East 542 Music Fest

Classic rock comes to Deming

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

I have to say, when the East 542 Music Fest hit my radar last year, I was a little skeptical. Not hard eye-roll, deep sigh, full-on sarcasm skeptical. My doubts were more of the side-eye, “have these people thought this through/can this possibly pencil?” variety. To be clear: I wished no ill will toward East 542. My feelings were quite the opposite—I hoped the event would be wildly successful. Because if the organizers behind this event could pull this off, it would speak well, not only for the prospects of this festival, but also the future of similar, not-yet-conceived events of the future.

It’s true that a metric ton of concerts happen on the regular in this area. So, then, what makes East 542 so special?

Simply put, it was the size of the endeavor that set this festival apart. Also, the choice of location in conjunction with its size was a consideration as well.

First of all, East 542 wasn’t just another concert. Or even another festival. It was a big undertaking—really big. With headliners like Lonestar, Sawyer Brown, Bad Company, and more, this wasn’t your average show. And it was located at the Deming Logging Show Grounds, which isn’t exactly your average concert venue.

Don’t get me wrong, despite the semi-sleepy small-town nature of the cities and burgs around these parts, it’s hardly unusual for people to come out for worthy shows of all shapes and sizes. As well, the Deming Logging Show Grounds is home to both its namesake logging show and the Subdued Stringband Jamboree (as well as a whole slew of other happenings), so it is no stranger to drawing a crowd. But to take a lineup that you’d typically only find inside the expansive walls of one of the area’s larger casinos or on the mainstage at the Northwest Washington Fair and drop it deep in the wilds of Deming requires some real vision—and, most likely, an amount of perseverance that probably borders on out-and-out stubbornness.

However, last year’s inaugural 542 East Music Fest was a success—enough so that its organizers are back to give it another go. And so, a yearly tradition is born.

This year’s 542 East takes place a little earlier in the year—July 12-13 instead of in September—but the party figures to be just as big.

While last year’s headliners were mostly country singers, this year, festival organizers opted to take a hefty detour into classic rock. As such, they’ve recruited a couple of former frontmen from some of the genre’s most hit-making bands. Steve Augeri will bring his sweet Journey stylings (he took over lead vocalist duties for the multiplatinum band from 1998-2006)—and if you have any doubt as to whether he could belt out such epic hits as “Open Arms” and “Faithfully” and do Steve Perry’s iconic vocals justice, all I have to say is, don’t stop believin’. If Boston is the band that wets your classic rock whistle, I have more than a feeling you’ll be pleased to know that Fran Cosmo, singer for the legendary arena rockers for several years will be on hand to perform all the hits, including the one that was a Top Ten hit for the band during his tenure as frontman, “I Need Your Love.” But Fran isn’t the only Boston alum that will take the stage at East 542; his son, Anton, is in the band as well.

But country is close to East 542’s heart, and the festival’s other heavy hitter is Jamie O’Neal, who is from Nashville—by way of Australia. She’s got some hits of her own to unleash, namely her pair of chart-toppers, “There is No Arizona” and “When I Think About Angels.” Although his resume is slightly less well-known, the Chris Eger Band has the benefit of having played last year’s East 542, and he brought down the house to such an extent he was asked to come back this year.

But that’s just the tip of the East 542 iceberg, as it aims to be a music-filled party that starts early and stays up late (camping is encouraged—and really, if you’re going to go, you should plan to camp. The Deming Logging Show Grounds is the ideal locale to spend a night under the stars). Along with plenty of other bands and musical acts, the festival also has mechanical bull rides (it’s not a party until the mechanical bull shows up), a pancake breakfast, food vendors and more to keep all and sundry entertained and satisfied.

Given the good time had by those who attended last year’s East 542 Music Fest, it should come as no surprise that tickets have been selling at a steady clip for the 2013 version. It looks like this year’s festival is going to be a resounding success as well. I never doubted it for a minute.

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