KIRKLAND – Augie Schilk was only hoping to get in a jam session. But when one of the members of Cooter Brown couldn't get out of work, the bassist was recruited to play a few numbers at the fifth annual Pickin' in the Park at Franklin Township Park in Kirkland on Aug. 14.
When that set ended, he was asked if he could back up two solo singers.
"They told me I was playing three songs and could go home," joked Schilk, who plays bass for Harpo's Review. "I knew a couple of them (the songs), but I never really played some of those songs before. That's what's fun about music."
"I'll start and you just catch up with me," one solo singer instructed his makeshift band. When he told them what time to play in, musician Eddie Melendez piped up.
"I don't count," Melendez said. "I just play."
The crowd didn't seem to notice or mind the many improvisations going on onstage as they listened to a wide variety of music, including country, folk, acoustic rock and bluegrass. The songs ranged from country classics by Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard to pop hits by Van Morrison and John Fogerty.
Chris and Sharon Ackman said they come from Genoa to hear the freestyle concert every year.
"We enjoy every minute of it," Sharon Ackman said.
According to village president Les Bellah – who also took the stage during the four-hour event – the purpose of the concert is to raise money for the Joe McGuan college scholarship fund, which funds scholarships for high school seniors related to U.S. veterans. The music is free, but funds are raised through a hamburger dinner, bake sale and 50/50 raffle.
"This is our biggest crowd we've ever had," he said. "It must be our small-town charm."
So many bands wanted to play this year, Bellah said he had to turn some down to keep things running on time. He is considering expanding the event into a day-long festival.