at Long's Park Amphitheater,
Lancaster, Pa.
(24 August 2008)

The crowd gave a roar Sunday evening when Bobby Lee Rodgers, frontman for the CodeTalkers, introduced, "from Lancaster, Pa., The Stickman" on drums.

But Rodgers' out-of-towner pronunciation of "Lancaster" was a clue that he might be pulling a few thousand legs at the Long's Park performance. Sure enough, a check backstage revealed that drummer Mark "The Stickman" Raudbaugh hails from Atlanta. It's a gag Rodgers likes to pull wherever the CodeTalkers perform, a sound man confided.

But stage hijinks aside, Rodgers and his band filled the park with a muscular brand of jazz-inflected progressive rock that had people swaying in their seats or dancing at the foot of the stage for just more than two hours Sunday evening. The show wrapped up the 13-week summer series of free concerts at Long's Park.

And it was a perfect night to bring festivities to a close. The sunny afternoon was warm without being oppressive, and a deliciously cool breeze drifted through the trees as night settled over the park. A group of nighthawks wheeled jerkily over the tree line, doing their part to control the park's insect population, as Saturn rose to the east and the prominent Swan constellation turned slowly overhead.

Rodgers said before Sunday's show that he doesn't say much from the stage, and he certainly made good on that promise. When he wasn't singing or introducing the band, he mostly kept his mouth shut.

No one seemed to mind, because the trio served up a lively selection of toe-tapping funk, jazz and rock, starting with the driving song "World Comes Tumblin' Down." The rest of the night featured a variety of mellow grooves and upbeat jams.

The band, besides Rodgers on guitar and vocals and Raudbaugh on drums, features Andrew Altman on electric and upright basses. All three performed in dark suits, white shirts and ties, and they let the music do the talking, from "Take Over California" to "Miss Hawaii." Although Rodgers sang on most of the numbers, many featured extended sonic portraits that, if not actually improvisational, were certainly borne of prior improv jams.

Their music -- and the annual Long's Park music series -- drew spectators from far and wide.

"I like the type of music they're playing," Gary Newton said. "I'm from Gettysburg, and they don't have this (music series) in Gettysburg." Newton found a seat close to the stage so he could keep a close eye on the drummer and bassist -- he plays both instruments, he said, and he likes to watch the professionals at work.

Lisa Gillenwater of Gap, who also was seated right up front before the performance began, said she tries to attend as many Long's Park performances as she can. "I don't usually know the bands, but they're always good," she said.

Gillenwater said she always sits close to the stage so she can get quickly to the dance floor when the spirit moves her.

"I just want to hear some music and relax," said Richard Whitson of Columbia.

"I come every Sunday," said EmmaKate Martin of Lancaster, "to hear the music, dance and hang out with friends." The music this Sunday was "awesome," she said. "Even when we were playing Frisbee, we were dancing," she said. "It was a lot of fun."

by Tom Knapp