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Local artists get in on national act

Musicians get opening slots at Three Rivers Fest

Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra

Anthony Gadson

Associate Editor

Published June 29, 2022

There are quite a few national acts taking the stage during the upcoming Three Rivers Festival, but no one is more excited than their opening acts.

Fatima Washington, Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra, Los Galaxy, and Cougar Hunter will all get to share the Headwaters Park stage with national talent. Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra, as well as Los Galaxy, will open for CeeLo Green on July 9, Washington will open for Ginuwine on July 14, and Cougar Hunter takes the stage prior to Quiet Riot on July 15.

Also opening for national acts will be Pete Dio & The Old Dirty on July 8 for Hillbilly Casino, and U.R.B. and Unlikely Alibi on July 16 for Here Come the Mummies. The Illegals will join Cougar Hunter in opening for Quiet Riot.

“For me, as a longtime hip-hop fan, I’ve been listening to CeeLo since he was on Outkast’s first album, and then obviously I loved the Dungeon Family (Goodie Mob) record when they came out with ‘Cell Therapy’ (on the 1995 album Soul Food),” Aaron King of the Funk Orchestra said in an email response. “It is a blessing for our city to be able to bring in CeeLo. All credit goes to Justin (Shurley) and the festival board.  I think there is an argument to be made that CeeLo is the biggest artist to ever perform at the Three Rivers Festival!”

Genuine thrill

Washington also grew up on the music of her opening act, who gained national fame for his single “Pony” in 1996.

“That’s the music of my middle school, high school, and early college days,” she said. “I’m super, super geeked. I’m really grateful for the performance.”

Washington says she took part in talent shows through middle school and high school, and even released an album, A Part of Me, in 2011, but her singing days extend beyond those days.

“If you asked my family, they’d say I’ve been singing since I was little: They can’t get me to be quiet!,” she joked.

After being a part of the festival the past six years, Washington is looking forward to putting her talents on full display.

“I’ve been singing around the city for a long time, and it’s nice of them to have the confidence in me to give me my own set, and see how it goes,” she said. “I want to be able to grow.”

And when she takes the stage with R&B and “a splash of everything else,” Washington will be looking to tap into those school dance days.

“I’m sure a lot of the people in the crowd will be breaking out the old dance moves; they just might want to be careful!,” she said.

Galactic sound

Ahead of CeeLo Green, a couple of local acts will take the stage. However, whereas Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra has been “funking together” eight years, Los Galaxy is a work in progress, forming a little more than a year ago.

“We’ve just been trying to find our sound,” guitarist David Vaides said.

While finding that sound, which they call funk fusion, Los Galaxy, who is comprised of keyboardist Daniel Vaides, drummer Zane Stackhouse, bassist Jon Gehle, and saxophonists Takoda Collins and Ashton Morris, have been making some noise in the city, winning of the inaugural Center Stage talent show at The Clyde Theatre and also performing at this year’s Middle Waves Music Festival.

However, it was while playing a normal gig around town that helped them get booked for the Three Rivers Festival when entertainment committee chair Rick Kinney saw them playing at The Brass Rail.

“We were just playing at the right place, at the right time,” Vaides said.

Bringing the funk

The Funk Orchestra of King, Tony Didier, Lisa McDavid, Evan Stuerzenberger, Jason Westerman, Alex Kastner, Patrick Matthews, Miguel Burney, Chandler Cashdollar, Micquail Kizer, and Dan Fisher has been in the right place a lot of the time over their eight years, attracting crowds in the process.

“Most of our shows are sold out locally,” King said. “We are fortunate to have a base of local professionals that show us love and come to our shows. We cater to an audience of successful professionals that enjoy our unique blend of funk, hip-hop, R&B, and jazz! We have opened up for several national artists, but nobody bigger than CeeLo!”

Like Washington, King says the artist his band is opening for brings back fond memories.

“CeeLo is from the era where we would go to Glenbrook Mall, and buy the single, then we go back three weeks later and purchase the entire album,” he said of the artist that found solo success and was also half the dynamic group Gnarls Barkley with Danger Mouse. “Those singles taught me how to rap. They would have the hit track on there, then the next track would be the instrumental for the hit track that we would rap to as kids driving around in our cars.”

becoming hunted

When it comes to the most raucous local opening act, Cougar Hunter takes the cake.

The tongue-in-cheek group comprised of stage personas Muff McKravan, Diamond Drake, leTigre, Rusty Hummer, and Rico Fuego claim they were cryogenically frozen in the ’80s, and thawed in 2010. They aren’t so much of a’80s hair band tribute act, as they are a group playing the songs they wrote, but were “stolen” by the likes of Mötley Crüe, Poison, and Def Leppard.

“It’s always good to play a show with someone on the same level as us,” bassist McKravan said in character.

Having played at The Clyde Theatre and Ruoff Music Center, Cougar Hunter feels comfortable in front of larger crowds, which is what they expect at Headwaters Park.

“We’re going to be bringing the energy for this show,” McKravan said.

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