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Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014 12:01 am

A cool event and more

Chicago Farmer plays Frost Fest at Donnie’s Homespun, Sat., Jan. 11.


With the great freeze out of 2014 soon becoming a mushy thaw of a memory, it’s time to put the unfortunate show cancellations behind us and move on in earnest with live music in the new year. This week includes a cool, new, indoor, local festival to warm the soul, plus hot blues news of bands on the move.

This Friday and Saturday, Donnie’s Homespun breaks in the new year with a two-day festival, using three stages at staggered times in different rooms. The inaugural Frost Fest (great timing on the title jibing with recent subzero weather) is not only the first festival of 2014, but features some new spaces in the Vinegar Hill mall for the first time. Long a neat place that never quite seemed to reach the vision and potential planned or expected, Donnie’s continues to expand into the big building and take the vast area in new directions and greater heights.

Along with performers located on the Donnie’s Homespun official stage in the main room, Julia’s Kitchen and Lounge, a new, fine dining area set to “share an elegant, one of a kind dinner, along with your favorite spirits,” per the establishment’s web page, becomes a venue for acoustic music, with the third performance area billed as “the Silver Stage” in the Vinegar Hill Banquet Hall. Admission includes access to all three stages for $10 per day or $17 for both. Minors 18 and over are welcome if accompanied by a parent or guardian. The kitchen stays open until 10 each night to feed famished Frost Fest fans.

With over 30 different acts at various times, check Donnie’s Homespun main website and also the Facebook event page created for Frost Fest for complete names and times. Artists like MonDope, Loud Clouds, Chicago Farmer, Josh Catalano and the Dirty Thoughts, Lorin Devine, Micah Walk and Liz, Dave Littrell, Juke House, Blue Gs, Blue Suns and Brooke Thomas, Lowder, Sunshine Daydream, Murder of Crowes and many others familiar to local music fans, play mostly single sets, overlapping throughout the festival on the three stages in the different rooms. Indika, an award-winning, reggae-based, Caribbean-music style band from Chicago plays on Saturday, plus some other exciting and new-to-town artists. All in all, a very cool event that comes just in time at the end of a very cold week.

In blues news, last week’s Blue Monday was the first official cancellation most local, longtime blues fans can recall of the long running Illinois Central Blues Club event. Just in time to curb blues cravings, 7 p.m. Thursday marks the debut of a biweekly show called James Armstrong Presents, hosted by the world-renowned Mr. Armstrong at Casey’s Pub in the Knights of Columbus Hall on Meadowbrook near Iles. James intends on using local musicians as a backing band and participating players for the steady gig. Then, when he’s out on tour, he will “present” area groups to keep the blues flowing.

Springfield’s own Back Pack Jones, a 10-piece blues band formed in 2012, got the nod to represent the Champaign-based Prairie Roads Blues Society at the 2014 International Blues Challenge in Memphis. Semifinalists during last year’s IBC, BPJ plays a fundraiser/send-off show hosted by the blues society on Sat., Jan. 11 at Memphis on Main in downtown Champaign. Proceeds help defer costs of the trip to Memphis. Our Springfield representatives of the ICBC, Brooke Thomas and the Blue Suns (band) and Monica Morris with Josie Lowder (solo/duo) get their fundraiser/send-off by our blues club on Jan. 19 at Boondocks. Back Pack Jones will join in that fun, too.

Be cool this week, but stay warm while doing it!

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com.


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