Published 12:00 am Monday, August 29, 2011

By Hugh Fisher SALISBURY — For fans of Sugarcreek, Saturday was a night worth waiting for.
The Charlotte-based band that rocked Myrtle Beach in the ’80s and made its way onto “Star Search” took the stage for the first time in three years. “This is going to be a great night,” said Rick Lee. Lee, keyboardist and vocalist with Sugarcreek, now plays in Rowan and Cabarrus counties regularly with his current band, Too Much Sylvia.
He said band members don’t get to see one another often, since most of the people who performed with Sugarcreek are now traveling with other groups. “It’s awesome to be in the same place in the same time, to get together and make music.” As emcee and radio beach music show host Charlie Brown welcomed them to the stage, a crowd of “Creek Freaks” — Sugarcreek’s longtime fans — surged toward the front of the stage.
The pavement there had been strewn with white sand.
That space stayed full of shaggers, swing-dancers and people who just felt like groovin’ as the evening wore on. Four other bands on the bill were primarily beach music groups, though they peppered their sets with hits by Bon Jovi and the Black Eyed Peas, among others. Organizer Mike Miller said many Sugarcreek fans are “fanatics.” “You need to understand, I used to go to the Magic Attic, to the Pavilion at Myrtle Beach,” Miller said.
He, like hundreds of other “Creek Freaks,” the band’s hard-core fans, has memories of those concerts more than 20 years ago. Miller said advance ticket orders had come from as far away as Tennessee, Alabama and Ohio. The music festival, featuring five bands, started at 1 p.m.
Crowds were light during the early part of the day, Miller said. He estimated about 1,200 attended from 1 to 6 p.m. when the Chobey Badgio Band, Atlanta Groove and Big Sam appeared. Another regional act with a large following, Band of Oz, took the stage at 7 p.m. as hundreds more began filling the hill below the Square on North Main Street with lawn chairs. Sugarcreek guitarist Jerry West also performed with Band of Oz. “It’s great seeing old friends again,” he said. And, he said, it was great playing rock ‘n’ roll and helping put Saturday’s show together. Stan Ashley of Cornelius said he first got to know the members of Sugarcreek because he and his family are beach music fans. “Which is the furthest thing from rock,” Ashley said. “I can honestly say this will be my first time seeing Sugarcreek,” he said. In addition to the “Creek Freaks,” a new generation of fans got to enjoy the band’s favorites. Buddy Starnes of Lancaster, S.C. brought his grandson, Adam, 13, to the show. “My brother-in-law was a roadie for Sugarcreek,” he said. Adam wore a Sugarcreek T-shirt and held a poster filled with autographs from the band.
Meanwhile, some downtown businesses inside the concert block stayed open. Miller said that customers heading to places like Hap’s and Tastebuds were allowed inside without having to pay the $25 for a ticket at the gate. Kirk Knapp, owner of Tastebuds coffee shop, stayed open extra hours for the concert. “I can’t complain,” Knapp said of the day’s business. And, Knapp said, the audience members might become future customers now that they’ve seen downtown Salisbury. No traffic problems were evident as result of closing North Main Street between Innes and Council streets. The N.C. Dept. of Transportation had advised against doing so, citing the potential for problems in case of an accident on Interstate 85.