If it's true that the 20th annual Barnum Festival has something for everybody, then last night was dedicated to Bridgeport's teenyboppers as hundreds of them gathered in the Barnum Festival Theater to witness the "rites of rock" as performed by the Cowsills.
The Cowsills, seven members of a Newport, R. I. family, are currently one of the nation's hottest pop music acts and last night they brought warmth to a miserable wet and cold Bridgeport night in the first of eight Barnum Festival shows in the theatre-tent.
The city's young dominated the audience, their flash bulbs popping on and off for pictures their hand shooting into the air with waves, and their vocal chords and lips forming the sounds of screams.
And as the shows' last notes twanged, the hundreds, mostly female, game Festival and city police officials a start as they ringed the stage and blocked the entrances to the outside dressing rooms waiting for autographs.
Inside the tent, the Cowsills, five young men, their 9-year-old sister and their mother, presented an entertaining, if uneven concert.
Having arisen to nationwide popularity within the past eight months with two recordings, the Cowsills played a straight pop format for more than two hours, injecting a few folk-rock and "soul" numbers.
Sparked by the constant "boom" of energetic John Cowsill, 12-year-old drummer, the group offered 13 first set numbers that spotlighted various family members.
Susan Captures Hearts
Mrs. Barbara Cowsill sung a tender version of "Cruel War", a contemporary folk piece about the civil war and lovers parting, but was upstaged by her 9-year-old daughter, Susan, who captured the hearts of those present with two vocal solos, some bass guitar playing, the guitar being as tall as she.
The group's arrangement of "Dancing in the Streets," displayed too much heaviness, however, as the harmony failed to bright out what the teenyboppers consider the "soul" side of the song.
After a faithful version of the 1930's blues number, "Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime," the group seemed ot be filling time with a 10-minute "golden oldies" medley of past rock hits.
Rather than meeting the challenge of the old and putting the rock arrangements into new forms and arrangements, the Cowsills seemed content with carbon copies of songs made popular by the Beach Boys, Herman's Hermits, the Beatles, and "Wicked" Wilson Pickett.
But the group recovered and finished the concert with six songs in their original style, two sung in Italian, while the teenyboppers crowded teh state and filled the aisles while streaming to the dressing rooms.
Though one audience observer was overheard saying that the Cowsills were a "measure of respect to what is becoming a decadent art form," it as evident from the hundreds of teenagers, mostly female blocking the dressing room entrances while standing ankle deep in mud and puddles caused by the rain, that much of the group's popularity lies within the group's youth: five fellows ranging from ages 20 to 12 and with heads sporting more hair that their cute 9-year-old sister.