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Thursday, May 26, 2011 12:30 am

Cures for the summertime blues

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Elizabeth Cook performs at the 2011 American Music Show, downtown Springfield on July 9

Here we go again into the summer months with a load of good live music going on out of doors and hopefully some inside when the heat and humidity rises to usual unbearable levels and thunderstorms and precipitation contribute to the cause.

All the festivals and fairs have their charms, but I still prefer the outdoor bar gigs as a favorite summer delight. Café Andiamo continues with an early evening acoustic show every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 5 to 7, and if you’ve yet to go, man oh, man, you’re missing out on a good thing. Every Friday from 6 to 10 the Curve Inn on South Sixth hosts bands in the beer garden. Watch for Saturday night happenings as well, with this week featuring a revamped and reworked Screaming Vatos in the evening slot until 10. The local stalwart group known for Santana and War covers recently added new members and new songs. That’s all you get for now. Solving the mystery of who and what must come through your participation in attending a Screaming Vatos performance.

Another warm weather function of an appealing nature, the Artist on the Plaza music series, has survived for many years with noontime shows on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the summer by a wide variety of local music performers on the south side of the Old Capitol Plaza. Through budget cuts, inclement weather, scorching heat, plaza construction, electricity issues, vendors on, vendors off, wandering tourists, street people, business folks, past, present and future state workers and who knows what else, the venerable venture remains. Thanks to Penny and the Springfield Area Arts Council for the hard work and persistence needed to keep this valuable community offering alive. Downtown Springfield, Inc., sponsors First Friday, a once-a-month happening with live entertainment and open stores downtown, plus features live music at the Adams Street Farmers Market on third Saturdays through October.

Every area town celebrates with a festival of some sort it seems. Most have carnivals, vendors and hometown food delights with a shot of live music in there somewhere. There’s the Chatham Sweet Corn Festival, Chatham, Divernon and Sherman Homecomings, Chandlerville, Franklin and Arenzville Burgoos, Ashland Summer Days, Mount Pulaski’s Founders Days, Irish Days in Farmersville and the list goes on and on. Along with the town festivals, don’t forget the county fairs featuring beer tent bands and grandstand lineups with assorted music acts in between. You know you’re at a county fair when the roar of the tractor pull drowns out the beer tent band, creating one of those special central Illinois moments.    

The next level of outdoor entertainment with bands must surely include downtown Springfield’s SOHO Fest the first weekend of June and the American Music Show the second weekend of July. SOHO features local bands doing original music and continues as a popular destination for homegrown music fans. The AMS usually books some original local bands and several roots music groups of national stature, with Elizabeth Cook as 2011’s headliner. In August the Blues and BBQs Festival hosts blues great Jimmy Vaughn in the other big deal downtown. The Decatur Celebration always has something for everyone in the first week of August, then comes the Illinois State Fair with another lackluster grandstand lineup (just one man’s opinion) and average local cover bands in the beer tents.

Of course this column only contains personal suggestions and due to the constraints of time and space (isn’t someone working on that problem?) could not possibly entertain the thought of covering all the wondrous events transpiring this summer under the fair skies of our lovely land.

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com.

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