Chicago Illinois


Thursday, July 7, 2016

July jingle jangles

With one of the strangest weather periods for a Fourth of July weekend that I can remember behind us, we look forward to that good, old, hot and humid, central Illinois summertime.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the upcoming festivals, homecomings, fairs and other big events presenting live music over the next several weeks. This Saturday, catch the Sherman Homecoming in the little village across the Sangamon River while the Springfield Art Association’s fun fundraiser, Paint the Street Festival, happens in downtown Springfield. Next weekend, the Chatham Sweetcorn Festival hangs out in the Chatham Community Park and the weekend after, on Saturday, July 23, the 21st Annual Springfield Highland Games and Celtic Festival takes over the same space.

Downtown Springfield hosts the Bedrock 66 Live! Music Festival in conjunction with the Bacon Throwdown on July 22 and 23, then the Downhome Music, Beer and Art Festival hits the streets the next weekend, July 29 and 30. By early August, after all that local excitement, you might be ready for a road trip to the Decatur Celebration or Jacksonville Main Street’s Art Fair on the Square. Next up comes what’s left of the Illinois State Fair, then we’re home free for the summer with the Old Capitol Blues and BBQ and Clayville Music and Art Festival held on Aug. 27, the last of the fests until Labor Day weekend.

Whether coincidental or conspiratorial (we may never know), Jacksonville musicians invade our clubs en masse on Friday. Starting with the Brad Floreth Quartet at Robbie’s leading into The Motorvators at George Ranks and topping it off with Captain Geech and the Shrimp Shack Shooters at the Blue Grouch, musicians from our neighboring city to the southwest highlight each of these bands. Maybe it’s something in the water, but in my opinion, Jacksonville holds a very high rating for high-caliber music makers.

The city also hosts a new concert series in 2016 at the revamped Central Park on the square downtown. Thanks to winning a nationally-run contest by Levitt AMP (the group behind the scenes is the Mortimer and Mimi Levitt Foundation, dedicated to bringing free, live music to public places), Jacksonville Main Street presents concerts every Friday evening ending with a special show on Saturday, Aug. 6. The entertainers are mostly up-and-coming national touring acts I’ve never heard, but by presenting a nice variety of styles, the series looks to find something interesting and pleasing to almost everyone. Take the short 35-minute drive (I prefer the Old Jacksonville Road; it’s scenic and practically takes you right to the square) and discover new music in a different setting.

Bex Marshall, a female blues artist from London, England, makes a mini-tour of Springfield this week, appearing Sunday afternoon at the Walnut Street Winery in Rochester, Monday night at the Illinois Central Blues Club’s Blue Monday at The Alamo, and Coz’s Pizza and Pub brings Bex in the next day for their weekly summer blues series, Tuesday Bluesday. The talented and dedicated singer-songwriter-guitarist received a Best Solo/Acoustic Artist nomination in 2015 at the European Blues Awards and won the United Kingdom Blues Award in 2013 for Best British Blues Vocalist. She spends the rest of July in the states before heading home for more gigs in England and beyond. This may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience to see her perform, and it will most certainly feel like a once-in-a-lifetime experience when you do.

Be sure to check our listings in Pub Crawl and Community Calendar for all the other good shows happening that I didn’t get a chance to talk about.

Contact Tom Irwin at