Fruit of the Amaranth Apple
For the rest of you, the Amaranth Apple Festival is likely the biggest thing going on this weekend. Booked by Sean Burns, who sets up the WUIS Bedrock 66 Live! concert series, Sean’s excellent, if somewhat eclectic, taste in music shines through once again with an exceptional list that tactfully includes local, regional and national acts. DSI (Downtown Springfield, Inc.) is your official host, Isringhausen Imports is the major sponsor of the event, and Springfield poet Vachel Lindsay supplied the inspiration for the name from his mystical, mythical fruit concocted to give our town and the world a fighting chance to be cool and creative.
Friday features Joshua Reilly, a Springfield resident and singer-songwriter now living in Florida. Josh recently recorded his first record, called Mercy on the Strange, down in the Sunshine State. In the release (a long time coming, by the way), he develops his distinctive voice and Americana-roots songwriting into a powerful vehicle for expression and inspiration. Amy Benton, always one of my favorite in-town singers and songwriters, also performs on Friday. Closing out the night are The Whistles and The Bells, a Nashville-based, Americana band fronted by Bryan Simpson, along with Miles Nielsen and The Rusted Hearts from Rockford (yes, his dad is Rick from Cheap Trick) with a good, old Midwest country-rock style that works wonderfully well.
Saturday brings us Bruiser Queen, an award-winning duo from St. Louis; The Starter Jackets, pop-garage rock from here; Captain Ivory, rockers from Detroit; and The Handcuffs from Chicago, featuring good guy Brad Elvis, formerly of the Elvis Brothers, on drums. Matthew Sweet, the headliner Saturday, though not a household name, has developed a consistent and viable career with a renowned live show and good songs that rock. The night closes out with the Cold Stares, a Black Keys-like duo of a guitarist and drummer based in Nashville. The two have played the Brewhaus a couple of times to small crowds and rave reviews, and are much deserving of a late-night, fired-up, Saturday-night street audience.
I almost forgot to mention the food at the AA fest! After the Bacon Throwdown of the last two years, downtown restaurants are back to doing whatever they do best with sample sizes of their signature dishes. Perhaps the Amaranth Apple itself will float down from the sky to embellish and adorn the event with blessings from Vachel, hovering, if not in reality, in spirit. Or as Larry Stevens (he’s the same Larry featured as a groom above), worded it in his classic song “Still Living (in Springfield),” the “highest hopes of Lindsay and Lincoln” as “being realized in the bookstore on Allen” might also be realized in the efforts of all those participating in the event.
On Sunday, Tim Lacy, a well-known area singer who is also a songwriter, hosts the Writer’s Block Party at the Blue Grouch from 6 to 9. This inaugural night will continue as a weekly event open to all songwriters from any level of ability or desire, in any style or genre. The only rule is to keep it all original. Tim will be there with pal and songwriting partner Shane Bumgarner to host and even back you up musically if needed (and with encouragement, too). It looks like another bite from the Amaranth Apple is here to encourage creativity and artistry.
Contact Tom Irwin at firstname.lastname@example.org.