BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Playing in a tribute band has become more than just playing local clubs, and for Fort Madison native Shawn Moss, it’s a full blown career.
Moss, who plays professionally as Shawn Gerhard, will be part of a two-performance night Saturday at Fort Madison’s Riverfest on Aug. 5, with Nashville country star Buddy Jewell.
Moss travels the country with a tribute band that solely covers the music of pop and country legend Garth Brooks.
“It’s unfortunate for me, but Garth made it to Garth before I did,” Moss said with a chuckle Monday.
He said he grew up in music playing as a youngster and then started in a band when he was 24 traveling southeast Iowa. His ambitions got a bit bigger and he moved to Nashville in 2001.
“We played a lot of shows around the local area, Fort Madison, Burlington, Mediapolis..those kinds of places and then started thinking a bit bigger and expanded to clubs in Peoria and Bloomington,” Moss said.
He said the music business was hit and miss for him so he got into construction and started building homes in the Nashville area between 2001 and 2012 before getting back into music again.
“Tribute bands were on the rise so we got some rehearsal space and we had a showcase and started to hire some people. We started working with some booking agencies and we specifically did Garth Brooks tributes,” he said.
“I love doing them, they pay well, and tributes are pretty big right now. Buyers are looking for acts where they can get a good price and get a good show.”
Moss said his memories of Riverfest of old are more of the carnival type memories, but he said he thought he remembered Marshall Tucker playing one year and other bigger name acts before the event faded away.
He said 2017 has been a great year for the band, which has actually played a few events in Iowa already including a gig at Lake Okoboji at the Parks Marina and they also did an event in Independence Iowa at a winter festival as part of a fundraiser.
Family draws Moss back to the Fort Madison area about once a year and he said he likes what’s going on in Fort Madison and said fans will get a chance to really feel Brooks’ music in his show.
“I’m portraying him. I want people to feel like when they close their eyes they hear him, but also when they open them they see him as well. I love doing the tributes. It really is who I am,” he said.
“They’ll be able to sing right along with songs that Garth has done thousands and thousands of times.”
Occasionally, Moss will get Dave Gant, who was Garth Brooks keyboard player, to tour with him. He said one of his greatest memories is starting, the chart-topper “The Dance”, and looking over and seeing Brooks’ keyboard player on the song playing for him.
“That guy helped Garth get his start,” Moss said. “That was pretty awesome to look over and see him playing for me.”
He said Fort Madison will get a show that will mirror Brooks’ shows for anyone who’s seen him live or on screen.
“When they come to see the ultimate Garth Brooks Tribute, they’ll walk away thinking they’ve seen Garth Brooks himself. It’s a production arena show. Very energetic. Portraying Garth is a difficult feat for some, but that’s who I am. I get intertwined with a crowd.”
Tribute bands are growing in popularity and Moss says Garth Brooks tribute bands are in even more demand because Brooks initially retired during his prime in 2001. Moss said Brooks left at the peak of his career and left people clamoring for more of the high energy shows.
“He left people wanting more. So for me, coming back out there and keeping his music alive, helps those people that want more Garth Brooks. There are 40- and 50-year-olds out there that were in their 20s and 30s when he was popular and they want to hear more even today,” Moss said.
“There are all kinds of tribute bands – (Tim) McGraw, (Kenny) Chesney. I think the reason being is that people like going to hear these people. Most of the top people are good at what they do. You actually get pulled into the real thing. People get that when they go to the shows. People just get to take it all in again.”
To get more information on Moss, fans can visit his website at www.tribute2garth.com. Or they can visit his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/shawn.gerhard.7?fref=search
Moss and Jewell are part of a full lineup of musical entertainment planned for Riverfest 2017.
Captain Geech and the Shrimp Shack Shooters will highlight Thursday’s entertainment from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Friday starts with Bluzillion on the Main stage from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The Ozone Ramblers will take over at 8 p.m. and play until 11 p.m. while a teen dance is going on from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. Then the Natu Band takes over entertaining from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday.
Saturday features Trystan Grisham from 6:30 to 8 p.m. followed by Buddy Jewell from 8 to 9:30 p.m., and then Moss’ show from 9:30 to 11:30 p.m.. The Natu Band will wrap things up from 11:30 to 2 a.m. Sunday.
The Ozone Ramblers come back for a pro-jam session from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday.
The four-day event runs from Aug. 3 to Aug. 6 and also features many tournaments including KanJam, bags, volleyball, and a 5k Run. Registrations for all tournaments are currently open online. Other events include pickelball demonstrations, a motorcycle stunt show, a kayak/canoe float down the Mississippi River, and the traditional carnival.
A charity breakfast will be held on Sunday morning to raise funds to help the local Honor Flight program.
A full schedule of events, presale of tickets for the entertainment and carnival, as well as tournament registrations can be found online at www.riverfestfm.com.