Hamilton, Ohio – The featured entertainment for the Fitton Center’s New Year’s Eve Special Event – the River City Band – wants to get people moving.
“We’re planning on getting people out of their seats and keeping them out,” said Billy Byrd, drummer and vocalist. “It’s a show band. We’re musicians, yes, but we give you more than just music.”
The word that kept popping up was “powerful.”
When founding members Billy and Flor Byrd – a percussionist, co-vocalist and Billy’s wife – discuss their favorite project, they’re talking about power.
The aural power generated by an 11-piece band with four vocalists and a horn section in addition to the guitars and rhythm.
The professional power of working with their spouse and best friends. (In fact, the Byrds aren’t the only couple in the band. Keyboardist, vocalist and arranger Jeff Smith is married to trombone player Julie Smith.)
The emotional power of sharing sounds from seven decades – River City plays everything from tunes of the 1960s to current pop hits – with appreciative audiences and connecting people through the universal language of music.
“We’ve got a brother and sisterhood that not many bands can replicate,” Billy said. “Individually, everyone in the band is a terrific musician in his or her own right. But together, we’re even stronger than our individual parts. We’re just very lucky to know amazing people who are super talented.”
River City has been around the better part of a decade, coming together when Kings Island reopened WinterFest in 2014. Playing seven days a week for six consecutive weeks over the holidays requires a strong work ethic and helps build a deep song book.
Both of which have been invaluable as the band stretched beyond the amusement park.
“It keeps your chops sharp, that’s for sure,” Billy said. “You really get to know how the band plays, how it blends musically and vocally. There is an edge we bring to the music that only comes from playing together all the time.”
“We started seeing the result of the crowds at Kings Island,” Flor said. “We started doing things seasonally – and it was great – but we thought we could do this year-round and take it out around town.”
Which they have. And beyond.
River City plays all over the Tri-State all year, but also performs around the country in cities like in Las Vegas and San Antonio. Individual members have worked everywhere from New York to Nashville to Los Angeles, played in the orchestras of touring Broadway productions and sailed around the world as cruise-ship entertainers.
That depth of experience makes for an eclectic show.
What can guests expect to hear in the Carruthers Signature Ballroom New Year’s Eve? Name it.
“We do variety music, but it’s elevated,” Billy said. “It’s well put together. We can do original music. Orchestral. Pop. Rock. Anything. You would have to hire five different bands to get the kind of range River City has.”
“It’s all about variety,” Flor added. “We do the songs you wish you heard a band do when you go out for a night. We really try to play music that people connect to.”
One of her personal favorites is Kelly Clarkson’s Walk Away.
“It’s a wonderful feature piece,” she said. Likewise, the Tina Turner hit Simply the Best.
Billy enjoys playing anything by the band Chicago – “They’re kind of our role models; a big, powerful band with a great horn section, great guitars and rhythm, amazing vocals”– as well as an Elton John medley weaving together a number of hits.
“We made a promise a long time ago that if it wasn’t fun it wouldn’t be worth it,” Billy said. “That was 10 years ago and it’s still fun and still worth it.”
Catch River City Band Saturday, Dec. 31, at the Fitton Center. The New Year’s Eve Special Event is an all-inclusive party sponsored by 9258 Wealth Management. In addition to River City – which plays from 9 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. - the night features a three-course gourmet dinner by catering partner Two Women in a Kitchen, hosted bar service with beer, wine and seltzers, a champagne toast to ring in the new year, breakfast served after midnight and more.
Tickets are $150 each for Fitton Center members and $165 for non-members. Call 513-862-8873, ext. 110 to reserve your tickets.
The Fitton Center for Creative Arts is located at 101 S. Monument Avenue on the Riverfront in downtown Hamilton, Ohio.
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