5/23/2013 6:20:00 PM Songs of Summer: Courthouse plaza concerts, movies to begin May 31
Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier
IDOL EFFORT - Olivia Chavez, above, of Prescott sings “At Last” by Etta James during the 2012 Prescott Idol competition in downtown Prescott.
COOL BREEZE - Dave Russell, below, performs on the courthouse plaza with his jazz band Cool Azul in August 2012. The concert series kicks off May 31.
For fans of the city's Summer Concert Series, next week's kick-off performance will feature a close encounter with a music legend.
When local band Baker Street (formerly Broken Arrow) takes the stage at the Yavapai County Courthouse Plaza on May 31, it will bring with it a connection to famed musician Frank Zappa, who died in 1993.
Patrice Zappa-Porter, Frank's younger sister, plans to pass along some of the Zappa lore through her latest book on her brother.
"It was quite an experience," Zappa-Porter remembers of her years as Frank Zappa's little sister. "Frank was the best big brother; we was very protective of me," she said recently from her home in Van Nuys, Calif.
Zappa-Porter remembers her brother, who was 11 years her senior, as being creative from an early age. While spending many days at home sick with asthma, Frank channeled his creativity into art and music, he sister recalls.
Frank Zappa would go on to worldwide fame as a composer and performer of rock, jazz, and experimental music.
Zappa-Porter, whose other brother Carl Zappa is involved with the local Baker Street band, said she will be signing copies of her new book "My Brother was a Mother, Take 2" during the performance from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, May 31.
A noted musician in her own right, Zappa-Porter said she also plans to perform a song with the band, which plays a blend of classic rock, blues, jazz, and southern rock.
The Baker Street performance will be just the first of nearly 60 nights of free entertainment on the courthouse plaza - running from May 31 to Sept. 5.
Becky Karcie, the city's special events manager, said the series would bring back many of the crowd favorites from previous years, as well as some new performers.
"We will have country all the way to reggae," Karcie said. "I don't care if you're three or 103, there is something for everybody."
Generally, the series devotes Tuesdays to jazz, while Wednesdays feature a "Movie in the Park" event. Thursdays will showcase the Prescott Karaoke Idol, with the Central Arizona Band rotating in on the third Thursdays of the month. Fridays and Saturdays will feature a variety of music genres. The regular Wednesday-night movies, which start at dusk, were popular last year, Karcie said, and she is hoping to build on that.
The movies come with "a beautiful starry night, a 26-foot screen and a great sound system," Karcie said, adding, "It feels like you're in a theater, but you're outdoors."
The movie line-up will include family-friendly (nothing over PG-13) fare, and the titles will be available by calling 777-1349.
Another popular feature is the annual Prescott Karaoke Idol, which pits amateur singers against one another in a summer-long competition.
"It grows every year," Karcie said of the karaoke night. Sign-up for the performances is through radio stations Kolt Country/Wolf/The Canyon, at 776-7005.
The city spends about $14,000 on a high-quality sound system for the series, but does not pay the bands, Karcie said. Rather, it is asking the audience to make a donation, and a donation jar for the bands will be on hand.
Karcie also encourages people who frequent the free concerts to patronize local businesses.
"Our goal is for people to come out for dinner, have ice cream or popcorn, and watch a movie," Karcie said.
Zappa-Porter, whose husband Nolan Porter is also a musician, has performed for years in California and around the world.
In 2003, she wrote her first book, "My Brother was a Mother," chronicling the life of her brother. In 2011, Zappa-Porter published her latest book. She plans to sell signed copies of the "Take 2" book for $30.
Garvin said the Zappa connection is just one of the features that set the Summer Concert Series apart.
"Prescott is very unique in offering such a wide variety of music and entertainment in the heart of the community," Karcie said. "Plus, it's free."