Rio Nion to keep expo, Taste of Kent crowd entertained

By Kyle McDonald | Staff Writer Published:

The Kent Business and Community wouldn't be the same without the local folk-jazz talents of Rio Neon playing to its mixed bag of tunes during the Taste of Kent.

"Everybody loves to come and listen to Rio Neon and be entertained while they're eating, so we're very excited to have them again this year," said Lori Wemhoff, executive director of the Kent Area Chamber of Commerce.

Red Michel, one of Rio Neon's singer and guitar players, said the group will be playing together in a different arrangement than past years.

Bob Smith, who plays bass, and Sandy Kandel, who plays percussion, ukulele and sings, won't be in town for the weekend, Michel said, so the band will instead consist of Michel, Roger Phillips on guitar, mandolin and vocals, percussionist Jim Kooser and Shawn Cline on bass.

"We're going to mix it up a little bit," Michel said. "We've got some blues, some swing, some old folk-pop tunes, so it should be a pretty fun event."

Rio Neon's usual four-part vocal harmonies will be worked down to two, and in addition to the band's original tunes and other standards it plays, Rio Neon plans to play some "Rio Neonized" versions of some of Bob Smith's originals.

"There a little bit different and we've put them into the Rio Neon format," Michel said.

The Kent Business and Community Expo has traditionally featured the Kent Theodore Roosevelt High School choir, though it won't participate this year. Instead, Rio Neon will play an extended set lasting the span of the Taste of Kent from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

"We will have fun no matter what," Michel said.

Plenty of crowd favorites are packed into Rio Neon's setlist for the day. Michel said the band will play a bit of Cab Calloway, some reworked Beatles, Steve Winwood and a lot tunes crowds haven't heard yet.

After keeping crowds delighted for five years at the Kent Business and Community Expo, Michel said it's been fun for the band to watch the event grow.

"I think it's going to be fun and we always enjoy it," he said. "The tastes are just wonderful and it's just a really nice community event."

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