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Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017 12:03 am

Music is in season

The John Brillhart Memorial Jam happens at the Craft Beer Bar on Friday, Dec. 8, from 7pm to midnight. JB is pictured here with the Downhomies.


Now that the weather outside is slowly approaching normal but nowhere near “frightening,” perhaps our holiday season may feel more Midwest than Southwest. Either way it goes (hot, cold, polar or solar), we have good live music happenings going on.

On Friday at Craft Beer Bar, the friends, fans and family of John Brillhart gather to celebrate his life in song and music. Starting at 7 with Jay and Kimberly Larson, then moving on to Deep Lunar Blue, Tom Beverly and Square of the Roots, the night closes with the Downhomies, the musicians that most recently backed John.

There will be tributes in words and songs, with everyone trying to cover something from John’s sizeable catalog of original tunes. Plans are in the works for a collection of his music coming out next year culled from his way-too-small recorded output, including live tapings and his Gutterwater CD. Also, I hear talk about musicians recording his songs for a tribute CD that he richly deserves. Long live John Brillhart!

Backtracking to Thursday brings us to the bi-weekly blues event at the Alamo known as James Armstrong Presents. The early-evening start time of 6 is the fulfillment of a longtime wish of many local music fans, plus the Alamo kitchen is open as well. Every Thursday is good, and this week gives us the Kilborn Alley Blues Band from Champaign, well known as a quality blues band in a league of their own. Originals, classics, surprises and more, all accompanied by top shelf performances, put KABB as one of the best in the Midwest and beyond.

On Friday, from 5:30 to 7:30, take in an early evening at Robbie’s for the Springfield Area Arts Council-sponsored Uptown Friday Night. Check out Ocean State, as Mark Russillo sings and plays several harmonicas (not all at once) joined by most-excellent musicians Sam Crain, Ben Taylor and Jaro Howse doing Brazilian and Bossa Nova songs plus blues and jazz standards. Then on Sunday they ride the wave (yes, Mark sings and plays “The Wave,” my favorite Jobim number) of the Ocean State over to Clay’s Popeye’s BBQ on South Grand, just east of Eleventh Street, from 1 to 4 in the afternoon. This event (look it up on Facebook) is a fundraiser for the Garvey-Tubman Education Center, and the $12 to get you in gets you the cool music plus some of the best food in town, all while helping out a good cause. While you’re there, take a moment to pop into Dumb Records (it’s nearly next door) and check out the expanded selection of used LPs (and new ones, too) available at the little record store that could (and does).

On an unsuspecting Saturday night, Mark Mills brings his rockabilly group The Meerkat Mobsters, with drummer Ray Biagioni from Oglesby and stand-up bassist Rick Topolski from Streator, to town for a show at Guitars & Cadillacs on Peoria Road to support Toys for Tots. Mark released an excellent solo album not so long ago, but before that, this blistering rock ‘n’ roll band from northern Illinois left scorched earth dance floors wherever they went. Now they’re back in the saddle with the pedal to the metal to help out this first-ever event hosted by Smurf and Doc. Things start happening at 3 with the music kicking in around 6. Bring an unwrapped new toy and make some kid’s Christmas a better one.

Mark your calendars for The Deep Hollow’s Holiday Show next Thursday, Dec. 14 at Arlington’s, and check out their new single, “Santa Don’t Leave,” available on Bandcamp, with more details coming next week.
See you downtown for the Wednesday evening holiday walks.

Tom Irwin can be reached at

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