Rain fails to damper Pittsburgh rockers
Weather prompts short delay in concert at Railroaders Memorial Museum
Altoona Mirror

By Kristy MacKaben

Nothing could keep fans away from the Alive @ Five concert Wednesday — not even the sweltering heat or the late evening thunderstorm.

Hundreds of fans cheered, sweated and danced in the rain at the Railroaders Memorial Museum as they listened to Pittsburgh power bands Donnie Iris and the Cruisers and Joe Grushecky & the House Rockers.

“This whole concert is a really cool thing,” said Jim Price, a disc jockey for WBXQ-FM. “They’ve been picking up the ball and running with it by bringing concerts to Altoona.”

As the opening act, Grushecky & the House Rockers played in the muggy August heat, and band members left the stage drenched in sweat.

“It’s better hot than 6 below in the winter,” said Joe Pelesky, keyboard player and vocalist for the House Rockers.

Pelesky said he liked playing in Altoona because the crowd was fun.

“I always say it takes two: us and you,” he said. “It’s not a show without the people involved.”

Lead guitarist Danny Gochnour said he likes playing for small crowds.

“It’s kind of a good, small- town crowd that was into it,” he said. “There’s something special about a small crowd.”

After Grushecky & the House Rockers, concertgoers eagerly awaited the main act.

Many fans said they listened to Iris and the Cruisers in the 1970s and ’80s.

“Donnie Iris is my dream,” Lois Metzger of Altoona said. “My song is ‘Ah Leah.’ They played all his songs on the radio.

“I said Donnie’s coming here. I’ve got to see Donnie. To see ‘the King,’ it’s just amazing. It brings back memories.”

It began to drizzle about five minutes before the band came onstage.

As soon as Iris and the Cruisers began to play the audience cheered — and the rain increased.

Dozens of people hovered under canopies, umbrellas and tents, and some concertgoers with young children went home.

Hardcore fans swayed in the rain or danced near the stage. When the rain stopped briefly, more fans headed for the stage.

“We needed a little bit of showers to cool us off,” Iris said after ending his first song of the night, “Agnes.”

“It’s great to be back in Altoona,” he said. "The last time we were here, it was in the ’80s or something.”