Styx, Kory and the Fireflies set for Shellabration

Shellabration organizers are adding a bit of a twist with the opening acts for this year’s summer concert.

Traditionally, local bands open for the headliner; those opening acts usually play mostly covers of rock and roll music – and, because of the nature of rock music, most of the musicians are male.

That will still be partially true when Styx anchors Shellabration 2013 at the Oleson Park Bandshell on June 22.

But, according to Shellabration President Jim Reed, this year’s concert will have more diverse music, more female musicians and a band from South Dakota that has opened for dozens of national acts.

“Our goal as an organization is to expose our market to something new, but also to get artists and bands that haven’t had the opportunity to enjoy that big stage,” Reed said.

The Down to Earth Band, which is based in Swea City, features one member who has played before on the Oleson Park stage: Brooke LaRow.

LaRow was a member of a band that opened for Foreigner at last year’s Shellabration. When she returns to the big stage in June, she will be part of a band that also includes her mother, Ruth LaRow; her sister, Brandy Haaland; and brother-in-law, Jordan “Gordo” Haaland.

Reed was among the Shellabration committee members who traveled to Swea City over the winter to preview The Down to Earth Band.

“What impressed me most,” he said, “was the diversity of the music they play. We’ve been kind of a classic rock event, but we draw a very broad audience of age ranges. So, when we heard them playing Adele and Beyonce … They’re doing all this different music, and they’re doing it very well.”

Ruth LaRow, he said, “is an incredibly talented and gifted drummer, and she carries so many of the lead vocals. It’s incredibly novel to have three women who can carry lead vocals, but (Ruth LaRow) also once had the opportunity to tour as a drummer with Merle Haggard.”

The one member of The Down to Earth Band who isn’t related will likely be familiar to area live music fans. Bruce Borchers, who plays lead guitar and sings, is probably best known as a longtime member of the Street Band from Webster City, Reed said.

The other opening act for Shellabration has shared the stage with Styx twice before at shows in Nebraska and Sioux City.

And, Kory and the Fireflies can thank Styx for the opportunity to play in Fort Dodge.

Although no one from Styx requested a specific band, “they are very high on supporting original music,” Reed said, a requirement that appears in their performance contract.

“The band was insistent on dialing in original material,” he said, speculating that members of Styx want to give other musicians the same types of opportunities they had when they first got started.

Bill Rodewald, Shellabration vice president, is sold on the South Dakota band.

“I had the opportunity to hear Kory and the Fireflies at Okoboji when we were up there on vacation,” Rodewald said.

Although the plan was to just check out the band for a few minutes, “we enjoyed it so much, and there was so much energy, that we pretty much closed the show down that night. Kory (Van Sickle) is just an amazing front man with a lot of charisma. He gets the crowd involved, and it’s a very, very entertaining band to watch,” he said.

Kory and the Fireflies have played in support or on the stage with more than 70 nationally known acts, including Alice Cooper, Cheap Trick, Foreigner, Goo Goo Dolls, and Hootie and the Blowfish.

“It’s really cool,” Reed said, “the list of artists they’ve toured with. I think we’ve got the best of both worlds” with an act that appeals to young and old, doing music from today’s charts as well as the 1970s and 1980s, along with “an artist who is out there trying to make a name for themselves with some powerful material.”