Strike up the band: Michael Stanley, Donnie Iris to open amphitheater


If YOU GO

What: Michael Stanley and the Resonators, and Donnie Iris and the Cruisers

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre

Tickets: $25, $42.50, $59.50 and $75 at ticketmaster.com and the Covelli Centre box office

Note: Lawn chairs will not be permitted to be brought to this show; they can be rented for $5. Blankets are permitted.

By GUY D’ASTOLFO

dastolfo@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Michael Stanley, Donnie Iris and their respective bands will break the seal on the new Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre on Saturday, and it would be hard to imagine a better team of headliners for the momentous task.

It will be the first official event at the $8 million downtown venue, and a lot of thought went in to picking the acts, said Eric Ryan, president of JAC Management, which operates the facility.

Why did Stanley and Iris get the nod?

“We wanted to have an artist that has a great relationship with us,” said Ryan. “We have done both Michael Stanley and Donnie Iris before, several times at the Cellar [the rock club Ryan once owned in Struthers], and in the Covelli parking lot. For the first show out of the gate, we wanted to make sure if there was any bugs to work out, it could be done. Live- Nation, who we partner with, also has a tremendous relationship with those bands.

“The other part is that it’s such a regional draw,” Ryan continued. “It is selling incredibly well. It’s outselling the other shows [scheduled this summer at the new venue]. We’re expecting to sell all tickets, well over 4,000. It’s a perfect fit for opening night.”

Stanley and Iris were both in their heyday in the 1970s and ’80s, reaching various levels of national fame, and each has maintained relevance in their own neck of the woods.

Stanley’s core of fans, of course, is in his hometown of Cleveland, while Iris’s in his hometown of Pittsburgh. If you drew a Venn diagram with circles centered around those cities, they would overlap in Youngstown, and that’s what makes the pairing a no-brainer.

Stanley and his bands have played countless shows in Youngstown over the past three decades, and the city’s DNA runs through his music.

Daniel Pecchio of Youngstown, perhaps best known as the bassist for Glass Harp, was a founding member of the Michael Stanley Band. Guitarist Gary Markasky of Youngstown, who regularly plays in Mahoning Valley with his own band, had a stint with MSB in its peak years.

The most famous line from any MSB song – “Thank God for the man who put the white lines on the highway” from 1980’s “Lover” – was first uttered by Stanley while driving back to Cleveland in a snowstorm after a gig in Youngstown.

Other MSB hits include “He Can’t Love You” and “My Town.”

Michael Stanley and the Resonators released their most recent album, “Stolen Time,” in 2017.

Last month, Stanley was awarded the Cleveland Arts Prize Lifetime Achievement Award in a ceremony at Beachland Ballroom.

Pittsburgh icon Donnie Iris was born in New Castle, Pa., and grew up in Ellwood City.

In 1970, Iris was a member of the Jaggerz and earned a gold record for writing and singing the No. 1 song “The Rapper.” In 1978, he joined Wild Cherry (“Play That Funky Music, White Boy”) in the group’s waning days.

Iris met Mark Avsec, his future collaborator and partner, in Wild Cherry and the two formed Donnie Iris & the Cruisers in 1979.

The band’s string of hits include “Ah, Leah,” “Love Is Like a Rock,” “Sweet Merilee,” “Tough World,” “Agnes” and “That’s the Way Love Ought to Be.”

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