“Salem After 5” Rocks with Soul

by Mary E. Campagna

If you’ve ever enjoyed the sounds of Earth Wind and Fire, Al Green, Marvin Gaye, Kool and the Gang, or Tower of Power – you should have been at this Friday’s “Salem After 5” celebration that featured the Roanoke-based band, Dominos.

“We started out with blues and turned it into soul,” said Steve Finch, director of the 21 year old band. “We plan to cut a new CD in about six months.”

After 5 bands set up at Salem’s Farmers’ Market, one of the most appealing loops in the impressive signature of the community that dates back to 1802. It’s the place where young and old, rich and poor, intellectual and down-to-earth folks all gather to salute the stuff that made this all-American town so beloved, namely: friendship, homemade/handmade/homegrown cultural icons like preserves and vegetables – and music.

In May, Key West high-tailed it up north from Florida to grace this small, southern city with its Jimmy Buffet sound, rockin’ the market with oldies and goodies and a chance to mingle with friends. And this past Friday Dominos’ alluring sounds of the 60s, 70s, and 80s tantalized a sizable number of the fifty-something bunch – but the under fifty-somethings were there too doing the electric slide with their kids in tow.

“Actually, I think there’s always a nice mix of young and old here,” said Rick Gumpert, owner of Closet Storage Organizers in Salem. He and his wife Claudia swayed to music at the last event, looking as snuggly and relaxed beneath their shades as a honeymoon couple lounging beside a pool in Malibu.

“We love the fact that there are things here to do for the kids too,” said Claudia Gumpert,  adding, “we find that life in Salem is kind of ‘Mayberryish’ and family-friendly. This event is an example of that.”

“The Salem Parks and Recreation Department and the City of Salem began the event about 13 or 14 years ago,” said event coordinator, Kathy Murphy. “Salem City has always paid between $1,800 and $2,500 for the bands, and they work with SRO Productions in Roanoke to enlist some of the finest musicians now touring the country.”

Murphy said that one of the greatest things about ‘Salem After 5’ is that the money raised from beer sales and the $ 5.00 adult gate fee goes to charities like the Salem Roanoke County Food Pantry and the Salem Sports Foundation.

“Salem Parks and Rec presents the event in cooperation with Q99 and the Pepsi Corporation,” said Murphy. “It’s kind of a gift from the city to the city, and well worth the expense.”

“I always see lots of people I know here,” said Holly Taliaferro; her blond hair shimmering in the late afternoon sun. “And I meet people as well.” Taliaferro said she loved the giggly children bouncing in the yellow rubber bouncy machine behind her while she relaxed and re-connected with old friends.

Stephanie Shively and her husband David, both in their 30s, stood among a coterie of friends chatting while they nibbled on barbecue and sipped the ice cold Budweiser.

Mike Luster said he came with a group from Yokahama. “I’ve lived in this area since the 1970s and I’m part of the Yokahama bunch who all appreciate this event. We keep coming back to see old friends,” Luster said, adding, “The warmer the weather becomes, it seems the more people come out to hear the music.”

The crowd loves the fact that proceeds go to RAM, the Salem Kiwanis Club, LOA, the Salem Rescue Squad, the Community Christmas Store, and other charities.

Tammy Engel of Roanoke County said she thinks the community needs more inexpensive, family-oriented activities like this one to attract more people to the area.

“It’s my first time here this Friday to see the Dominos,” said Cynthia Wayne, 62, of Roanoke, adding – “I want to bring my husband with me next time.”

Silver-haired veterans of the event in shorts and Hawaiian shirts led the posse to the dance floor, followed by rejuvenated young moms and dads, who may have been exhausted upon returning home from work a few hours before, but were now enlivened by the sultry sounds of an Al Green song like “Let’s Stay Together.”

As Sherry Stover of Salem patiently awaited “Brick House,” her favorite tune, the sun finally set in bands of crimson, awash with colliding streaks of gold. Hands and feet all around were thumping as a small boy twirled around amid the circle of his jean-clad mother and father. Two Roanoke College couples shared an orange as they embraced during a slow number, and another tiny dancer in a pink skirt danced alone to the music, lost in her own blissful fantasy as her grandparents looked on.


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