Like many Siouxlanders, Emily Johnson makes it a habit to visit Saturday in the Park every year
The only times she couldn’t make it to annual outdoor music festival was when she was temporarily living in Colorado. Coincidentally, that was when her favorite singer, Grace Potter, was scheduled to perform the Grandview Park Bandshell.
“I am the biggest Grace Potter fan there is,” said Johnson. “I named my dog Little Grace Potter. The year Grace Potter played in my hometown at my favorite music festival, I couldn’t make it. Those were the only times I missed Saturday in the Park since I was a kid.”
Although Johnson missed her chance to see Grace Potter and the Nocturnals play in front of an eager Sioux City crowd, she can at least say she’s performed the same stage and festival as the acclaimed singer-songwriter come July 7, the start of this year’s Saturday in the Park.
Johnson will be singing with her Sioux City R&B ensemble, Emily Johnson Band, consisting of guitarist Mitch Martin, bassist and vocalist Bob Birch, keyboardist and vocalist Noah Towns, background vocalist Tiffany Jurries, saxophonist Joel Shotwell, trumpeter Kevin Linder and trombonist Dave Hantla. Beyond thrilled of the group’s inclusion in the summer music festival, Johnson said the biggest challenge preparing for Saturday in the Park has been setting up practice times.
“Getting us all together at the same time with everybody’s schedules, especially in the summer, has been a challenge,” she said.
Is Johnson nervous for the big day? “Absolutely!” she exclaimed.
What if I say the wrong thing? What if I mess up the words? Will I embarrass myself?
To prevent psyching herself out the day of the festival, Johnson said she’s going to try her best to maintain “that go-with-the-flow attitude” the band normally has. “I want to have fun with the people I’m onstage with and the people that are listening to us and watching us play,” she said. “Then hopefully I can avoid those situations of embarrassment.”
And that shouldn’t be tough to do. After all, Emily Johnson Band has plenty of experience playing in bars and other venues around town like Awesome Biker Nights, ArtSplash and Fridays on the Promenade, among others. Although the band plays less often than other Sioux City groups, the talent and chemistry between its chief musicians easily allows the Emily Johnson Band to pick up where it left off.
No longer confined inside the closed bar space, this is now Emily Johnson Band’s time to shine and really show off just how powerful its sound can really get.
“EJB is really a band that’s made to play outdoors for street dances and music festivals,” said Johnson. “The sound is so big that it’s almost more of a challenge, I think, to mix it in an enclosed space. I think outside is where we are best suited. Our horn players can just let go!”
But don’t think just because Johnson is performing the Bandshell stage that her usual traditions at Saturday in the Park will go by the wayside. She still intends to get herself a helping of ribbon fires and enjoy the music “just like everyone else.” To be able to experience the festival from the stage, she said, is almost indescribable. “I can’t fully explain what a cool feeling that really is,” said Johnson, who holds Sioux City’s annual music fest in high regard.
“It’s so unique and all of us that live here in the surrounding area are so lucky. It’s a beautiful place.”