The Wheeling weather didn’t look welcoming on Friday May 14. All day thunderstorms were threatening and clouds were cumulating, but the rain never rallied to become a serious storm. Instead, bartenders from Generations Restaurant and Pub served beer under a balcony complete with lovely yellow lights while patrons partied on the porch upstairs. There were port-a-potties on the pavement and the crowd brought their camping chairs to cheer on Katie Orlofske and Bucky Covington who were playing a concert in their comfortable community. They were beholden to have beer and a band on a beautiful, black evening. Stars were shining, cameras were flashing and the country music crowd was contrasted – some were standing, some were sitting, some had cowboy boots and hats, some had biker boots and bandanas, some were drinking and others were too young to drink, but they were all happy to have exciting entertainment.
Katie Orlofske kicked off the concert with a fantastic cover of Taylor Swift’s “Fearless.” Also from Taylor’s arsenal she performed “You Belong With Me.” She was energetic and empowering as she played under the petite pavilion that portrayed a big “Bucky” banner in the background. Although there were three police officers obstructing my observational view, I still saw Katie’s shiny necklace and earrings from where I was sitting.
A cover of Miranda Lambert’s “Kerosene” got the crowd, which she described as a “very vocal audience,” clapping and cooperating. Adding another Miranda Lambert moment, she mesmerized with her great cover of “Gunpowder and Lead,” and did a lovely version of Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now,” accompanied by guitarist Corey Congilio who lended his lovesome voice. He also inquired, “We did all these great songs – we did some Miranda, some Taylor, some Lady – are we missing anybody?” The crowd collectively answered: “Carrie!” Katie then did a chilling cover of “Before He Cheats,” as well as two original songs that stood out during her simple yet sophisticated set. It usually takes me a song or two to sort out whether or not I like the kind of covers a person does, but Katie eased my conscience from her first chord. I caught up with Katie who was kind enough to let me corner her:
Sara Fincham: First of all, I really love that you’re so energetic! Were you the kind of kid that always craved attention – put on your own talent shows, or are you more introverted and come out of your shell onstage?
.Katie Orlofske: Um, no – I’m not a shy person and when I was growing up I wasn’t an attention craver or anything like that. I actually didn’t even know that I was musical at all until I was about 12 years old. I kind of found out by accident! So once I started getting into performing and everything like that I definitely became, I came more out of my shell, but I was never a real shy girl, especially now. I’m not introverted off-stage, but it’s a great time – I love being on stage for sure!
SF: So when did you discover – what was it – was it singing first?
KO: Yeah, it was singing. When I was growing up, in 7th grade, my music teacher was really adamant about everyone having solo’s in the Christmas show. She said, “Everybody should sing a solo!” I wasn’t sure if I should do one, but I figured everyone else is doing one so I might as well, and I went home and I told my mom and she said, “Oh, well you’re going to need to practice,” because she had been to some of the shows and heard how bad some of the kids were, and she didn’t want me to humiliate myself! I didn’t practice for her and I just said I’d sing the night of the show. So the night of the show came and she’s in the front row, really nervous, probably thinking it was going to be bad, but I actually was pretty good! So, it started with the singing lessons and she tried to make me do all sorts of things, but I knew I didn’t want to do that so I just kind of went my own direction and taught myself.
SF: Was your choir teacher encouraging?
KO: She did encourage me and I started out just doing school shows, but that was a short time in 7th grade. When summer came around before 8th grade I was already playing shows out on my own. She encouraged me in school, but she didn’t have much to do with the outside stuff, that was all my mom and I. My mom and I really handled all that.
SF: When I was in choir and I can’t sing at all, but when I auditioned, I didn’t even know that if the next note was above the previous one it meant to sing higher!
KO: Yeah, I only knew the little bit of music that I did because my mom forced my sister and I to take piano lessons, so I can play the piano a little.
SF: How old were you when you played piano?
KO: Well I played piano, I think I probably started those lessons, maybe when I was 5 until 10. I stopped before I really knew hot to play, then I started guitar. I took my first guitar lessons right after 7th grade but they were just teaching me to pluck out little notes, so I didn’t like that either, so I quit, and then I picked up a guitar again right before I went into high school. I kind of just taught myself – I got grounded one weekend and so I thought, ‘well I mines well just learn this!” So I picked it up and started teaching myself and it kind of went from there.
SF: So was that the natural next step?
KO: It really was. I mean I could sing and, you know, I told myself ‘that’s the next step, that’s what you need to do to set yourself apart from other singers,’ which I was still very young and have really come a long way since then.
SF: You genuinely enjoy what you do. Is it at all work for you?
KO: Whenever I play my own shows, I don’t have a manager or anything, so basically whenever I put on my own shows I have to manage myself, I have to produce the show. Its work whenever I’m here trying to boss everybody around and get everything lined up and straight, but not while I’m up there. I’m having so much fun. Yeah I call it my job, but I’m having so much fun!
SF: Do you have any reservations regarding cover songs? Is it something you have to do at a gig like this? Miranda Lambert was a big hit!
KO: In this area you have to kind of do that because that’s what people want to hear. They listen to country radio around here. My goal as an opener is to get the crowd going, so at gigs like this especially you want to play something they’re going to know as opposed to your songs that people have never heard. The thing is to try to get them hyped up for Bucky who’s coming on next, but once we get a little more well-known hopefully we can play our songs more, because we want to eventually work up to doing most of our own songs.
SF: Do you have a CD out now? You played two originals tonight?
KO: We don’t have a CD out now, but actually this summer we’re going to start working on our first album, so I’m really excited for that. Yeah, we played two originals and this summer we’re really hoping to get our first single out, around mid-July. We’re looking at that time frame.
SF: So do you play mostly around this area?
KO: Yeah, we play mostly around this area and up around Pittsburgh. Actually two people that are in my band are from Pittsburgh, and that’s where we’re going to do the majority of work for the album. Mostly in the Ohio Valley area we play.
Following the friendly and fiery Katie Orlofske was Bucky Covington, who couldn’t have been any better. He put on a sensational show at the small stage, starting his set with “American Friday Night.” He had a demeanor that doesn’t disappoint, and was very flippant and funny. During the beginning beats of “A Different World” the crowd applauded their approval. “So you know this one?” he asked, followed by, “Can you help me out? Obviously I could use it,” and his supporters sang along.
Promoting his prospective new CD slated to hit stores in September, he pleaded, “Call your local country stations and aggravate the piss out of them to play this song,” referring to future fan-favorite “A Fathers Love.” With his twin brother banging some beats in the background, Bucky was the perfect person for the outdoor party. “The first album I put out – I say that like I have 5 albums out – the ONLY album I’ve ever put out has been out for about 3 years now. The important question is how many of YOU have it?” His fans gave a resonant screaming response.
After playing what he referred to as “my sexy song,” “Hold a Woman,” he thoughtfully and thoroughly thanked the crowd once again for supporting him in his past endeavors on American Idol to the present before playing his past powerhouse “I’ll Walk.” He ended the enchanted evening with a cover of “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” by Pink Floyd and a memorable medley to introduce his band members which included “Keep Your Hands to Yourself” by the Georgia Satellites, “Jump” by Van Halen, and the “Rocky” theme song paying tribute to his brother. Bucky Covington was a sublime start to the outdoor summer concert series at Generations Restaurant and Pub. “You know how this ends, dontcha?” he asked. “It ends with us drinking a beer with y’all!”