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Downtown Arlington’s Levitt Pavilion begins its fall concert series

Published on August 29th, updated September 3rd, 2012 | The Shorthorn Staff

There is nothing better than free.

The Levitt Pavilion in downtown Arlington has provided free music since fall 2008. If you ask local businesses, it also does so much more.

Randy Ford, owner of J. Gilligan’s Bar and Grill, calls the pavilion the crowd jewel of Arlington.

Since the pavilion opened, restaurants such as the Grease Monkey, Flying Fish and Twisted Root Burger Company — as well as the 218,000-square-foot College Park Center — have created a place of bonding in downtown Arlington.

This weekend, the pavilion will kick off its Texas Power 2012 Fall Concert Series.

“It is an awesome place,” English language sophomore Jordan Robinson said. Robinson attended last year’s Ecofest at the pavilion and said the “open atmosphere of the pavilion allows for strong bonds to be shaped by the music.”

Thanks to the free concerts, Ford said people tend to stick around the center of town before and after the free shows, estimating that on some nights J. Gilligan’s gets more than 100 customers going to and coming from the pavilion.

The pavilion has made an impact on downtown Arlington in a thousand little ways, but city native Mitch Grassi of the group Pentatonix points out the bottom line: music brings people together.

UTA alumna Cathy O’Neal, Levitt Pavilion communication director, said the pavilion has been able to bring in thousands of people who never had a reason to go to downtown Arlington.

It gave downtown a place to come for live entertainment. Ford agrees, “All you gotta do is sit down on the grass and enjoy.”

Thursday — Brave Combo

When it comes to rockin’ out the Levitt Pavilion, this isn’t Brave Combo’s first rodeo. The award-winning polka band kicked off the Arlington location’s grand-opening fall series in 2008 and has continued to open the season each year.

The band is a Levitt Pavilion tradition, said communications director Cathy O’Neal.

Famous for its unconventional covers of classic songs such as the “Hokey Pokey” and “Sixteen Tons,” the band will once again open the pavilion’s fall concert series.

“Once we started playing polkas, we realized there is a ton of old music out there that has just been forgotten,” said Brave Combo founder Carl Finch.

The band’s song catalog contains more than 800 songs, Finch said.

Nominated for seven Grammy Awards, Brave Combo won its first of two for its 1999 album, Polkasonic.

Although the experience was “humbling,” Finch notes that the awards are contradictory to the concept of the band.

“We’re asking people to suspend judgement, but the whole idea behind the awards is to be judgemental,” he said. At the concert, Finch said audiences can expect to gain a musical education unlike any other and perhaps widen their artistic horizons.

Friday — Ruby Jane

Fiddler Ruby Jane will perform for the first time at the Levitt Pavilion this weekend.

“I’ve heard from a few other people who have played there, and I checked out the pictures, and it looks beautiful,” she said. “I’m really excited.”

This seventeen-year-old singer-songwriter started playing the violin around the time she was two years old. She originally focused on classical music and was introduced to bluegrass at a summer camp, she said.

“The first time I heard [bluegrass] was when this group of teenagers who were taking classes [at the camp] would have little jam sessions,” she said. “This kind of opened a new door for me.”

After that, she took more fiddle lessons and began inching out into genres such as old time and country. Her music now leans more toward pop, Jane said.

The songwriter says she wrote her first song when she was around eight years old. It was about candy, she said.

“A lot of times growing up, I didn’t have a lot of personal experience to draw from,” Jane said. “So I tried to put myself into the shoes of another person.”

Now she tries to tell her own stories in a unique way. “I want people to dig into the lyrics and say, ‘Oh, I wonder what she’s talking about in this part of the song,’ ” she said.

Saturday — Bruce Robison & Kelly Willis

Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis, otherwise known as the Bruce & Kelly Show, had successful careers in country music long before their marriage and musical collaboration. Robison is known for writing famous songs such as “Travelin’ Soldier” (performed by the Dixie Chicks), whereas Willis produced several successful country albums in the ’90s.

Now, after 15 years of marriage and four children, their chemistry is obvious in their live musical performance.

The band, who first performed for the Levitt Pavilion, received huge audience support, said Patti Diou, executive director for the Levitt Pavilion.

“We brought them back because they are a wonderful duo,” Diou said. “They’re just lots of fun.”

Sunday — Pentatonix

The fourth season of NBC’s television contest “The Sing Off” landed a few Arlington natives a Sony Music recording contract — and $200,000 — after winning the competition.

Pentatonix, the group that consists of five a cappella performers, will strut its stuff on the stage of the Levitt Pavilion for the first time this weekend.

At the live performance, band member Mitch Grassi said the audience can expect “a lot of energy.”

“We have so much personality on stage; it’s kind of a second home,” he said.

Known for putting an electronic twist on pop songs, the band strives to put its own spin and different styles into music.

“We kind of just pull our influences together when we write music,” Grassi said, “It’s very much a collaborative effort because we’ll all throw out ideas.”

Ideas that include a unique blend of reggae, hip-hop and dubstep (a genre of electronic dance music).

Covering hits, such as “We Are Young,” by the group Fun. and “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye, the band promises its performance to be a lot of things: enlightening, interesting, different. Above all, Grassi said to “expect to hear some pretty great music” at the Levitt on Sunday.