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Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014 12:01 am

Best of Springfield 2014



Music & Entertainment

BEST AMERICANA/FOLK BAND
The Blue Gs

It’s no surprise that The Blue Gs win again as they continue producing some of the best bluegrass (Blue Gs… get it?) influenced music around with enough pop, rock, country and blues mixed in to file it under Americana. Recently in the studio for another full-length recording, the band’s core remains founding members Shane Bumgarner (banjo, vocals), Gary Fifer (mandolin), Jeff Cunningham (bass) and Jonathan Field (guitar, fiddle, vocals). Now with Josh Parr (fiddle, vocals) as a full-time player, this dedicated group of talented musicians practices hard and plays well, bringing audiences to their knees with fine picking and to their feet for more music wherever they entertain.
Runners-up: Josh Catalano and the Dirty Thoughts, Tom Irwin’s Hayburners

BEST BAND: MEMBERS UNDER 21
Young Luck

Our under-21 band started way back in 2012, already with years of playing and planning for the rock ’n’ roll life under their belts and in their heads. When Zack Fedor (lead vocals, guitar, harmonica), Tyler Landess (lead guitar, vocals), Ryan Hendrickson (bass, vocals) and Joel Day (drums, vocals) joined forces, they discovered a kindred spirit driving the music forward through songwriting, performance and belief in what they could accomplish. Last summer they released a debut CD, Springfield City Limits, recorded at FreQuincy Records, completely written and performed by the boys in the band. They’ve not let the age factor hinder them from getting gigs, as they play several times a month at venues all around the area. Unlike many “under age” bands that focus on the all-ages (really under legal drinking age) venues, Young Luck actually appeals to all ages and goes out and plays for the masses.
Runner-up: Looming

BEST BLUES BAND/ARTIST
Black Magic Johnson

With the recently released Walk with You Baby as their third CD of all original music and nearly 20 years of live music performances to back up the sound, Black Magic Johnson deserves the recognition and our readers responded. Headed by singer, songwriter, drummer and harmonica player Reggie Britton, and ably joined by Alexis Rogers and Dan Grover on electric lead and rhythm guitars with bass duties rotating between Willy Christmon, Lawrence Baulden and other four-string champs, the band does sweet, old, homestyle blues, nothing fancy, nothing in your face, just in the pocket and “fun-tastic,” as they call what they do. Often joined by local musicians such as Frank Parker to jam the blues, BMJ gets the folks dancing and having a good time, by using the blues to forget that you got the blues.
Runner-up: Back Pack Jones

BEST CLUB DJ
DJ Mikee/Curve Inn

When you have the best beer garden, consistent good live music, terrific food and keep the booze flowing from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. seven days a week, you might as well have the best DJ too. The Curve Inn, a Springfield institution since 1945, now has this award to add to their collection and they have DJ Mikee to thank for putting on the right tunes to keep the crowd rocking, drinking, dancing and visiting. No one thing puts Mikee over the top; he just does what needs to be done and does it well, in a consistent fashion, and the folks who land at the Curve Inn say he’s the best. With the beer garden area hosting live music Thursday through Saturday, but until only 10 p.m., DJ Mikee takes up the slack until closing hour at 3 a.m. running the gambit in popular music to the delight of late-night bargoers.
Runner-up: DJ EVO

BEST COUNTRY BAND
New City Road

Rolling and rocking down the country roads, here comes New City Road on the move in 2014. Original bandmates Aley Mundstock (lead vocals), Harry Lounsberry (keys, vocals) and Ryan King (guitars, banjo) joined forces with Chris Harris (bass, vocals), then Allan Harris (lead guitar, vocals) and Max Harris (drums, vocals) to became a top area band in the modern country genre. NCR mixes contemporary and classic country songs with a side of rock ’n’ roll to make a can’t-be-beat tasty music treat. From fairs to festivals, nightclubs to day gigs, the band, booked by Mikey’s Entertainment and the official house band for local radio station 101.9-FM The Wolf, is sponsored by Budweiser beer and Valvoline oil. Country is on the road again!
Runner-up: Brushville

BEST FEMALE SINGER/SONGWRITER
Elizabeth Eckert

Singing with passion from the age of 5 to an appearance in the Hollywood round of “American Idol” a few years ago, this sultry songstress of Springfield continues to entice and entertain her legions of fans. Not only does EE possess a voice of heavenly proportions, she can write a song that angels could sing. In 2011 she released Retrospect, her first collection of self-penned songs. You’ve seen her on stage in many area theater productions and heard her as co-host of the morning show on 99.7 Kiss FM. Nowadays you can catch her performing around town in acoustic shows with best buds and fellow singer-songwriters Micah Walk and Dave Littrell as Deep Hollow or with the local cover band, supergroup The Shenanigans. Wherever she goes and whatever she sings, Elizabeth puts her heart and soul into her endeavors and we are the lucky recipients of her tremendous talents.
Runners-ups: Gracia Harrison, Brooke Thomas

BEST HARDCORE BAND/ARTIST
BEST PUNK BAND/ARTIST

NIL8

Year after year NIL8 takes the cake for best band in these categories. Since coming on the scene in the mid-80s to touring nationally in the 90s, all the way to just doing a handful of shows annually in the last few years, the Williams Brothers continue to be recognized as one of the most popular acts to ever be from and remain in our city. Through the years, Jeff (guitar, songwriter, vocals, rants) and Bruce (bass), kept their peers as fans and also scored with another generation of skate-punk, funk-wired, mosh-diving folks who support and believe in the world of NIL8. They’ve worked with several musicians in the last 30-some years with Damon Soper (guitar, vocals) and Wes Selinger (drums) carrying on as the most recent NIL8-ers backing Jeff and Bruce on this lifelong adventure of a teenage band born in Mrs. Williams’ basement and now moshing toward middle age.
Runner-up: The Timmys

BEST HIP HOP BAND/ARTIST
Agent Orange

This once and always mighty rap and hip-hop artist began his career in 2003 fresh from high school, then roared out of Springfield in 2009 to take some Chicago-based folks by storm. Continuing in his career as a superb and stunning artist of word and beat, Agent Orange (not to be confused with the surf-punk band from California or the deadly chemical used extensively in the Vietnam War), also known as Zach McCoy, calls himself a battle MC and can take the stage with and from most anyone. Recent forays keep him around town and MC-ing at such events as Rock for the Cure, held a few weekends ago at Donnie’s Homespun. Springfield’s hip-hop scene seems to hang underground, but Agent O is always available to shake things up.
Runner-up: Loudmouth

BEST JAZZ GROUP/ARTIST
Jane Hartman

For many years, several years ago, Jane owned this category and that of favorite female performer in Springfield, as a shoo-in from her many dedicated and appreciative fans. For the last several years her live performances have been less frequent, but her influence has grown. As the senior music professor at Lincoln Land Community College, she shapes and prods, cajoles and molds students searching to further their abilities in music knowledge. Her presence in our community continues to enrich our appreciation of music, and especially the strains of jazz and classical, as a teacher, performer, mentor and all around nice person. She makes the sounds become music and helps many others to do the same.
Runner-up: Frank Trompeter

BEST LIVE MUSIC VENUE (BIG)
Prairie Capital Convention Center, 1 Convention Center Plaza, 788-8800
Our very own downtown convention center, sometimes referred to as the PC3, underwent significant building changes over the last few years. The conversion to a space more friendly to hosting live music events – especially with the construction of the outdoor BOS Plaza, coupled with a more aggressive booking plan to fit the new digs – must have struck a chord with our readers, as they responded with plenty of positive responses. General manager Brian Oaks, long a fan of concerts at The Center (yet another moniker), must be thrilled by the success of the outdoor shows made possible at the facility because of the long-sought renovations. Built in 1978, the multipurpose facility is now considered the best spot in Springfield for large live music shows. Light your lighters (or use your cell phones, please) and come listen to the music.
Runner up: Boondocks

BEST LIVE MUSIC VENUE (SMALL)
Boondocks
2909 West Dirksen Parkway, 679-0145

Established in 2013 in an old dance club hall, Boondocks started with a flash and continues to shine with a brilliance that must have locals wondering what they did before it was here and what they would now do without this progressive and solid hub of live music performance. Predominantly geared toward a contemporary country crowd, the warehouse-type venue on North Dirksen Parkway also hosts popular local bands, traveling rock acts and area fundraisers to supplement the up-and-comers and already-been-there bands that generally fill the weekends at Boondocks. A friendly staff, plenty of parking, a well-positioned stage and a good sound system sets the boundaries for bands to present their musical wares and for folks from all over to enjoy the sights and sounds at this popular and progressive venue.
Runner-up: The Curve Inn

BEST LIVE THEATER PRODUCTION 2014
All Shook Up - The Muni
Every year The Muni, the lovable little outdoor theater by Lake Springfield, gives townsfolk a wonderful run of well done and respectable musicals. For 2014, the favorite show to our readers was All Shook Up, a 2004 all-American musical using Elvis Presley music, with the book by Joe DiPietro based loosely on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Surely a combination for the surreal amid the real, the friendly and positive show sat well with our theater-goers. Directed by Anna Bussing with Julia Ratz assisting and filled with a talented cast including Gavin Gardner, Sophia Lanser, Katina Gude, Rich Beans, Jacob Deters, Cami Kern, Calia Cole, Jim Leach, Cory Blisset, Angelica Ikejiaku and Tamara Bivens, along with a young, able-bodied chorus, the show was a resounding success. Uh, huh, huh.
Runner-up: Shrek: the Musical at The Muni

BEST LOCAL CD OF 2014
BEST LOCAL SINGER/SONGWRITER – MALE

Micah Walk

Micah Walk has proven he can write songs people like to listen to and appreciate. Since moving to Springfield from his hometown of Girard several years ago, the singing, songwriting guitarist continues to wow and woo audiences in the capital city and beyond. For the CD of the Year, he began by going to his fans to score funding through a Kickstarter campaign that allows for pre-purchasing of a CD. That, in turn, allows an artist to afford to go make the record with the funds secured. Walk chose Grammy-nominated producer Jaimie Candiloro out in Los Angeles to help flesh out the songs and, in doing so, created a wonderfully listenable recording that readers felt exemplified the best in Springfield. Plus it has a good beat and you can dance to it, if you are so inclined. The attractive and enticing cover artwork came courtesy of local artist Felicia Olin. As the creator of the Best Local CD should, Micah handily took the singer-songwriter mantle as well.
Runner-up local CD: Brooke Thomas and the Blue Suns, Every Little Moment
Runner-up Male Local Singer/Songwriter: Hipbone Sam


BEST ROCK/POP BAND
BEST LOCAL COVER BAND

Captain Geech and the Shrimp Shack Shooters

Once again, this extremely popular band out of the Jacksonville area makes it a successful two for one run, by grabbing both of the most coveted categories in the local music scene. With leader and founder J Bird at the helm, steering the ship through thick and thin, but mostly fun and frolic, while aptly aided by fellow travelers Buster, Joker, Marc, MaJeeda and Peter, who proudly call themselves a “band of misfits,” they know how to do nothing but have fun and party. And they make sure you do too, by highly encouraging “Getting your Geech on” by all audience members. Sponsored by Coors Light through Robert “Chick” Fritz Distributing, Inc., the band takes their own official CG & the SSS bus to gigs and gets the party started in there, wherever the need arises. Congratulations on a big win. So now let’s dance and drink or drink and dance and “take this moment of silence to drink,” as the Geechers like say.
Runners-up: Hipbone Sam (rock/pop band),
The Shenanigans (local cover band)

BEST LOCAL MUSIC FESTIVAL
Old Capitol Blues & BBQs

Folks around here obviously like their blues and they like their BBQ too. And they really like to have both at the same place, especially if the event is a two-day festival in downtown Springfield. Despite this year’s stifling heat that was held responsible for a downturn in audience attendance, the Old Capitol Blues & BBQs, presented by your friends at Downtown Springfield, Inc., is by far our readers’ most favorite, number one, leader-of-the-pack festival, and it has been for several years. The combination of live blues music and good food, along with the family activities and the Illinois Central Blues Club’s hosting of the local part of the International Blues Challenge contest, all contribute to the excitement and fun. Plus, it sure makes downtown smell and sound good.
Runners-up: Downhome Music, Beer and Art Festival, SOHO Fest

BEST METAL BAND/ARTIST
Novocaine

Once again, as last year, this 90s-2000s rock-pop cover band received an overwhelming amount of votes in this category. As they claim on their Facebook page, they aren’t a true metal band, but they’ll take the win. Current members Albert Capati (lead vocals, acoustic guitar), William Richards (lead guitar, vocals), Ed Tinsley (bass, vocals) and Jerry Osborne (drums, vocals) work the crowd into a frenzy, metal band or not, with tunes favoring the grunge side of rock in typical venues around central Illinois. Albert’s incredible voice even allows the band to nail songs with female lead vocalists. Coming in third with an honorable mention as a truly, self-proclaimed, sounding and acting metal band, was Grim. 
Runner-up: POWERHOUSE

BEST NEW LOCAL BAND FORMED IN 2014
Lick Creek

When this self-proclaimed band of a half rock/half country blend of musicians first got together, they knew what they wanted to do and how they wanted to play, a factor that likely led to their rapid rise in the local scene. Bandmates Jeff Parrish (drums), Matthew Wedel (bass), Wesley Ingram (lead guitar, vocals), Steve Barnes (lead guitar, vocals), Lance Stone (lead vocals) and Maddie Brown (lead vocals, acoustic) list as influences everything from “Metallica to Merle.” They profess to be all about “making music and having fun,” two very good things to bring to the stage as a rockin’ country band in central Illinois. They stay very busy for a band not nearly a year old, hitting all the spots around like Boondocks, Koo-Koo’s Nest, Mowie’s Cue and others. Expect to see lots more from this young band of up-and-comers determined to make you have a good time, because they are going to for sure.
Runner-up: Off The Wall

BEST ORIGINAL MUSIC BAND
Hipbone Sam

Perhaps best known for his active live show, familiar cover song selection and ever present “Let me hear ya say, yeah!” cheer, this previous winner of several “Best of” categories both in Illinois Times and that other newspaper in town, is a recognized songwriter, too. Hipbone Sam, otherwise known as Kevin Hawkins, works his own tunes into the songlist, and before you know it, folks are singing along with an original song. Besides his three CDs of self-penned material available to the public, you can catch the Best of Hipbone Sam on all AMI Rowe Jukeboxes and more than 50,000 TouchTunes Digital Jukeboxes in the U.S., Canada and U.S. military bases worldwide. With Hipbone Sam covering the lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Rick Mari picks lead guitar, Hawkeye Kane blows harmonica, Rob Ross hits the drums and Mark Riefler plays bass, as the Coor’s Light-sponsored group gigs nearly every weekend at various venues around the Midwest.
Runner-up: NIL8

BEST PLACE FOR KARAOKE
Sluggo’s
2660 W Lawrence Ave., 787-6111

They say you can’t argue with success and neither do our readers as they consistently vote Sluggo’s the place to go for karaoke. Maybe it’s the lounge within a bowling alley venue, but most likely it’s the host with the most creating just the right atmosphere for grabbing the mic, reading the lyrics and having a blast that make this place the perennial winner. In an odd twist, The Curve Inn received a large number of votes, but we could find no record of a karaoke night. Word on the street has it that, starting this week, you’ll see karaoke at the Curve on Thursdays. Hmmmm. Coincidence? Perhaps.
Runner-up: The Blue Grouch

BEST SHOPPING FOR MUSIC GEAR
The Rock Shop
1808 West Jefferson Street, 546-8980

From humble beginnings in a small room in a little house on Jefferson Street, The Rock Shop has grown into the largest music store in central Illinois with almost 7,000 square feet of retail space, housing the largest inventory of musical instruments on display in the capital city. Owner Todd Rushing brings you the top names in rock guitars, amps and other gear along with a knowledgeable staff of working musicians able to answer questions, adjust your axe, sell you strings, talk about the world of music or set you up with the best gear available anywhere. They recently expanded into school band instruments with rentals and purchases, plus offering weekly lessons on guitar, bass, drums, piano, ukulele, banjo, violin and mandolin with several of the finest teachers in the area. Musicians around here don’t bother with box store banality or impersonal online sites and head to the Rock Shop to stock up on the music gear and real music know-how.
Runner-up:  Daddy O’s Music Shack

BEST SOUND TECHNICIAN
Ric “Skippy” Major

Entertainers are only as good as what the audience hears, and the sound technician is the middle person in the equation. For the second year in a row (the only two years this category has been offered) local sound guru Ric “Skippy” Major takes home the gold. Not only is he the man behind the sound curtain at Music in the Parks, the Miller Lite State Fair beer tent stage, Lincoln Memorial Garden’s Indian Summer Festival, Washington Park’s Jack-o-Spooktacular and Carillon Festival recordings, he’s had his hand in booking music acts at some of these events as well. From a career that spans nearly 40 years of tweaking the knobs on sound boards making musicians sound good, Skippy, owner and operator at Middle Option Music, indeed is the sound technician’s sound technician. This year he took over the stage and sound for the popular Curve Inn live music shows on Thursdays. Next year expect to see him out there more often, making area bands sound the best they can.
Runner up: JR (Matthew Graves)

BEST THEATER PERFORMANCE: FEMALE
Hannah Siehr, Shrek, The Musical (Muni)

Since her recent graduation from Pleasant Plains High School (and even before), this rising young star on the local theater scene has been one busy actress. Including her phenomenal performance as Fiona in Shrek, The Musical last summer, the budding young starlet also portrayed the main female character in Hair: The Musical and recently completed a leading role in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at the Hoogland Center for the Arts, along with several other area productions to her credit. As busy as she’s been, her role as the princess/ogress to the big green guy in Shrek (sponsored by McGladrey and directed by Craig Williams II) placed her as a winner in the eyes of local theater-goers. We all look forward to many more years of stage work from this young and talented performer.
Runner-up: Anna Bussing, Little Shop of Horrors

BEST THEATER PERFORMANCE: MALE
Jim Leach, Annie (STC)

Directed by Rich McCoy as a Springfield Theatre Center production, the tale of the little orphan girl charmed the hearts of Springfield theater-goers when it hit the Hoogland stage back in December of 2013, even selling out shows. Jim Leach, local talk show host on 970-AM WMAY (and former recipient of the BoS for local radio personality) played the part of the ultra-wealthy capitalist character Daddy Warbucks with gusto, and to listeners of his liberal-leaning radio show, with a shade of irony. To add extra pizzazz to the part, Leach shaved his head on air, as a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. The experienced actor also claims this was a “bucket list” part and worked to not reinvent the famous character, but to only add his interpretation to the relished role.
Runner-up: Patrick Russell, Hedwig and the Angry Inch

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