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Thursday, May 25, 2017 12:10 am

Sounds of summer

There are too many exciting concerts scheduled to hit central Illinois stages in the coming months to fit in this humble space. From big festivals to tiny venues and from classic rock to boot-scootin’ country to snotty punk stalwarts and hip-hop heroes (not to mention at least one apparently immortal jazz crooner) here’s an overview of some of the best music heading for the area in the coming season.

Cody Johnson performs at Boondocks July 7.


The Academy Award-winning Boondocks (Academy of Country Music, but still) keeps up its stellar roster of touring contemporary country acts. Independent Texas-based artist Cody Johnson, whose 2016 self-released album Gotta Be Me reached number two on the Billboard country charts, will perform July 7; Sunny Sweeney will play tracks from her recent Trophy album July 15 and Top 40 hit-makers (“One More Sad Song”) the Randy Rogers Band is scheduled for July 21. (For more Boondocks summer shows, check in at http://boondockspub.com/calendar/ )

Not to be left out of the C&W sweepstakes, the Hoogland Center for the Arts (www.hcfta.org) will present legendary country and gospel artist (and Gatlin brother) Larry Gatlin on June 11 followed by a July 22 production of Hank Williams and My Honky Tonk Heroes starring Jason Petty, promising reverent renditions of classic tunes by the late country music paterfamilias on July 22.

Tony Bennett performs at Sangamon Auditorium June 6.


Sangamon Auditorium
has a few non-country shows booked for June to close out its season, including the unstoppable and iconic jazz and pop singer Tony Bennett on June 6, harmonizing heroines Celtic Woman on June 17 and iconoclastic songwriter A.J. Croce on June 24.

Also this summer, a pair of old-school Springfield acts will each reunite for the first time in decades. Food and Money (1979-1982) and Backwards Day (1988-1994) were two of the earliest and most innovative standard-bearers for punk / new wave / alternative music in Springfield. Both bands will perform – with all original members – during a special concert at Black Sheep Café on July 1.

On the festival front, the long-running, charity-driven SOHO Fest came to an end with founder Eric Welch’s announcement that he was discontinuing the event, but it was almost immediately replaced by the brand new Legacy of Giving (L.O. G.) Music Festival, (“70 bands, five stages, 10 charities”) put together by former SOHO volunteers and slated for June 2 and 3. Artists booked for L.O.G include Black Queen: A Tribute to Queen, The Fireside Relics, Highway J, Wolf Crick Boys, Zach Goriszewski, Sir Cadian Rhythm (from New York, New York), Enamel, Gracia Harrison of NBC’s “The Voice” (Nashville, Tennessee), Alex and the XO’s (Bloomington), and Jessica Knight of Looming. Down Home Fest will return in July 28 and 29 with a lineup featuring Marah, Nil8, Park, Josh Catalano, Micah Walk, the entirety of Looming and much more. Black Sheep Fest will as usual present the cream of the local punk and indie crop on Saturday, Aug. 5, while Dumb Fest (June 9, 10 and 11), also put on by the good folks at Black Sheep Café, focuses almost entirely on touring acts. It will present 50 groups over its three-day span, including bands from California, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi and elsewhere. Visit https://blacksheepspringfield.com for scheduling and lineup details as they develop.

Of course, no list of Springfield summer concerts would feel complete without a shout-out to the Grandstand shows during the Illinois State Fair. This year’s acts – which the state of Illinois will find a way to pay despite the ongoing lack of a budget – include “Slow Ride”-purveying classic rockers Foghat (Aug. 10); singer-songwriter Chase Rice (Aug. 11); the a cappella stylists of Pentatonix (Aug. 12); Grammy award-winning country singer and erstwhile LL Cool J collaborator Brad Paisley (Aug. 13); 1960s British invasion heroes Herman’s Hermits with original vocalist Peter Noone (Aug. 14); a three-hander featuring ’90s nostalgia acts Sublime, Rome and Blues Traveler (Aug. 15); country perennials Alabama (Aug. 16); R&B singer-dancer Jason Derulo with an opening set by up-and-coming Springfield-bred singer Chel (Aug. 17); the shit-kickin’“Southern Uprising Tour” featuring venerable country rockers Montgomery Gentry, Charlie Daniels Band, Marshall Tucker Band and The Outlaws (Aug. 18); head-banging metal heroes Five Finger Death Punch, joined by openers All That Remains and Nonpoint (Aug. 19); and finally, the rough-hewn lyricism of John Mellencamp paired with the ageless tunesmithery of Carlene Carter (Aug. 20).

Elsewhere in the region
The Sangamon County Fair (http://www.sangcofair.com/) in New Berlin enlisted the help of the reliable talent buyers at Boondocks in booking the 15th and final “American Idol” champion Trent Harmon on June 15, once-and future Staind frontman Aaron Lewis on June 16 , and southern-fried rockers The Cadillac 3 on June 17.

Nelly performs at this year’s Decatur Celebration.


This year’s Decatur Celebration is particularly eclectic with rap legend Nelly; ex-Poison vocalist, dating show protagonist and dog-bandana entrepreneur Bret Michaels; and country superstar Travis Tritt (visit http://decaturcelebration.com/ for dates and times). Champaign-Urbana’s most recent addition to the area rock club scene, 51 Main (formerly The Accord) will host shows by singer-songwriter Corey Smith on June 24 and Oregon-based folk-rockers Blind Pilot on Aug 2. Not far down the road, The Castle Theatre in Normal will present shows by eclectic rockers Saint Motel on June 22; hyper-literate, emotionally frenzied former lo-fi weirdos the Mountain Goats on July 9; and California rockers Dawes on July 31 (http://www.thecastletheatre.com/). Finally, the Peoria Civic Center will present certified blues guitar god Joe Bonnamassa on Aug. 25 and central Illinois favorite sons REO Speedwagon on Sept. 15 (www.peoriaciviccenter.com).

Contact Scott Faingold at sfaingold@illinoistimes.com.

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