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Thursday, May 29, 2003 02:25 pm

Hot fun in the summer time

Checking out concerts this summer

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Uncle Kracker

Things can get steamy in the summer around here--it helps the corn grow--so chill out with some cool live music. You'll hear it from the rooftops to the Grandstand, in the streets and the parks, and in all your favorite nightclubs.

Hardee's Jam Fest kicks off the scene. The second annual benefit for Friends of Nelson Center features more than 20 local bands on three stages in and around the Nelson Center at Lincoln Park. The staggered schedule allows for continuous live music from 1 p.m. to midnight. New this year is a roller skating party at noon and a pool party at 1 p.m. Stare in awe as skateboarders defy gravity to demonstrate their craft on ramps donated by Skank Skates. Hardee's supplies the munchies, and Miller brings the alcoholic refreshments. It's big excitement for the capital city; you won't want to miss it.

Next, cruise over to New Berlin, west of town, for the Sangamon County Fair. From June 11 through the 15, the sleepy burg awakens to the sounds of livestock, carnie cries, and live music. Check out national acts Marshall Tucker Band, Aaron Tippin, and Uncle Kracker on the grandstand and local bands Hot Property, Mudbugs, and the Oohs in the beer tents.

On June 21, Washington Street between Fifth and Sixth is transformed into Washington Street Jazz. The 17th annual festival of food and music begins at 5:30 in the evening and swings on to 11:30, with six area jazz and blues groups knocking out the tunes and several downtown restaurants dishing up the chow. Proceeds from the event go to the Springfield Area Arts Council.

What's that sound I hear coming from the sky? Is it music from the heavens? No, it sounds more like, well, more like that evil rock 'n' roll--the devil's music. It must be the Sangamon Valley Roots Revival holding their Rooftop Roots Fest on top of the parking garage of the Springfield Hilton. On July 12, Junior Brown twangs and bangs along with other roots music purveyors. It's a great concept. Wonder if it'll fly.

July 26 marks the return of the ever-popular Taste of Downtown Springfield. The festival features live music from noon to 10 p.m. plus your favorite central city restaurant selling its specialty from a booth in a tent on the street. Now that's a taste of downtown! This year the event moves over to Fifth Street between Washington and Adams, where the buildings provide some shadowed relief from that hot July sun.

Summer would not be the same without the Decatur Celebration. Just a mere 40 minutes away (slow down, you) in downtown Soy City, the largest family street fair in the Midwest features several stages of music August 1 through 3. From Grand Funk to your favorite area bands, the Celebration is known for its diverse and interesting entertainment. See the Summerlong Calendar for a complete listing of acts.

Living in Springfield, it's too easy to take the Illinois State Fair for granted or even to complain about it (never!), but people come from miles away to see the sights and hear the sounds at the venerable institution of late summer. You'll find live music by area bands in beer tents and big-name groups prancing and dancing in the Grandstand. The Lincoln Stage always carries a variety of entertainment, and the acts at the Ethnic Village can educate as well as entertain. Alas, Jimmy Buffet may never collect his large fee to satisfy Parrothead cravings, but his legacy lives on in the Key West Stage. Poke around the big band beer tent known as the Twilight Ballroom--the beer always seems colder in there and the music is definitely quieter than in other libation stations. Yes, there is something for most everyone during the fair's 10-day stretch, from August 8 through the 17 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.

Be sure to keep up with regular gigs like the Artist on the Plaza series every Wednesday from noon to 1 p.m. on the Old Capitol Plaza and the Illinois Central Blues Club's Blue Monday Jam every Monday at the Alamo, 115 North Fifth. The Springfield Parks Foundation hosts Music in the Parks, featuring a band once a month in a different neighborhood park; it's all part of an effort to "bring the parks to the people" (see the Summerlong Calendar for a complete listing of bands). Every Tuesday and Thursday evening at 7:30, from June 10 to August 5, the Springfield Municipal Band occupies the band shell at Douglas Park, MacArthur and Jefferson, for Old Fashioned Band Concerts in the Park. It's the 68th consecutive year of summer concerts by this city-sponsored band.

If you're feeling the heat, stay cool, watch the corn grow, and catch all the good music around town this summer.

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