CANTON – Rain and a severe thunderstorm watch outside couldn't put a damper on Lauren Mascitti's rousing return to a Stark County stage after it was moved indoors Saturday night.
The Concert for First Responders, organized and sponsored by Kempthorn Motors with other local support, was switched from Centennial Plaza to next door at The Speakeasy at Canton Brewing Co.
Mascitti is a Stark County native and former "American Idol" contestant who made it to the cusp of the top 20 in the 2020 season. She now lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she writes, records and performs country music.
The Stark State College graduate works as a nurse at TriStar Horizon Medical Center in the Nashville area.
Admission was free, but donations will benefit volunteer, reserve and auxiliary firefighters, paramedics and police officers who incur out-of-pocket expenses while serving the public. Donations can be made online through the nonprofit event at https://www.concertforfirstresponders.com.
All of the funds raised will be awarded to departments in Stark County that demonstrate a practical need for the money, event organizers said.
Severe thunderstorm watch for Stark
Kempthorn President Eric Kempthorn and Mascitti both expressed gratitude to Canton Brewing for hosting what turned out to be a memorable and often electric display of first-class vocals and high-caliber Nashville musicianship.
What appeared to be a few hundred people filled the basement at the Canton Brewing Co. Buck Naked Band opened the show.
Other event sponsors were Akron-based WQMX 94.9, Hall of Fame Village powered by Johnson Controls, the Downtown Canton Special Improvement District, CSE Federal Credit Union and SARTA.
The National Weather Service in Cleveland issued a severe thunderstorm watch until 10 p.m. Saturday for 24 counties in Ohio, including Stark. Storms rolled through the area late Saturday afternoon and early evening.
The show went off smoothly and on time with no apparent logistical glitches. Rain fell intermittently before and during the concert, but had stopped by the time the show ended around 10:15 p.m.
Steve Mears, of Kempthorn Motors, said earlier Saturday that the show was moved indoors "in the interest of everyone's safety, security and happiness."
'The show must go on!'
Mascitti was enthusiastic on Saturday afternoon when asked about the change in plans.
"The show must go on!" she wrote in a text message. "So glad that the Canton Brewing Co. was kind enough to open their doors and offer their awesome Speakeasy to do the show.
"Everyone will be safe, out of the storm, and able to enjoy a night of live music without any interruptions, all to benefit our local first responder heroes. Come on out and party with us!!"
Mascitti was even more upbeat on stage. She commanded the crowd with the prowess and confidence of a seasoned Nashville pro.
People sat at tables or stood along walls during the show. Others walked up front to take photos or record video.
Mascitti spoke between songs, often thanking the hometown audience for attending, while expressing appreciation to show organizers for pulling off the concert despite the rain.
Mixing in original songs with new material that sounded festive, catchy and heartfelt, Mascitti was reliably on cue with her singing and guitar playing. She also dazzled with an up-tempo, gospel-style number and sang about Jesus to the crowd's delight.
Also drawing loud applause was a soulful rendition of Linda Ronstadt's "Blue Bayou," when Mascitti took off her guitar and walked the stage with a microphone in hand while stepping closer to the audience.
She brought more gusto and flair with a cover of The Rolling Stones classic, "Tumbling Dice."
Mascitti was joined by Mike Bub, upright bass; Peter Wasner, keyboardist; Larry Atamanuik, drummer; and Steven Nolan, lead guitarist. The band matched Mascitti's proficiency, each member boasting a Nashville pedigree connected to some of the industry's biggest names.
Both before and after the show, the Louisville High School graduate was greeted by friends, fans and old acquaintances. Photos and hugs were frequent. Notable concertgoers included Mayor Tom Bernabei and local developer, business owner and preservationist Steve Coon.
'Everybody Said Amen' was released Saturday
Mascitti unveiled a new song the same day as its release, "Everybody Said Amen."
"It's a positive song," she had explained during a previous interview. "Whenever you think of summertime, you always want something that is happy and light and hopeful. I wrote that song kind of coming out on the other side of COVID after having gone through a really difficult year myself in my personal life, and then dealing with the emotions of COVID.
"And just my spirit feeling really heavy," she continued. "Coming out on the other side of that, I look back at how precious time is, and how when it's gone, it's gone, and you shouldn't waste it."
Reach Ed at 330-580-8315 and email@example.com
On Twitter @ebalintREP
This article originally appeared on The Repository: Lauren Mascitti turns Canton homecoming show into country music party