Celebrate Summer Jam succeeded in a smashing way on Saturday night at the Ocean Shores Convention Center.
According to Angelo Bruscas, president of North Beach Community TV — a key organizer for the event — the festival will “likely expand” in 2024 to a two-day event with two stages.
While a smaller crowd showed up to watch the earlier artist sets, it expanded as the festival went on throughout the day and into the night. People were coming in with chili from the Washington State Chili Cook-off and they were lining up at the bar for cold draft beers and cocktails.
Summer Jam’s list of bands ranged from local artists such as Tiffany Maki’s band — Ms. Maki and Co., Wil Russoul’s band The Akoostics, Jonathan Harris, and Johnny “the Capo’ and the Bad Boys — to Leah Justine, a country music singer who was born and raised in Tacoma and now plays and records in Nashville.
North Beach TV Coast Cable Channel 68, KOSW 91.3 FM, and North Beach Independent Media sponsored the event, which began at 3 p.m. Wish Flower was the first of 10 acts. The festival ended with Leah Justine’s band.
Despite the near 90-degree weather, there was quite a presence outside at the chili cookoff as tents lined the parking lot and fans of the spicy offering waited in line. Inside, the Artisan Faire Shop Local and Global took place in the lobby next to the concert area.
Justine, after a meet-and-greet with fans, spoke about her love of music a few hours before her lively performance. She’s sung since she was 5-years-old and back then it was in musical theater.
“I love the stage, I love performing and I love country music,” Justine said in her get-up of a black shirt, jeans and red lipstick.
Since her early years in Tacoma when she sought help from Jack Gorrecht — a vocal coach in Puyallup — Justine has accomplished a lot. She’s recorded twice in Nashville and once in Friendsville, Tennessee, and her songs are available on Apple Music, iTunes and on YouTube. In 2021, her music video for her song “Run Home,” went No. 1 on the Country Network. Her video can be seen here: youtube.com/watch?v=Z7Gn7GycEmQ
Justine, who was fun to talk to, said she was “so excited” to come out to Summer Jam. And she loves Ocean Shores.
“The Ocean Shores community has been so amazing to me,” Justine said. “I came down here this last fall and the North Beach Community television station hosted me. I brought my band out and we recorded six videos of the band playing live. And the North Beach TV station edited those and they’re all up on my YouTube. My relationship with Ocean Shores kind of started there.”
Justine wasn’t the only performer amped up about Celebrate Summer Jam.
Ms. Maki & Co., who played popular covers and a few original songs, got the crowd up and moving on a dance floor near the stage inside the convention center. The band played a few classic songs such as Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog,” George Michael’s “Faith,” and a lively rendition of The Surfaris’ “Wipeout,” which saw flawless drum solos from Maki’s drummer, Evan Mehlhoff. Bassist Jamie Attwood was clearly feeling the energy as he moved about stage right as he slapped the bass.
Maki, who sang, danced, and played the keyboard so hard she even brought up her sweat to the crowd, clearly loved her time on stage.
“Thank you so much!” Maki said. “I frickin’ love playing my own music.”
Maki, who’s played professionally since she was 18 — including a stirring rendition of the National Anthem at last year’s Founder’s Day Parade in Aberdeen — said on Monday she had a “blast” at Summer Jam.
“It’s been so many months in the works and I’m so glad it turned out to be a success,” Maki said. “Ms. Maki & Co. was honored to be a part of it and we just had so much fun! Lots of great, positive recognition for us!”
Bruscas talked about how Summer Jam came to be.
“The original idea for the event was really a collaborative effort by myself, Johnny Gargano of Johnny and the Bad Boys, and Jetta Smith, who used to be the keyboard player-singer for SR109,” Bruscas said. “We wanted to create an annual event to showcase our music scene in the area, as well as something to bring people to the beach to kickoff the summer season ahead.”
Bruscas delved a little deeper into why starting Celebrate Summer Jam meant so much to him and why it’s great for the North Beach area.
“It was my personal passion to bring our Grays Harbor music community together for an event that we can all enjoy and find ways to collaborate in the future, with great contributions this year from folks like Wil Russoul, Angel Phoenix and the Tiffany Maki band,” Bruscas said Monday. “Having recording artists like Jonathan Harris and Leah Justine, both from the Pierce County area, further helped showcase Ocean Shores as a legitimate venue for Northwest artists looking to build their fan base on a stage and a facility that is top-notch for concerts and events.”
Bruscas also talked about the festival’s success, and its goals. The festival has been around for the last two years. It began at the Ocean Shores Lions Club in 2022, and it has grown since then.
“This year, with the success of the first event, we were able to apply for lodging tax funding to rent the convention center, and partnered with the North Beach Independent Media (KOSW’s non-profit board,) and Cindy Stearns who had coordinated the chili cook-off out here pre-COVID as well as add the vendors for the Artisan Faire,” Bruscas said. “We also had funding to advertise on Grays Harbor radio stations and KAYO in Olympia in an effort to bring folks to the beach for the event.”
The concert area had seating for up to 250 people and there were 168 tickets purchased in advance. Bruscas said radio stations gave out about 50 tickets.
“Our goal has always been to use our public TV station to showcase local talent, and we will have a full hour-long video of this year’s event on the air in the future,” Bruscas said.
The key organizers for the event were Bruscas, Johnny Gargano —music and talent director, Butch Larson, KOSW station manager and director of Northwest Independent Media, and Stearns, organizer of the Artisan Faire and the chili cook-off.
As of Monday’s press time, Bruscas said the funds wouldn’t be known until later this week. Proceeds from the event came from chili sales, vendor booths, ticket sales, alcohol sales and suggested donations.
Bruscas shared what the funds are for.
“Our funds are being used at the TV station to upgrade our video server and web-video ability to reach our audience that doesn’t have access to cable,” Bruscas said. “But, our main intent was to throw a great party for the community and visitors that help keep people coming back to the Shores for years to come, and I think we were fairly successful there.”
Bruscas detailed his favorite moment, which was an emotional one.
“My favorite moment of the event was when Leah Justine’s guitar player Tony Hauenstein came up to me with tears in his eyes before his performance with Jonathan Harris and thanked me for helping bring everyone together, including Jonathan’s kids, having seen them all grow up over the years,” Bruscas said.
And like Maki, who said Justine was “great,” and provided “a wonderful stage presence,” the country music star’s performance also moved Bruscas.
“The highlight by far was the amazing performance from Leah Justine, who may even make a country music fan out of this old rock and roller,” Bruscas said.