Lancaster – About 350 people came to the Ohio University Lancaster Wagner Theatre for the first concert of a new expanded relationship between OUL and the Lancaster Festival. Amanda Shires opened for Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit Friday night.
"Jason and his band really kicked it into gear for us. He writes some wonderful songs and showed off his guitar chops on a Jimi Hendrix tune (Stone Free) and Neil Young's "Like a Hurricane." The show was a strong start for the collaboration. Amanda's eclectic style and on-stage banter made for a nice complement in the opening set," said Lancaster Festival Director Lou Ross.
Isbell and the band are known for their country-infused folk music. Isbell is a guitar player from Alabama, whose songs have recently been about how the economic downturn impacted his part of the country.
"It was a really great turnout and we are excited that this new venture got off to such a good start," said Lancaster Campus Dean Jim Smith. "I think there are only more good things to come as we explore other genres and the talents of various up-and-coming artists."
The Festival and Ohio University Lancaster recently agreed to expand their relationship beyond the traditional summer musical events that made use of the outdoor resources of the campus for more than 25 years. The two organizations are going to work together to bring up and coming artists in the fall and spring to the Lancaster Campus' indoor venue, the 500-seat Wagner Theatre.
"This just seemed like a perfect fit to utilize each organizations resources and put them together," said Steve Wells, Lancaster Festival board member and chair of the Ohio University Lancaster | Pickerington Promise Lives Campaign Steering Committee.
One of the goals of the Lancaster Campus has been to become the cultural and intellectual center of Fairfield County and the surrounding area.
"Our plan is to present something in the fall and spring in the musical realm. There's also work being done here with the art gallery and other cultural events on campus," said Wells. "We're just trying to help people become exposed to the campus and what's going on here and give something back to the community."
"When we look at the future of Fairfield County and Lancaster, the arts are a crucial piece of moving the community forward," said Ohio University Development Director Mandi Custer. "This collaboration is a positive step in that direction."
The spring show has not been scheduled yet, but it will likely be held in April or May.