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Wednesday, May 24, 2006 11:42 am

Memorial Day, up north

There’s one part of Springfield where they do the holiday right

Almost Willie
I love the internal party meter of Springfield’s North Enders, and nothing revs it up like the world-famous Springfield Mile motorcycle race at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. During the Mile weekend, bars are full of biker-type people, bands squeeze in as many shows as possible, live music crops up in the unlikeliest of places, and, best of all, because of the Monday holiday, Sunday becomes another Saturday night. Generally the North End is most affected by this city-wide phenomenon, simply because of its proximity to the fairgrounds and racetrack. I was told last weekend that the “Newt” in Newt’s Place is secretly said to stand for “North End White Trash,” but that, of course, is offensive and just plain wrong. I really think the bar is owned by a fellow named Newton or populated by a certain amphibian. For the big Mile weekend Newt’s has booked radio rockers Filthy Johanson on Friday, down-and-dirty rockers Toxic on Saturday, and Almost Willie, with locals Still Kick’n, on Sunday. Yes, Almost Willie is a Willie Nelson imitator with an uncanny physical resemblance to the original redheaded stranger. Ultraviolet leads the “most gigs played by a band on a Mile weekend” contest with three shows, beginning Friday with 5-7 p.m. racetrack performance, continuing 6-10 p.m. Saturday at the Cove, and finishing up 5:30-9:30 p.m. Sunday at Dude’s Saloon (2001 N. 11th, 217-523-2346). The Sleeping Dogzz play 6-11 p.m. Saturday at Dude’s. Buster’s (1120 E. Sangamon, 217-522-0552), a famed North End establishment and the 2005 Illinois Times Best of Springfield winner for neighborhood bar, is conveniently located across from the main gate of the fairgrounds. On Friday night Buster’s hosts something called a Duct Tape Party, on Saturday Late Arrival plays classic rock, and on Sunday Early Warning performs. The Forty-Niner Bye-Bye (518 Bruns Lane, 217-787-4937) is close enough to be included in a North End sweep. The acoustic-funk original music of 56 Hope Road is scheduled for Saturday night, and the Groove Daddies do those tried-but-true retro classics for the official Mile party on Sunday. By Monday morning, you may just be all tuckered out from the weekend blast, but you’ll no doubt by then be extremely proud to be a North Ender.
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