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Thursday, Sept. 2, 2004 02:09 pm

Best bets

art1390

Where to go, and what to do when you get there? These are age-old questions that never go away, so here are a few wheres, whats, and whens for planning a successful fall season.

• If you can't have the real thing, settle for a good imitation, my screwy Uncle Albert used to say. Let's face it -- the Beatles aren't getting back together in this world, so accept it and go see American English at the AmerenCILCO Summer Serenade. From the reception this bunch receives from Springfield crowds, you'd think they really were the Fab Four. This year, the group celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Beatles' first American tour. Meet the Bea -- um, the American English -- at 7 p.m. Sept. 9, Washington Street between Fifth and Sixth streets, Springfield, 217-535-5111.

• What's a Wilco? Well, Roger, it's a rock band that some find intellectually stimulating and cutting-edge but others label trite, superficial, and boring. Whichever side of the river you find yourself on, they inspire controversy, deserve respect, and always put on a good live show. Frontman Jeff Tweedy got his start in Belleville bars as the other half of Uncle Tupelo and considers St. Louis a homecoming gig. Wilco brings the ghosts to the Fox Theatre at 8 p.m. Sept. 15, 527 N. Grand Blvd., in St. Louis , 314-534-1111.

• Question: What do the Art Institute of Chicago and the Springfield Theatre Centre have in common? Answer: Georges Seurat and his famous painting "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte --1884."The Art Institute, owner of the painting since 1924, has organized an exhibition to help you understand the point of Seurat's masterpiece. Meanwhile, for its first production at the Hoogland Center for the Arts, the STC has chosen the Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine musical Sunday in the Park with George. The Pulitzer Prize-winning piece is directed by Leigh Steiner. The Seurat exhibit (tickets required) is open through Sept. 19 at the Art Institute, 111 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, 312-443-3600; the STC production runs Sept. 17-19 and 24-26 at the Center for the Arts, 420 S. Sixth St., Springfield, 217-523-2787.

• What's so funny? Listen to these guys and find out. George Carlin has made a good living being the class clown. After more than 40 years in the funny business, he's achieved legendary status in the field of observational comedy. How to describe Steven Wright? He doesn't yell or swear or tell drawn-out stories, just makes thoughtful statements about the perplexities of life -- funny, sensitive, and undeniable -- using the fewest words possible. Carlin appears at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 16 at the Kirkland Fine Arts Center, Millikin University, Decatur, 217-424-6318; Wright appears at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 13 in the Sangamon Auditorium at the University of Illinois at Springfield, 217-206-6160.

• Observe and enjoy Olivers, Massey-Fergusons, Minneapolis-Molines, Farmalls, John Deeres, and other obscure and extinct machines that once ruled the prairies at the 35th annual Prairieland Heritage Museum Fall Festival and Steam Show. See other historical devices such as steam threshers, passenger trains, and farming tools from the early agrarian period of central Illinois. Step back in time (but watch where you step) from 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Sept. 24, 5 a.m.-5 p.m. Sept. 25, and 6 a.m.-4 p.m. Sept. 26 on the Prairieland Heritage Museum Institute grounds, 1005 W. Michigan, Jacksonville, 800-593-5678.

• Jason Ringenberg is a man of many talents. Since the early '80s, he has fronted Jason and the Scorchers, a first-rate, first-wave alt-country band. In the '90s he successfully worked the Western world as an acoustic folk singer who rocks. Now, as a family man, he gives the world Farmer Jason, educator and entertainer of children and adults who won't grow up. Catch two of three personas in one giant entertainment weekend for Springfield Jason-lovers. Jason, the acoustic folk singer who rocks, performs at 9 p.m. Oct. 1 at the Underground City Tavern, 700 E. Adams St., 217-789-1530; Farmer Jason performs at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 2 at the Cellar at Andiamo!, 204 S. Sixth St., Springfield, 217-523-3262.

• Whether the weather actually gives us Native American warm weather or hands us a blustery winter preview, the Indian Summer Festival at the Lincoln Memorial Garden provides an entertaining, enlightening, and exhilarating weekend of family fun. Food, crafts, music, and storytelling engage the senses with activities, but the best draw, as always, is the natural surroundings of the serene park on the lake. Go native from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Oct. 9 & 10, Lincoln Memorial Garden, 2301 E. Lake Dr., 217-529-1111.

• The folks at Sangamon Valley Roots Revival are at it again: They've booked yet another guy from New Jersey who's enamored with the idea of reconstituting the honky-tonk sound of country music. Yes indeed, here comes Moot Davis and the Cool Deal, on a mission to out-country anybody in country music today. And along on tour with Moot and his crew is none other than guitarist Pete Anderson, Dwight Yoakam's famed producer and owner/operator of Little Dog Records. See Moot and Pete at 9 p.m. Oct. 13 at the Underground City Tavern, 700 E. Adams St., 217-789-1530.

• From their school's humble beginnings as Plywood U., through the adolescent years of Sangamon State University, the student population of UIS has been well represented by the international community. For 27 years these scholarly travelers just passing through have presented the International Festival, featuring food, singing, dancing, and general sharing of the diverse cultures inhabiting the UIS campus. See the world from 4-8 p.m. Oct. 24 at PAC Studio Theater, UIS, 217-206-6678.

• Remember the Carol Burnett Show, the 1970s TV classic? Well, the funniest guys on the show, Harvey Korman and Tim Conway, are out on the road, re-creating the skits and scenes from the CBS variety show. How old are they now? Aw, who cares? They're just out having fun, and you're invited along for the laughs. The geezers will please you at 6 and 8:30 p.m. Nov. 5 at the Peoria Civic Center, 309-673-3200.

• Everyone loves a birthday party, and like the proud parents of a favorite son, Springfieldians should puff up and attend the 125th celebration of Vachel Lindsay's entrance into this world. Through the years, Lindsay's public poetry stock has fluctuated in its degreee of appreciation and popularity, but no one denies our native son's lasting influence on the literary world. Costumed interpreters, period music, and performances of Lindsay's works are part of the party, along with birthday cake (yum!) and other refreshments. Go boomlay-boom! from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Nov. 6 at the Vachel Lindsay Home State Historic Site, 603 S. Fifth St., Springfield, 217-524-0901.

• There's nothing classier than classical music. So hose down the kids, load 'em in the back of the pickup, and head for UIS to catch the Illinois Symphony Orchestra, wailing on Dvorák's "Slavonic Dance" and Symphony Number 7. Concertmistress Julieta Mihai (honestly, it's her title and she's earned it) displays proper bow technique on Concerto for Violin in D by Sibelius. Say "ooh" to the oboe at 8 p.m. Nov. 20 at Sangamon Auditorium, UIS, 217-206-6160.

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