who will perform Saturday in Independence, was tagged as “one of the 100 bands you need to know about in 2011”?by the Associated Press.    The fact that the festival will benefit cancer research appeals to Baldes and the band.    “Any kind of benefit to help out with something is always good, but cancer really hits close to home,” he said.    Lit is not actively working on a new album, but Baldes said that idea is not off the table.    “I don’t know if we’ll do a proper album, but can see us writing some songs and releasing them via iTunes, something like that,” he said.    The Internet has changed the way musicians release music, Baldes noted. The band was signed with RCA until 2009, and is currently with Mega Force.    “I’m not sure that even matters anymore,” he said. “We would release it on our own.”    Baldes misses the days when one had to go to Tower Records or their neighborhood music store for a new release or to see pictures of their favorite rock stars in magazines.    Before the constant release of photos — old and new — online, photos were more special, Baldes said.    Baldes grew up on Kiss and Led Zeppelin, but these days, he’s listening to Johnny Cash, Billy Joel and U2.    “I’m with my son, I can’t be listening to Lamb of God or crazy metal stuff,” he said.    Another artist performing during the festival is Monmouth’s own Matt Beltz. Kimberly Caldwell was a seventh-place finalist on the second season of “American Idol.”    “It’d been my dream to do a music festival here,” he said. “I knew it would take a lot of resources and stuff, so I brought it to Joe (Gingerella) and he liked the idea.”    Beltz, a 2001 Central High graduate, has been writing music for about a year, and it’s something that comes easily to him.    “I wrote my first song about a mountain man, not a country song, about a guy who has trouble in everyday life, and he runs off to the mountains and makes a life,” he said. “I wrote it so quickly — like in 10 minutes — chord progressions and everything.”    From there, he began writing two or three songs a day. He gave them to a friend to sing, but that didn’t feel quite right.    “The songs were so personal,” Beltz said. “He couldn’t sing them comfortably, and I couldn’t quite sing them the way I felt them, so I struggled.”    He began to practice and teach himself to sing until what came out of his mouth was what he heard in his head.    Now, Beltz is confident that his songs sound like he wants them to, and is looking forward to singing in front of what will most likely be the biggest crowd he has ever performed for.    “The big crowds actually make me feel more comfortable,” he said.    Trevino is excited to see his, Beltz’s and Gingerella’s work come to fruition.    “Everything’s gone great,” he said. “The city has been great to work with, really supportive of anything new.”    The concert will support local business by bringing in new foot traffic, Trevino added.    Because the concert does not have a re-entry fee, music lovers can choose from food vendors at the event — ranging from pizza to Vietnamese to barbecue — or enjoy one of the many restaurants available downtown, Trevino noted.    “They can come (and go) as long as they please.”

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