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Rusted Root tops off opening night

Everything about Friday night's opening of the Molson Canal Concert Series was relaxed, laid back and bathed in the lackadaisical sounds of summer. Spirits were high -- "so high I could kiss the sky," as the warm-up act Funky Beets noted in the lyrics to their first song.

But as each of Funky Beet's numbers progressed, the mood just got funkier. At the outset, the band gave listeners a taste of their lazy, smooth vocals only to give off a more persistent rock edge later on. That was generally how things felt in the audience, too -- more and more people from all walks of life arrived at the concert and milled about the parking lot as the sun started to go down. Groups of people washed in to drink, chat and have a good time.

Funky Beets was followed by the Ragbirds, a band whose excellent mix of instrumentals gives its sound a Latin American and occasionally eastern feel. Bongos, maracas, conga drums and even an electric viola went into their genuinely fun performance while families ate dinner and teenagers played hacky sack in the less-crowded areas. The band's variety of influences was impressive, as they performed "Jump in the Line (Shake, Senora)," originally recorded by pop singer Harry Belafonte, as well as a song based on an Italian tarantella to which people in ancient times used to dance in order to sweat out the poison of a spider bite.

Interestingly enough, the Ragbirds, a folk-rock-world fusion band, features guitarist T.J. Zindle, a member of the Buffalo-based indie rock band Last Conservative. His sister, Erin Zindle, is the lead vocalist for the Ragbirds.

A little after 9 p.m., the much-anticipated Rusted Root went on stage. Their characteristic light indie tunes and fresh percussive licks contribute to their strong bluegrass feel and made for a great ending to a beautiful night. If you were there, you might have recognized some of the songs from their appearances on soundtracks like "Mathilda" and "Ice Age," to name a few. Lead vocalist Michael Glabicki played up the passive, happy-go-lucky atmosphere typical of any outdoor summer concert with his wandering vocals and blurred lyrics. African, Latin American, Native American and even Indian sounds are evident in the band's rootsy and Grateful Dead style music.

Those who went to the concert could enter raffles for a car or might have had a shot at winning a guitar signed by all of the members of Rusted Root.

Future highlights of the concert series (which lasts nine weeks) include Gretchen Wilson, July 9; Three Dog Night, July 16; Kansas, Aug. 6; and Tears for Fears, Aug. 13. Concerts are free and start at 5:30 p.m. every Friday night at Ulrich City Centre, 45 Main St. in Lockport.

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Rusted Root

With the Funky Beets and the Ragbirds. Friday evening in the Molson Canal Concert Series, Lockport.

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