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Thursday, April 29, 2010 02:30 pm

The Haymarket Festival, weighty and fun

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Performances at the Haymarket Festival include Sarah Schneider Band, Kerwin

What with all the wonderful weather how could anyone concentrate on entertainment and the like? The time has come for heading outdoors to hear live music.

The first official outdoor music event (correct me if I’m wrong, and surely someone will) must be the Haymarket Festival at Douglas Park in the band shell on Saturday, May 1, 1 to 9 p.m. Subtitled as, “A Day of Reflection and Activism” this festival is not only the first of the season, but likely the last to incorporate a weighty message along with the fun of live music. Originated by some local civic and historically minded citizen-activists, the event commemorates the Haymarket Square tragedy in Chicago on May 4, 1886.

To refresh your memory of the occasion, during national worker strikes to highly encourage industrialists and capitalists to allow eight-hour workdays and increase worker safety, tensions ran high between the labor unions who organized for better working conditions and the police who worked for business wanting things to remain the same. At the end of a peaceful, though rowdy, mass meeting at the Chicago Haymarket Square, some person still anonymous to this day, tossed a pipe bomb into the police force as they attempted to break up the lawful gathering. The armed protectors of the peace opened fire on the protesters, killing and injuring several, while the guilty bomb also killed and injured police officers. The resulting national and local furor included the trials and subsequent hangings of innocent leaders of the worker’s movement, the denial of an eight-hour day for most working Americans until the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938 and basically many more years of horrible conditions for workers, sanctioned by the U.S. government and its business cohorts. It’s something to ponder at the second annual Haymarket Festival featuring live bands, Honest Abe’s open mic, speakers, art exhibits and other exciting stuff as you attend on your day off work after a normal 40-hour week.

Next up in the park band shell comes Girlfest 2, Saturday, May 8, starting at 2 p.m. Organized by Springfield sound guy Ric Major and featuring live local bands with women in them, the concept is a bit of a radical idea itself come to think of it. Hurrah for the women of music!

At this time we should bow our heads in shame and remorse at the thought of losing the Springfield Municipal Band concerts hosted at the Douglas Park band shell for decades until last year. The arts really are essential to our communal well-being and only our voice as a concerned and consolidated public can provide the necessary persuasion to convince officials of the need. Okay, you go ahead and get it done.

In other non-controversial happenings, the Curve Inn supports an open-air music policy by hosting the area’s best bands every Friday from 6 to 10 in the beer garden. This week see Sleepwalker, then go for the Groove Daddies, Caprice and Courtney, Still Kick’n, and Screamin’ Vatos for the May lineup. Wow, now that’s fun with no one complaining about workweeks, budget cuts, smoking bans or any of that yucky stuff.

Downtown, Andiamo! began hosting a 5 to 7 music evening on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays about a month ago. The neat and cool event features acoustic musicians playing inside with music piped outside onto the sidewalk area in front of the coffee shop/restaurant/full bar. Recent musicians performing included Bill E.S., Ken Carlyle, Doug Gholson, Marc Broomby, Billy Galt and John McDermott, with yours truly on for tonight, April 29, Joe Frew on Friday and more in the weeks to come.

See you outside somewhere listening to music.

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com