“There’s so much talent in Valpo,” said Mr. U, host of WVLP’s Local Funk. That top talent was on full display on Sunday night at the 7th Annual WVLP Stars Over Valpo concert at Valparaiso University. The concert showcased longtime favorites like Ripley Street, Mark Rongers, Bryan Lubeck, Chad Clifford, John Derado and fresh faces like Frank Ruvoli, stop.drop.rewind, Hot Rod Heathens, and Valpo’s own youth music program The Blues Project.
“Terrestrial radio isn’t what it once was,” WVLP Director Gregg Kovach said, noting that the event raises funds to keep the station on the air and to improve the equipment. “We’ve been fortunate to win a couple grants, which helps a lot, but this year we’re stepping up our game.”
For the first time in years, WVLP merch was available for purchase. Melissa Washburn designed two shirts, embellishing on the logo for Early Bird and Night Owl designs. As Mr. U said, there’s a lot of talent here. With shirts for purchase, WVLP is pushing to support more local artists than ever before.
Mr. U and Ken Luther, host of Mostly Metal, emceed the event. As usual, each artist was invited to perform one song. Only one artist performed two.
“I play songs for short attention spans,” said Captain Ambivalent, “so I got permission to squeeze in two.”
Replete with cape, gold-sequined boots and an accordion, Captain Ambivalent opened his two-song set with his heroic origin story. His set was a hit, as audience members relayed positive feedback from their friends who watched the show on Facebook Live.
Captain Ambivalent hadn’t played Stars Over Valpo since an equipment malfunction years ago forced him to play acapella while the audience provided the beat. So this year, he was happy to be asked back.
“There’re so many good acts around here,” the Captain said. “This is a great chance to support local musicians and connect with the local music community.”
"Everybody loves performing at Stars Over Valpo," Kovach confirmed. "If they can do it, they do it."
Jay Wacasey celebrated his third year playing Stars Over Valpo, this year bringing his family to perform as Jay Wacasey & Papa’s Guitar Band.
“We appreciate everyone coming out and supporting local artists,” Wacasey said. “This event proves that Northwest Indiana supports original music.”
Musician Frank Ruvoli introduced his new original 'Funky Farmhouse' with a story that’s relatable to many musicians, painting a proverbial picture of the desire to hear one’s own song on the radio.
“I remember the first time one of my original songs played on John King’s show, 'Livin’ It Up.' I felt like I was on top of the world," Ruvoli said.
Ruvoli thanked the audience for supporting local artists, noting that “it all starts local, and then it grows from there.”
Billboard Magazine’s “Critic’s Choice” contemporary jazz musician Bryan Lubeck joked about his new single, ‘Midnight Sun,’ because his fans often ask which area of the West Coast inspires his songwriting.
“I tell them there’s somewhere else that’s like that,” Lubeck said, “It’s awesome – it’s here!”
Per Stars Over Valpo tradition, the evening closed with Mark Rongers. This year his band, including his son Zeke, covered the Beatles’ ‘A Day in the Life.’ Rongers pulled WVLP founder Paul Schreiner on stage to film the audience participation.
“Paul and Jane are an incredible testament to local music,” Rongers said. Indeed, from founding Front Porch to founding WVLP, Schreiner has made a major impact on the music scene here in Valparaiso.
WVLP hosts only two fundraising events each year: Stars Over Valpo and their community Hog Roast, slated for July 12.
Support local artists like those who performed at Stars Over Valpo, and support local radio by visiting http://wvlp.org/ or tuning in to 103.1FM.