Keeping it Downhome
Showcase for local bands
The Downhome Music, Beer and Art Festival is in its fifth year and things are going like gangbusters. “It’s just grown exponentially for us,” says Downhome founder Josh Catalano. “We had over 10,000 people last year and our goal this year is 15,000 – although obviously we’d be happy with 12,000.” According to Catalano, a prominent local musician who will be appearing at the festival as a member of Lazer Dudes (Saturday, midnight) as well as fronting Josh Catalano and the Dirty Thoughts (Saturday, 9:30), the whole point of Downhome is to help expose local, original bands to a larger audience than they can typically reach playing bar gigs. The bands are given a set number of tickets to the festival which they are encouraged to sell for $5 apiece ($2 less than at the gate) allowing the performers to make some cash, as opposed to the SOHO Festival, for instance, where bands pay for free with all proceeds going to charity.“It’s really important to us to further the music in Springfield as much as possible,” he says. In addition to a sweeping cross-section of local musicians, visitors to Downhome will have access to a record 125 craft beers from 45 different breweries, largely to the credit of Downhome co-founder Shane Turnidge. There will also be family-friendly carnival games and – another first – a mechanical bull. Even with all the other attractions, the focus at Downhome remains firmly on the music.
Boon (Friday, 5:45) is a post-punk combo that’s been part of Springfield’s Southtown music scene, centering around the all-ages Black Sheep Café, for about four years. “All three of us have played in a lot of bands our whole lives,” says vocalist and guitarist Johnny Draper. “We don’t really try to bring attention to ourselves, we’re mostly just into writing songs. We play out about twice a year and haven’t really played in front of a fest-type crowd before.” He describes Boon’s sound as melodic but heavy, with an accent on his finger-picking guitar technique. “Some of the bands that inspire me – I don’t know that we sound like ’em – would be Fugazi, The Beatles and Morphine.” Proud company indeed.
Micah Walk will be doing a Downhome set with his own Micah Walk Band (Friday, 7:30) as well as performing with Deep Hollow (Saturday, 10:30). He says the latter has been his main focus for most of the past year. “My band hasn’t played a gig in five or six months, everyone’s got other projects, so it’ll be fun to get that back together,” he says. MWB will be concentrating on songs from its 2014 release, including audience favorite “Heart of Hearts,” while Deep Hollow will be mostly showcasing its original material with the occasional cover version thrown in.
Shaggy, charismatic Springfield bass player Keith Voegele will be nearly ubiquitous at Downhome this year, performing in a total of four bands. The one with the highest profile is surely durable Midwestern Americana legend Bottle Rockets (Friday, 10:30), currently based out of St. Louis. Keith says the Rockets will be showcasing brand new material from their first new album since 2009, coming out in October on Chicago-based Bloodshot Records. Springfield rock fans of a certain age will be excited to learn of a reunion set by Love Hogs (Saturday, 8 p.m.) a band which, despite last performing together in 1990, received an overwhelming number of votes in an online poll conducted by Downhome organizers last year to find out which acts audiences most wanted to see. “I’d been resisting for years, for some reason,” says Voegele of the reunion, “I don’t know why. But I figured if we’re gonna do it this would probably be the time and place where the most people could see us.” Voegele will also be performing Saturday with Owen & Dooley (see below) as well as Josh Catalano and the Dirty Thoughts.
Progressive rockers Dog of Panic (Saturday, 3 p.m.) specialize in intricate and sometimes aggressive songs, showcasing equal parts technical musicianship and raw emotion. They played at Downhome last year and have gone through exciting developments since then, including two major lineup changes. Josie Lowder came and went on bass and has now been replaced by venerable Springfield instrumentalist Brad Beneky. “It was an honor to play with Josie,” says guitarist and vocalist Dan Rohde. The band is at work on a new EP entitled, “...of all ambition” which they plan to release in late summer or early fall.
When asked what audiences should expect from the music of Los Injectors (Saturday, 4:30), bass player Jeff Cunningham does not mince words. “Recklessness.” Guitarist and vocalist Damon Soper elaborates: “High speed, high-octane, rock ’n’ roll.” A lotta songs about Satan,” Cunningham muses. “Satan and drivin’ fast,” amends Soper. “A lotta songs about drivin’ fast.” Los Injectors started out several years back as a rockabilly band but their songs became progressively more punk and metal-influenced, to the point where they may have stumbled into their own private genre: metalbilly. “It doesn’t matter that I play the upright (bass),” says Cunningham. “We’re basically just an aggressive power trio.”
Punchy, ’90s-style guitar-pop band The Complaint Line (Saturday, 6 p.m.) first came together in 2012 and solidified their current lineup about a year ago and have just released “Stick Ninja,” the band’s first full-length recording. “The album is 10 tracks of our high-energy, hooky stuff,” says guitarist /vocalist John Phillips. “Stick Ninja” displays the eclectic nature of their influences while maintaining continuity, according to Phillips. As for what to expect from their Downhome set: “We like to have fun in any environment so certainly that’s what we want to bring to the stage – a lot of high-energy and good times.”
Owen Irwin & Tom “Dooley” Woolsey are a multigenerational guitar duo with a knack for drawing the best out of each other. Irwin, the son of Springfield troubadour (and regular IT contributor) Tom Irwin, is in his 20s and is steeped in the sounds of modern rock. Somehow this has proven a natural fit with Woolsey, an old-school rock ’n’ roll purist who has been adding his stinging guitar leads to area rock bands since the mid-1970s. “It’s interesting to see how I’ll write something and he’ll twist it around so it’s more contemporary,” says Woolsey. “Then Owen’ll write something and I’ll accent it with stuff from my roots – which turns it into a totally different monster. That’s been crazy fun!” The two, who have worked with numerous rhythm sections over the past few years, will be leading the straightforwardly named Owen & Dooley Present: Patrick Miller and Keith Voegele on Saturday at 6:30. “It’ll be funner than hell,” attests Woolsey.
Way on the other end of the emotional spectrum, self-described “post-everything” band Our Lady (Saturday, 7:30), one of the major players in the Southtown indie scene, may have started as something fun to do with friends when the members were only teenagers but that all changed after they embarked on their first tour. “It just blossomed,” says singer and guitarist Tim Williams of their cathartic music, which can be alternately delicate and pulverizing, often within the same song. Our Lady put out its first vinyl release two years ago with the label Mind Over Matter Records. “Before, it was about having fun but as we’ve gotten older life has gotten a lot more serious and I definitely feel like our band had followed suit.”
The Luzhin Defense (Saturday, 8 p.m.) takes a retro approach to electronic music, owing more of a debt to somber, driving bands from the late 1970s and early 1980s such as Joy Division and New Order than either the electronic dance music of today or the irony-drenched synth-pop of the ’90s. According to vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Eric Rogers, “I’d been going to punk shows through high school and was really into that sort of thing but electronic music wasn’t really being taken seriously at the time.” The Luzhin Defense had been a solo project for a few years before Eric’s brother Alexis became a member. “I’d been playing guitar in a lot of bands,” recalls Alexis. “I’d give him tips about songwriting and arranging and eventually joined the band.” The Luzhin Defense sound typically contrasts the rigid rhythms of drum machines and sequenced bass lines with the more human, fluid approach of Alexis’s guitar, topping it off with Eric’s post-punk-style vocals on top. Eric will be performing solo as the Luzhin Defense for his Downhome set.
Springfield punk stalwarts The Timmys (Saturday, 9 p.m.), known for their relentless breakneck punk sound and whacked-out energy, are still breaking in a new bass player after the recent departure of multi-instrumentalist and recording engineer Brandon Carnes, who needed more time to run his Southtown recording studio as well as drum for Looming, which recently signed a significant record deal (see IT’s story on Looming http://illinoistimes.com/article-permalink-15737.html). According to vocalist Robbie Kording, the Timmys are moving toward being more of a touring band and less of a weekend band. “Lately we’ve been doing mostly weekend warrior stuff, which is harder than to be a touring band – because it takes up all your weekends, adding that if they find good shows on the weekends, they won’t be turning up their nose. “Downhome’s definitely the biggest local show of the year, just by virtue of being a festival,” says guitarist Tyler Orton. “Playing earlier is also very great. Usually we’re playing in bars where we don’t start until way later.” The Timmys will be playing tracks from their latest release “Dude, Girl,” available on vinyl and digital download. “Come have fun, drink beer, dance the night away,” advises Orton.
When a band has playing shows in the same town for more than 30 years, how can they keep it fresh? NIL8 (Saturday, 11 p.m.) faces this problem but indefatigable front man Jeff Williams has a few ideas, although he admits they could blow up in the band’s collective face. “Just to kind of shake things up a little bit I put a Facebook message up a few months back saying if anyone wants to write their own lyrics to one of our better-known songs, they could come onstage and sing them during our set.” Williams says a lot of people showed interest at the time of the announcement but little was forthcoming. “I haven’t had any lyrics sent to me at all,” he admits. Instead, the band has modified the offer to audience members who can prove they at least know the songs’ original lyrics. “I understand that it’s gonna be a trainwreck and people are gonna be like, come on, just get on with it,” he says. Aside from writing a concept album with the intriguing title of “Twyla,Why’d You Take My Oops Baby, You Know That Child’s Half Mine,” NIL8 plans to bring some lesser-known songs to the stage at Downhome. The band has also recently reprinted a popular shirt from the 1990s, featuring the Nike “swoosh” and the words “hate crime, race crime, sex crime, cop crime: just end it” in a dark, Los Angeles riots-era parody of the sneaker brand’s “just do it” ad campaign. “I was actually imagining this shirt would become less relevant as time passed by instead of becoming more relevant over the past 20 years,” says Williams.
Downhome Fest is at the corner of Seventh St. and Washington on Friday evening and all day Saturday. Hear for yourself!
7th Street Stage
5 p.m. - Square of the Roots
6:30 p.m. - Blue G’s
8:30 p.m. - Murder of Crowes
10:30 p.m. - Bottle Rockets
Washington Street Stage
5:45 p.m. - Boon
7:30 p.m. - Micah Walk
9:30 p.m. - The Station
5:45 p.m. - Loud Clouds
7:30 p.m. - Ted Keylon’s Electric Gilly-Hinsu Maracas
9:30 p.m. - Blue Ribbon Revival
Brewhaus After Party
12 a.m. - Jukebox Casanova
7th Street Stage
2 p.m. – Epsom
3:30 p.m. - River Ramblers
5 p.m. - Wolf Crick Boys
6:30 p.m. – Owen & Dooley Present: Keith Voegele and Patrick Miller
8 p.m. - Love Hogs
9:30 p.m. - Josh Catalano & the Dirty Thoughts
11 p.m. - NIL8
Washington Street Stage
3 p.m. - Dog of Panic
4:30 p.m. - Los Injectors
6:00 p.m. - Fireside Relics
7:30 p.m. – Daymares
9 p.m. - The Timmys
10:30 p.m. - Deep Hollow
6:00 p.m. - Ragna Rye
7:30 p.m. - Our Lady
9 p.m. - Brooke Thomas & the Blue Suns
10:30 p.m. - Go!Tsunami
4 p.m. - Patrick Russell
5 p.m. – Ryan Bishop
6 p.m. - Monica Morris & Brooke Thomas
7 p.m. - John Brillhart
5 p.m. - Ted Keylon
6 p.m. - The Complaint Line
7 p.m. - Psycho Fight
8 p.m. - Luzhin Defense
9 p.m. - Governor Street
12 a.m. - Lazer Dudes
Just before press time, Scott Faingold’s band Epsom agreed to step in and replace a band that had to cancel its Downhome set. Send fan mail and/or accusations of nepotism to email@example.com.
Download a free sampler of bands playing the festival here.