R&B group Riff to play at Eliz Restaurant and Lounge in Hagerstown
The internationally known band Riff will bring its smooth R&B sounds to Hagerstown for a one night only special appearance at Eliz Restaurant and Lounge.
The New Jersey-based band, known best for their appearance in the 1989 film “Lean On Me,” will perform Saturday, Aug. 31 at the venue located at 11353 Robinwood Drive, Hagerstown.
Joshua Neumann, public relations manager for Eliz, said the business is dedicated to bringing in a higher level of entertainment with the intention that it will help grow the city and drive commerce in the area. He said they look for entertainment that appeals to the 30 to 40 something crowd in order to give those patrons a different entertainment option than is found at other local venues.
“They appeal to a more mature audience so that is really what made them fit into the scope of what we are trying to do for the community,” Neumann said.
Comprised of five layers of rhythmic soul, Riff’s journey began during their high school years. Anthony “Chill” Fuller, Dwayne “Stylz” Jones, Michael “Nitty Green” Best, and Stephen Capers Jr. had already been blending their vocals while attending church together.
Soon to join them was classmate Kenny Kelly at Eastside High — the same one to make cinematic history in the docudrama “Lean On Me.”
“We first came together professionally in 1989 but we’ve always been together,” Fuller said.
Strongly influenced by doo-wop, the group initially called themselves, The Playboys, but with the movie came opportunity. They were whisked off to Los Angeles, changed their name to Riff and signed a deal with SBK Records in 1990. They quickly hit listeners with their, self-titled LP, “Riff” followed immediately by top 10 hits from, “My Heart Is Failing Me” (peaking at No. 6 and making it to No. 4 on the Top 40 charts), “If You’re Serious” (No. 7), the third single off the album, “Every Time My Heart Beats,” as well as “White Men Can’t Jump” (produced by Dallas Austin) which was their No. 1 hit.
In 1993 they released, “To Whom It May Concern,” which delivered two singles to the R&B charts, “Judy Had a Boyfriend,”(produced by Teddy Riley/Bernard Bell), and “Baby It’s Yours.”
The band made several live appearances on shows like “Soul Train” and “The Arsenio Hall Show,” “The Tonight Show” and on MTV. Coupled with massive tours with Vanilla Ice and LL Cool J, the group built their fan base one song at a time. Riff goes down as an era favorite on all current playlists for their four Billboard Hot 100 hits, as well as their song “Family” from the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” soundtrack.
As the ‘90s came to an end, so did the group’s full-time work together as Fuller, Jones, and Best became members of the R&B group Men of Vizion and found themselves working with the legendary Michael Jackson. With no bad blood between them, the members of Riff continued to reunite occasionally and bring again the Eastside “Song Birds” to their adoring fans — even into the summer of 2013 as an opening act for Cyndi Lauper on her “She’s So Unusual” tour.
The band was dealt a blow in July of 2016 when original member, Kenny Kelly, passed away after just agreeing to join the group for a reunion tour. While devastated at the loss of their old friend and musical partner, the group insists their original fifth harmony is still singing along with them, galvanizing them with newfound energy and determination as they complete their current project.
In the fall of 2016, new members Delvis Damon and Andre Lamar, joined original members Best, Fuller and Capers, to create the quintet’s synchronized sound.
“For the most part, we have stayed true to our audience and our fans by performing love music, R&B type songs about love. Songs that show we have respect for the women and our children,” Fuller said. “We are going to stand firm on what we believe.”
Riff has reemerged and is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, by releasing a new album which Fuller said is due out in a few months.
“We look forward to giving you many more years of our careers and we will continue to put out great music to show our gratitude to our loyal fans,” Fuller said.
The band’s appearance at Eliz will be its first in Hagerstown. Neumann said the experience will be different than with typical bands that stay on the stage and just play to the crowd.
“With their music, you don’t just get five or six songs. They really entertain the crowd and move off of the stage and throughout the restaurant. It is really an interactive a cappella experience. You won’t just sit in your seat. You will be interacting with the performers throughout their time there and that is what I really like,” Neumann said.
Fuller and Capers said the band is looking forward to playing Hagerstown for the first time. Capers said the band will perform some of the band’s new releases such as “Say the Word,” “Dedicated,” and “When You Love.”
“We may also go back and touch on some of our old stuff and even sing some a cappella,” Capers said. “We are going to bring a little love, a little laughter and maybe a few covers. We are still discussing that.”
Fuller said they want to give the audience a little bit of yesterday with a lot of today.
“It’s just the old sound but in a new way,” Fuller said.
“The fans are going to get so much more than they expect,” said Altariq “Big Zay” Hannah, the band’s manager.
Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show begins at 9 p.m. Tickets are $25 each and can be purchased at the door or online at http://ow.ly/4QC350vlMBP
There is a dress code for the event. Cocktail attire is requested by the venue which has advertised that it will kindly ask guests to leave who do not meet the dress code.
There is also a special meet and greet prior to the concert from 1 to 3 p.m. at Eliz that day. Tickets are $10 at the door for the pre-concert event. Neumann said there will only be 100 people allowed into the meet and greet and admission will be on a first-come, first-served basis.