One of the things we have really enjoyed about living here is attending the Levitt AMP Middlesboro Music Series. This is a series of free concerts held on Thursday nights in downtown Middlesboro. We attended six of the ten concerts this year.
The Levitt AMP Middlesboro Music Series has been held every summer since 2015. They did not have a concert series in 2020, during Covid. The Levitt Foundation sponsors these concerts by giving a matching grant. Middlesboro Main Street, a group dedicated to the revitalization of downtown Middlesboro, raises the matching money for the grant. The Levitt Foundation sponsors similar music venues in 41 locations across the United States.
There are three characteristics that define the Levitt AMP series. They are outdoors in spaces that are supposed to bring together diverse groups. They are free, making them accessible to anyone. And they are supposed to represent a variety of music types.
The Levitt AMP Middlesboro Music Series does a good job with all three of these, although the concerts were a little heavy on blues this year. The first groups we heard were bluegrass, which seemed especially appropriate for the area. But that was it for bluegrass music. I like blues music okay, although it can feel repetitive. One of the artists in particular, Veronica Lewis, was very repetitive. All of her songs sounded exactly the same. Same piano riffs, same drum solos, same unintelligible lyrics. Not one of my favorites.
But we enjoyed several of the groups very much. Hard Redemption is a blues/rock and roll/Christian group. Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers is a fun, energetic new age rock and roll. Tangled in Blues is a bunch of older, white guys who were just having fun making music together. Tami Neilson is an award-winning country music artist from New Zealand. She visited Cumberland Gap the day after her concert so I had a chance to talk to her a bit. I said that her music didn’t feel very “country” to me. And she said that anything that sounded American in New Zealand was labeled “country.” That explains all her awards.
Tom and I always had fun reading the bios of the artists. By the end of the series we could have written them ourselves. “_______ is true to their _____ roots while putting a contemporary twist on ________.” In other words, the bios didn’t really tell us much about the artists at all. We didn’t know what to expect until they started playing.
All of the concerts started at 6:30. Tom and I went with Robin most of the time. The Vets Serving Vets sold smashburgers and BBQ ribs at every concert. We tried the food but it had so much sodium that we couldn’t enjoy it. Their ice cream fudge cake, on the other hand, was delicious.
The opening act played from 6:30 until 7:15, then there was an intermission and announcements. At 7:30 the headliner came out and performed until 8:45. Some of them performed longer. It was often very hot and I felt sorry for the artists under the hot lights. But they were troupers and did their best.
Tom, Robin, and I really enjoyed going to the concerts. The last concert of the year was also attended by Karen Graham, a friend from Ohio, her sister Pam Blank who lives in Middlesboro, and Chuck and Sarah Blank. We had a whole group there and enjoyed being together and enjoying some good music.
The Levitt AMP Middlesboro Music Series is a great thing for this small city. It gets people out and enjoying downtown Middlesboro. And it is a chance for the community to come together. Their motto is “Music Moves” and it does.