The Riverfront Musical Festival has largely been a '90s flashback in years past, featuring acts like Blind Melon and Fast Ball. But for the 10th annual concert scheduled for Saturday, the host radio station 92.5 The River was looking to shake things up.
"We wanted to make sure we put on a bill that speaks to the audience," said Catie Wilber, program director for The River. "So, (our) focus is on rising stars."
Wilber said the concert will be versatile, giving listeners a taste of everything from pop to soul to evolved country and British invasion.
An estimated 5,000 to 8,000 people are expected to arrive in Newburyport on Saturday, said Hisham Fayed, director of marketing and promotions for The River.
Food vendors such as Mr. India, Newburyport Crabcake Co. and Plum Island Coffee Roasters will be available all day, and additional vendors will be serving free samples in and around Waterfront Park. A beer garden sponsored by Bud Light will also be on site from noon to 6 p.m.
"We also draw (listeners) from Boston and all over the North Shore, New Hampshire, but Newburyport is an area where we have done quite well in the past couple of years, and the city has been especially good planning the event," Fayed said.
The concert will kick off at 1:30 p.m. with the English band Scars on 45, whose members compare their sound to that of Keane or Snow Patrol.
Their song, "Give Me Something," has had respectable air time not only on 92.5, but in other parts of the United States. Currently, the group is on tour with Marc Broussard and are scheduled to perform all across the country, including in Tennessee, Vermont and Kansas.
"Scars on 45 are breaking through," Wilber said. "They're a new exciting band from England, really infectious, are amazing live, and their songs are blowing up the radio across the country."
According to their biography on their website, now vocalist and guitarist Danny Bemrose was a professional soccer player for England's Huddersfield Town F.C. when he broke his foot at 21 and could no longer continue with soccer.
"I was in limbo, without knowing what to do with myself," he wrote in the biography.
So, Bemrose learned guitar to pass the time and said he eventually became addicted to the instrument. He began playing in various bands with Stu Nichols, his friend and now bassist in Scars on 45. Shortly after, keyboardist David "Nova" Nowakowski stuck with the two, and the group performed around Leeds, England, and recorded a number of demos.
Other band members came and went, but eventually Scars on 45 formed and recorded its first album.
"Just to be able to put yourself out there and let people know who you are is wonderful," Bemrose said. "What I write about is who I am, really. When people listen and react to one of your songs, there's no better feeling."
Scars on 45 is followed by R&B and gospel fusion artist Marc Broussard at 2:30 p.m. The Louisiana native is joined
often onstage by drummer Chad Gilmore, as well as longtime friend and bassist Tony Hall.
In his online bio, Broussard says he learned the basics of music from church music, as well as from his father, Ted Broussard, a Louisiana Hall of Fame artist and former member of the R&B and soul band, The Boogie Kings. Broussard has toured multiple times and has even made appearances on national television.
The goal of his most recent album was to make strong music and nothing else, Broussard said.
"This is as honest as any record I've ever made," he said. "I wasn't trying to surprise the listener. We just took some of the basic feelings, as well as some of the more specific stories surrounding my life, and applied them to the lyrics."
Alex Dezen of the Damnwells, a Brooklyn based indie-rock band which headlined the Riverfront Music Festival in 2007, will take the stage at 3:45 p.m.
In 2001, Dezen, who was a photo assistant at the time, asked a few of his friends to record songs with him. These jam sessions ultimately led to the formation of The Damnwells, a group that shortly afterward toured the country and in 2004 signed a record deal with EPIC records.
In March of 2005, director Chris Suchorsky followed the band for his first feature-length documentary. The film won Best Documentary in the 2007 Phoenix Film Festival in Phoenix, Ariz.
Headliner Mike Doughty, the former front man for the band Soul Coughing, is scheduled to perform at 5 p.m. After eight years of leading Soul Coughing, a former New York based alternative rock band, Doughty decided to launch a solo career.
According to his website, the release of his second solo album, "Golden Delicious," elicited an intense response from fans.
"Some hated it; some loved it better than Soul Coughing," Doughty said. "I tend to take sharp left turns. Every time I put out a record, the audience seems to like what I did two years ago better. You'd think I could shrug it off because that's what always happens, but it always gets to me."
In addition to making music, Doughty is currently writing a memoir, recording an electronic album, "Dubious Luxury," and recently published a play, "Ray Slape is Dead."
Representatives from the Newburyport Chamber of Commerce said that plastic tarp is forbidden on the waterfront, as it ruins the grass. The city's parking lots are now pay lots, and the Green Street lot is limited to three-hour parking.
Wilber said The River has had great success with the concert in the past and hopes to continue hosting the Riverfront Music Festival in Newburyport.
"We do this show partly because of the idyllic location, the view and the connection with the audience for 10 years," she said. "It's such a destination in and around Boston, and where we do a bunch of free shows in Boston, it's nice to pack up the beach towel and head north for a bit."
IF YOU GO
What: Riverfront Music Festival
When: Saturday, 1 to 6 p.m.
Where: Waterfront Park, Newburyport