'Going to be a big party'
East Coast Band to close Beach Blast event

Although it's several hours to the nearest ocean, folks may soon be able to catch a whiff of salty air or feel the sand between their toes in Olde Town Conyers.

As part of the Olde Town Beach Blast on Saturday, Aug. 2, the Conyers Rockdale Council for the Arts will present The East Coast Band, one of the prime purveyors of the art of beach music, in a concert and dance beginning at 8 p.m. at the Olde Town Pavilion.

Hailing from Spartanburg, S.C., The East Coast Band formed in 1982 and the group's current incarnation has been together for more than a dozen years. Suffice it to say, they know their shag.

"We're primarily known all over the Southeast as a beach group, but we really play a little bit of everything," said bassist Randall Lark. "It just depends on where we're playing. We usually go in with some shag and beach (music), and we can do Motown, R&B and slow songs - whatever it takes to make a great party."

Lark, who's been East Coast's bassist for 12 years, said he's played myriad musical styles through the years, as have others in the seven-piece band, which also includes vocalist Lisa Pruitt, guitarist-vocalist (and founder) Bailey Johnson, saxophonist-vocalist Rob Taylor, guitarist Ric Sarmiento, drummer Randall Roark and keyboardist Lynn Bennett.

"Besides dance and party bands, I've also played country, rock and even gospel," said Lark. "Just about everybody in the band has played something different. We've got a diverse group of musicians and we've all played various types of music."

The group plays about 45 to 50 shows a year, mainly private engagements and festivals and Lark said it takes a special blend of people to be able to stay on the same page for so many years.

"We leave our egos at home and just enjoy what we're doing," he said. "After a few years together, it started to feel like a family. We really enjoy what we do."

The East Coast Band, which has shared the stage with the likes of the Chairmen of the Board, the Drifters and Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs, performs mainly in the Carolinas, but has shagged as far west as New Orleans and has seen its share of Georgia, Virginia, Tennessee and Florida.

And band members are mindful of miles these days with gas exceeding $4 per gallon, which Lark said has had an effect on every aspect of the entertainment industry.

"There has been a reduction in people having events, so there's less of a market for live bands," he said. "The agents who book us look out for us and price us accordingly, so we can make the trip and still come out good. We just pile in the van and take off."

Lark said he enjoys listening to upbeat horn-based music, as espoused by the likes of Earth, Wind & Fire and "The Godfather of Soul," James Brown.

"I used to go to James Brown's shows in Spartanburg when I was younger and I remember he had this fantastic horn section," said Lark. "I just like bands with horns that play upbeat, danceable music. We've talked before about expanding our horns, but we've shied away from it because we're pretty good at what we do, and if it ain't broke..."

East metro music fans can expect to see a veteran band that is good at what they do and enjoys performing, Lark said.

"Onstage, we're lively and energetic," he said. "We have fun and we try to get the crowd involved. Lisa is apt to get out in the middle of the crowd with her wireless mic and get folks singing along. It's going to be a big party when we come to Conyers."

The East Coast Band performance will bring to a close the city of Conyers' Beach Blast, which also includes an artist's market, food, contests and more, beginning at 1 p.m. The Beach Blast is free. Tickets for the East Coast Band concert are $20 for table seats and $10 for lawn seats. For more information on the East Coast Band, visit www.theeastcoastband.com.

Chris Starrs is a freelance writer based in Athens, Ga. If you have a story idea, contact Karen Rohr, features editor, at karen.rohr@rockdalecitizen.com.

SideBar: If you go

What: The East Coast Band

When: Saturday, Aug. 2 at 8 p.m.

Where: Olde Town Pavilion in Conyers

Cost: $10 for a lawn seat; $20 for a table seat. For tickets, call the Conyers Rockdale Council for the Arts at 770-922-3143.