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Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014 12:01 am

Happy new music year

Popular comedian Kevin Meaney performs at the Mason City Limits Comedy Club, Jan. 2-3.


Welcome one and all to the beginning of 2015 and our last big blast of 2014. New Year’s Eve has long been a night of celebration and one that nearly always includes live music. This year we have a weekend immediately following the holiday, which should allow for more merry-making. If you’re up to the task, here are some suggestions.

For New Year’s Eve celebrations, capital city citizens have to start with First Night Springfield. Hosted by the Springfield Area Arts Council every year since 1976, we are the first and longest running First Night event in Illinois. There are too many performers to mention here, so check it out online by Googling First Night Springfield or go straight to the SAAC’s website at Happenings begin with children’s shows from 1 to 4 p.m. at Springfield High School, then Mark Gifford continues a long-standing tradition by playing the famed Barton organ at 4:15 p.m.

This year at the Hoogland, the arts council hosts a buffet dinner (from 5 to 7 p.m.) for $30 (reservations required) that includes your First Night wristband and music by the Illinois Symphony Orchestra String Trio. Then from 6 to 11:15 p.m. “the city becomes a stage,” as the web site states, “with over 30 performances taking place on eight stages in downtown Springfield.” Ain’t it glorious! At 7:45 the indoor entertainment stops, then begins again at 8:30 with the annual fireworks display over at Fourth and Capitol starting at 8 p.m. The Pinnacle Club at the top of Hilton is a fun place to watch the skies explode. Other popular viewing spots include the tops of parking ramps and just about anywhere with a good view of the sky above downtown. So get your First Night on and see you there.

Not entirely as necessary or ubiquitous as it used to be, many bars still celebrate the New Year with live music. For a long time, musicians counted NYE as the biggest payday of the year and venues went along with the notion. Times have changed somewhat, but a glance through the Pub Crawl shows a definite increase in listings for the celebratory evening. It warms my heart to see clubs that don’t normally have live music decide that booking a band may help increase business and therefore hire the music players. It’s really great to see folks so appreciative of live music and the goodness it delivers, as it has for ages.

Speaking of live music, how about some live comedy to start off the New Year? Our buddy Chris Speyrer from the Mason City Limits Comedy Club booked the majorly famous Kevin Meaney on Jan. 2 and 3. You may not know this, but Chris, an accomplished comedian as well, lives next door to Dr. Gonzo, who once upon a time was a touring, nationally famous, hard-working comedian. Chris owns and the good Dr. helps support the comedy club “in the middle of everywhere” using showbiz connections and know-how to bring in touring comedians. That includes guys like Meaney, who has a list of industry accomplishments that reach from here to Mason City and maybe all the way to Pekin. It may behoove you to make the trip and start off the year laughing.

Many thanks to all you Illinois Times readers who take the time to read my column. I never ever dreamed this would be a part of my career, but here I am working on my fifteenth year. I’m grateful and appreciative to be able to deliver weekly support of the local music scene and add what I can to our happenings here.

Happy New Year to all.

Contact Tom Irwin at


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