There’s no denying the fact that an enormous amount of visitors to the Outer Banks hail from Western Pennsylvania. I personally lived just north of Pittsburgh before making the move to the Outer Banks some years ago.
One of my favorite summer pastimes was going to big fairs and festivals… that were bursting at the seams with entertainment, food, arts/crafts, and local musicians. My absolute favorites were the Big Butler Fair, festivals along the river in Kittanning (and the Autumn Leaf Festival in Clarion, PA, but that’s fall talk). Something that made these traditions extra special was the repeat appearances of a local bands, like The Clarks.
If you’re not familiar with them (my money says some of you are), The Clarks as we know them first became a rock-n-roll band called the Administration in the fall of 1986 at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, one of the state schools in the trifecta of Western Pennsylvania awesomeness. My wife attended Clarion, and I Slippery Rock, so already one reason to appreciate the band.
They started their career by playing covers of their favorite musical heroes in some of the local dives of the university town, you know, all those “work for your food” type of gigs. By 1988, I was born and The Clarks were graduating college. The band relocated from Indiana to Pittsburgh, recorded their first studio album, and started touring locally to promote themselves.
By the time the 90’s started, the band was picking up steam. The Clarks’ self titled album dropped on August 1, 1991 and the single “Penny on the Floor”, written by lead singer Scott Blasey, was a smash hit. Over 5,000 copies of The Clarks sold locally in the Pittsburgh area. The band continued recording through the decade with a label, MCA Records, but the company ended up focusing most of their attention on a then rising band you may have heard of… Blink 182.
The 2000’s were much kinder to The Clarks, and in my opinion is when they really hit their stride. They partnered with a new producer, Justin Niebank, who injected a new energy that was missing from the band since they left MCA. Through that collaboration, Let It Go was released on June, 20, 2000, and was The Clark’s biggest success to date. It featured hit tracks like “Better Off Without You” and “Born Too Late”, both of which made appearances in television and movies. The album rose to number 21 on Billboard’s Heatseekers Albums chart and sold over 25,000 copies. With this success, the band began to tour extensively over the country. Future albums rose to number 2 on the same charts and their popularity grew through the decade.
In the past ten years, The Clarks have had several more distinguished honors. The Pittsburgh Penguins NHL team commissioned the band to record a cover of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” (the Pens won the cup that year) and Toyota commissioned a commercial jingle “Life is All About The Ride.” The Clarks are still recording new albums, the latest is a 2015 release Rewind. (Sources: Clarks Wiki, Clarks Biography, Codaphoto.com)
I know part of the reason I love The Clarks is because I was raised on them. There’s no doubting that. But, their sound and songs are undeniably catchy, upbeat, and make any great time even better. The members have aged a little, but the soul is still there. The songs are as smooth and heartfelt as the early days. Don’t miss this chance to see one of the biggest “small town” bands around. It may be one of the last golden opportunities to do so!
I’ll be there, as I can’t think of a more fitting way to enjoy some of my nostalgic happiness from Western Pennsylvania while making some final memories at Kelly’s Restaurant and Tavern, which plans to close this fall.
Don’t forget to take a few minutes and skim through some of my favorite tracks below, then get your tickets for the July 5th and 6th shows here!
Hope to see you all there!
If you don’t live within driving distance, Village Realty has plenty of accommodations nearby for a nice long weekend stay.