Karen Campbell is about as modest as a lead singer in a band can get.
As the only female member of Rhythm f/x, a variety band playing this Saturday in Payson's free "Concert Under the Stars" series, Campbell said she is just one of five great musicians.
"The guys in the band are what make it all possible," Campbell said. "I put the band together, but I'll tell you what, these guys are so amazingly talented that we wouldn't be where we are if it hadn't been for them. They make it happen. I just sing."
A native of Chester County, Penn., Campbell has made a career for herself playing gigs like Payson and has found a home for herself and her husband not too far away in Pine.
"I love it here," she sighed. "You pull in the driveway and just say, ‘Ah, home.'"
Campbell said she has about as much fun now as she did as a child in Pennsylvania where she loved "swimming and climbing trees all day."
A self-described "closet singer" for years, Campbell didn't begin singing in public until 1992, when she took singing lessons for six months to surprise her mother on her 60th birthday.
After years of singing solo, Campbell decided to put a band together in January of 1998. The other members are Greg McBroom on vocals and guitar, Jeffrey Quinonez on the keyboard, Sean LaPointe on bass and vocals, and George Robbins on the drums.
Campbell said she wouldn't know what to do without "the guys."
"I feel like I've got four big brothers," she said.
"They make it so much fun. My sides hurt after our Monday-night band practices."
When she isn't howling at her fellow band members' jokes or singing Stevie Nicks' songs, Campbell enjoys spending time with her husband and her critters; two cats, a dog and a flock of chickens.
Since 1997, music lovers have sat atop their old blankets in Green Valley Park to visit with friends and family while watching bands like Rhythm f/x play under the Payson sky.
This scene played out more recently Saturday, June 21 when The Swingtips, an internationally-known swing band, kicked off the 2003 series.
Michelle Beach, events and activities coordinator for the Payson Parks and Recreation Department, is in charge of organizing the series, which she said is "a cultural diversity under the stars in a plush, green amphitheater."
She added that The Swingtips' concert was a success and that Rhythm f/x will likely draw a similar crowd.
"I went through a lot of CDs and a lot of music (in deciding which bands would play in the series), and Rhythm f/x had a great tape," Beach said. "They play a huge variety of music. There is such diversity in their vocals."
Payson resident Joyce Koch said every time she goes to one of the concerts, "it's a pleasant evening."
She added, "It gathers people together and makes them happy. Everyone likes to listen to music."
But Larry and Nancy Bertram, a husband and wife who live close enough to Green Valley Park to listen to the music from their porch, said that going to the concerts is not always fun.
"What irritates me the most is that they're playing good music and I'm trying to enjoy it, and little kids are running all around and people are talking like they haven't seen each other in years," Larry said. "You can hardly hear the music ... They should talk during the intermission."
While the Bertrams have been annoyed with the distraction of the audience in the past, they said the concert series is good for Payson.
"It gives us a focal point for the summer and it uses the park for what it was designed for," Larry said.
Campbell said that the crowd can expect a good show including popular Billy Joel songs vocally led by Quinonez, some upbeat disco songs and a swing tune by McBroom.
She added, "We're five very different people but we work so well together because each one of us offers something so completely different ... We all just really trust each other and everybody kind of let's everybody do their own thing and it just works."
Campbell said that while Rhythm f/x has never played in Payson before, she looks forward to entertaining the crowd this Saturday.
"I've been by the park a few times," she said. "It looks like a great field where a great crowd can assemble. And that's what makes it for us, the people."
Later in the series
While the Darkhorse Band, comprised of three men and two women, has not performed in Payson before, they have done more than 1,000 live performances around the Valley and are sure to please the crowd, Beach said.
The Darkhorse Band will hit the stage at 7 p.m. Saturday, July 4, after which will be a perfect time to catch the fireworks being set off only a couple hundred feet away at 9 p.m.
Beach said choosing the July 4 band is the most difficult because that particular concert is the most popular.
"July 4 is probably our biggest concert and probably the most expensive band that we bring in because it is such a huge event," Beach said.
The smooth sounds of jazz, blues and R&B will waft throughout Green Valley Park at 7 p.m. Saturday, July 12 when Cold Shot and the Hurricane Horns plays for Payson.
While Beach said she did not know how the band got its "crazy name," she did say she thinks they will be a success.
"These guys are really popular in the Valley as far as the blues and R&B music goes," she said. "They have a singer that's called ‘Small Paul' Hamilton who is actually not small at all ... He's quite big, but he's known for being a great performer in soul music."
C.C. Ryder Express has something that will most likely please listeners of all ages. Their specialty is variety music from the 40s all the way to the 90s.
However, Beach said their true specialty is music from the 60s and 70s.
The band's nine members play a variety of horns and saxophones that delight the ears of the audience, she added.
"Their music really caught me," Beach said. "They have so many horns and saxophones and all kinds of things in there. It's going to be a good show."
The summer concert series will end with a bang when Young Country takes Payson for a ride with their catchy country music.
Beach originally wanted Young Country to play at the July 4 concert, but the band was already booked. She added that she expects a great turnout for the concert that was rescheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday, June 26.
All concerts start at 7 p.m. and end at 9 p.m. Guests are encouraged to bring blankets and picnic baskets, but are not allowed to have alcohol in the park.