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State College Music Legends Reunite to Carry On Arts Fest Tradition

by on July 10, 2015 6:00 AM

Once upon a time in the 1980s, there was a band of merry minstrels in State College who were renowned for their angelic voices and soulful brand of rock and roll. 

Known as Cartoon, they packed the bars both near and far, traveling across the state to bring their music to the masses. Although their fans were numerous and passionate, life eventually began to take each member of the band down a different path.

Only the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts could reunite the band for one packed show in Schwab Auditorium each year. But after more than three decades even that tradition came to an end in 2012. The songs faded into memory, and from memory passed into local legend, never to be heard live in State College again.

Until now. 

Three of the four founding members of Cartoon have reunited as Hughes, Kidder & Rounds to bring their uniquely harmonious blend of folk rock to Arts Fest once again. They will rock the State College Presbyterian Church on Saturday night at 8 p.m. You'll need to pick up an Arts Fest button to gain entry.

“There’s a tradition to be carried on, that’s how we felt about it,” says Glenn Kidder, one of the three singer-songwriters in the folk trio. “We just love playing music together. Any time we’re all in the same room, the guitars come out.” 

John Rounds says the three lifelong friends got together last week at Kidder’s house in Virginia, where for three days straight they played and practiced for hours on end until their fingers burned.

Rounds brags they used to be able to fill two whole set lists with only their original songs, many of which have been dusted off and rearranged for three musicians. Loyal fans from back in the day can look forward to hearing their favorite anthems once again.

But what’s even more impressive, Kidder says, is the fact that in only three days the three friends were able to write four brand new songs they plan to debut on Saturday.

“Even we know that’s crazy, since we only play together once or twice a year,” Kidder laughs. “I think it says a lot about the connection we have and how hard we’ve worked that we were able to write together after all this time.”

Rounds admits that playing with the same musicians for over 30 years might rob most musicians of their passion and chemistry together – but Hughes, Kidder & Rounds aren’t most musicians.

Even decades after first coming together, Rounds says there was an electrifying excitement as they practiced to get ready for Saturday’s show. They’ve all grown and changed as both people and musicians in the intervening years, but there’s something between them that time can never steal away.

“There’s something really engaging about working on music together, even if we’re playing something over and over,” Rounds says. “We’re coming together, forging something, making something, and all of us just synced right up. That’s really neat.”

Arts Fest executive director Rick Bryant says Cartoon was easily the most popular musical act at the festival each year, drawing a crowd of around 900 every time they performed. So when the band decided to end the tradition in 2012, he understood the decision but couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed.

“I was pleasantly surprised when I got an email from Jon exploring the possibility of coming back. I said, 'please, please',” Bryant says. “Hopefully the public will think this is as exciting as I do, and I really think they will.”

Rounds hopes Saturday’s show will be the first in a new tradition of annual Hughes, Kidder & Rounds shows at Arts Fest. He doesn’t want to get ahead of himself, but he even thinks a new album could come together sometime in the future.

Regardless of exactly what the future holds for Hughes, Kidder & Rounds, one thing is for sure: when they get together, the guitars are coming out.

“I’m prepared to play until I drop with these guys,” Kidder says.

 

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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for StateCollege.com who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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