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ILLNESS, BAD WEATHER AND TECHNICAL GLITCHES PUT A DAMPER ON S.L. MUSIC FESTIVAL

Illness, bad weather, technical problems, poor attendance - the Salt Lake Music Festival had it all.

It also had three days of music featuring 15 bands, headlined by Karla Bonoff on Friday, Juice Newton on Saturday and Michael Damian on Sunday.Karla Bonoff

It was a rough opening night for the Diet Pepsi/Salt Lake Music Festival, Friday.

The first blow came when Air Supply made a last minute cancellation due to medical problems, causing festival sponsors to scramble to find a last-minute fill-in.

The second blow came when Mother Nature decided to intervene, dropping an ill-timed shower on a sparse crowd of about 200.

Karla Bonoff was the last minute fill-in for Air Supply. To her credit, she maintained a good sense of humor and the bulk of the crowd also handled the drizzling rain in good fashion. The 11/2 hour wait between the opening act and Bonoff's appearance was somewhat unsettling, but once the music started, the wait was soon forgotten.

Bonoff's crisp, clear sound seemed tailor-made for a cool night setting. Despite working without any backup musicians, she managed to keep things moving. Once you hear her sing and realize the many popular songs she has written, you begin wondering why she's not better known.

The Bachelors, a local group that has been together for five years, opened the festivities at 7 p.m. Despite the lack of audience (obviously thinned by Air Supply's cancellation), the group put on an excellent one-hour set. The rain held off until the last number by the group who displayed an excellent range of offerings.

- Wil Grey

Juice Newton

I'll break it to you gently: It was not the Greatest Show in the History of the Universe.

The concert was short and Juice Newton uncorked no surprises, relying on her bread-and-butter material that got her name on the ticket stubs in the first place. Nothing was fresh-squeezed about her Saturday night.

But Juice - real name "Judy Kay Newton" - is feisty and stubborn. She knows what she likes and likes what she knows how to play well.

Though she hasn't had a "hit" for almost a decade, Juice still has some appeal that made about 1,000 people come to the Salt Palace Plaza Saturday night. These few yet faithful sat around for more than a half hour, listening to records, while the roadies tried to figure out which cord went to which amplifier.

So, what's the appeal? Is it her Virginia-charmed, sad-eyed good looks? Her red jacket, cowboy boots and black tights? Her energetic presence on stage?

Nope. None of that. It's her tough-as-nails voice. It sometimes threatens, sometimes teases but is always clear and honest, whether it's showcased in rock 'n' roll or country. Drink it up:

On "Angel of the Morning," she preserved the finale for a small eternity, which seemed too short. She crooned and pouted her way through "Break It To Me Gently." She was convincing but not defeated in declaring, "Love's Been A Little Bit Hard On Me."

Helping Juice flow through 15 songs in about an hour were Bill Anderson and Otha Young on guitars; Red Young on keyboards; Freddy Alwag on drums; and Jay Bodean on bass and mandolin.

- Brent Israelsen

Michael Damian

For a while it seemed like the festival would never end - or at least that Michael Damian would never make it to the stage.

Scheduled to appear at 6:30 p.m., Damian's opening act (Lori Russo) finally appeared just after 7 p.m. After a 29-minute set, it was another 40 minutes of waiting before Damian took the stage.

And all the delay didn't help the technical aspects of the show, which included banks of speakers cutting out and plenty of feedback.

But Damian almost made the wait worthwhile. The singer/actor (he's Danny on "The Young and the Restless") did his best to make up to the 500 or so fans who were there to see him.

Damian had been suffering from a cold and the flu, and it showed. His voice wasn't quite as strong as it might have been, the set was shorter than it might have been - nine songs in an hour - and he spent a lot of time resting and drinking water between numbers.

But he didn't disappoint his fans. Neither the singer nor his five-piece band - which included two of Damian's brothers and one of his sisters - let the technical problems hold them back.

Damian's energetic style transmitted his enthusiasm to the audience. (And that audience included both teenage girls and middle-age women screaming down front.)

He was glib, he was funny, he had a great time with the crowd. A high point came when Damian invited half a dozen people out of the audience up on stage to join his band - or at least pretend to.

Although his voice was obviously suffering, his mix of material from old albums and new numbers from an upcoming release kept the small crowd going. Quite expectedly, he ended the set - and the festival - with his No. 1 hit from last year, "Rock On." And despite all the problems, Damian did just that.

- Scott D. Pierce