After Four Decades, The Clarks Remain Rock Solid

BOARDMAN, Ohio – The Clarks will renew a tradition Thursday when they play opening night of the Ribs N Rock festival.

Now in their 37th year, the Pittsburgh-based rockers are an anomaly. Few bands stay together that long – let alone with the four original members still at the core.

The band built a fan base up and down the East Coast the old-fashioned way: great songwriting and a sure-footed sound crafted over thousands of no-frills shows.

But Pittsburgh remains ground zero; the band’s June 10 show at Stage AE Outdoors drew a capacity crowd of well over 5,000.

Thousands will again watch the band when it takes the stage at Ribs N Rock (8 p.m. June 22 at DeBartolo Commons at Southern Park Mall).

For lead singer Scott Blasey, it never gets old. At last year’s Ribs N Rock, he talked about the band’s long relationship with Youngstown and expressed his appreciation.

In a recent phone interview, he acknowledged the band’s good fortune.

“It’s extraordinary that we’re still able to do this,” Blasey said. “We’re all healthy and love being on stage with one another to make music for our fans, and still have a fan base to play for.”

The Clarks nurtured that base by returning time and again to dozens of cities.

“We try to do energetic, honest shows, and people respond to it,” he said. “It’s straight-ahead guitar rock, which had its heyday decades ago, but there is still an audience for it. There are Clarks fans all over the country.”

Musically, that sound has found a new name and a wider audience that has further burnished The Clarks’ reputation.

“The style of music we play turned into Americana,” Blasey said. “It didn’t go away. It got rebranded.”

Youngstown has long been a special market for the band. Blasey recalls playing Cedars Lounge downtown in their early days.

The Clarks’ ability to draw a crowd in Youngstown is the reason it has staked a claim to the opening night slot of Ribs N Rock. It makes what is normally the lightest-attended night of the festival into a solid one.

Thursdays are historically considered a preview day for rib festivals and have soft attendance, said Ribs N Rock promoter Corey Ward. But the right band can make it meatier.

“I’ve always said that Thursday for this type of event was an attractive day, and if booked correctly would draw a decent crowd,” Ward said. “I thought, let’s come out swinging and book a big act.”

With 11 studio albums under their belts, plus some live recordings and solo projects, The Clarks have a catalog of songs that rivals that of acts at the top of the rock game.

Last year, the band released a three-song EP titled “Tracks.” All three of the tunes  – “Stay,” “Sugarcane” and “Crush” – have found their way onto the set list.

Blasey wrote “Stay,” and bassist Greg Joseph and Noah Minarik – who is the son of drummer David Minarik – wrote the other two songs.

David Minarik (guitar) has become a touring member of the band in recent years. “He brings a youthful energy,” Blasey said.

Other touring members who will be on stage Thursday are Gary Jacob (pedal steel) and Skip Sanders (keyboards).

The act has slowed down its touring schedule in the past decade. Most shows are within a two-hour radius of Pittsburgh, because Blasey and guitarist Rob James still have kids at home.

But a resurgence is starting to come into focus.

“Maybe in a couple of years we’ll tour again in different parts of the country,” Blasey said.

Pictured at top: Members of The Clarks are, from left, Skip Sanders, Rob James, Noah Minarik, Scott Blasey, Greg Joseph, Gary Jacob and David Minarik. (Photo by Erica Dilcer)

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.