It’s back. The Illinois State Fair comes to town for ten days of entertainment, excitement, exasperation, excrement (sorry, but the livestock, you know) and all around endeavors of intrepid Illinoisans everywhere.
For many of us Springfield-area natives the fair is a lifelong companion, like some far-off family member that comes to visit once a year. I remember going as a kid and climbing on the big tractors, going through the livestock barns and collecting all the free stuff we could in the Exposition Building. As a teenager, it was pushing the envelope on late night excursions, staying until the midnight hours of fair closing time, if possible. Then, in the 80s, thanks to the party governor Jim Thompson, came the resurgence of the beer tents and those annual visits from the great Willie Nelson. Later I took my own kids to the fair, visiting many of the same exhibits and experiencing the fair experience all over again in a brand new way. That makes the Illinois State Fair a piece and product of my life, and for many other longtime members of the community.
Now it’s off to the big event: taking in the music performances, which are plentiful on the grounds. From the diverse, interesting Ethnic Village choices to the high-energy sets from popular, local cover bands in the beer tents to the Grandstand concerts of national, big-name touring acts and various stages around the grounds, live music is a cornerstone of the fair’s attractions. With so many scheduled performances there’s no way I could cover them all, so my advice is to check the fair website and get to looking for what you like and make plans to go see it. Then there’s the old trick of just wandering around to see what you can see and be happy with what you saw. Either way it’s fair and fun and fun at the fair.
In other happenings in town, away from the fair festivities, remember that bars can stay open until 3 a.m., and some take advantage of that with late-night music shows. But overall the scene remains the same, with some venues gaining business from the added population during fair time and others feeling the hurt of the extra competition.
Looming, Springfield’s most up-and-coming band and recent Illinois Times cover story group, holds an album release party (a real vinyl LP, folks) at Black Sheep Cafe on Friday. Joining the recently signed band at the show are Park (formerly one of the biggest indie bands to come out of the capital city doing their first show in two years), Choir Vandals from St. Louis and Hidden Hospitals from Chicago. Looming’s new album, Nailbiter, was picked up by No Sleep Records, a prominent, independent label based in Huntington Beach, Calif., and is a huge deal for the creative, hardworking, hometown band. Good luck to Looming as they set the stage to make a splash on the national scene.
On Sunday night at the Brewhaus I’m joined by folk-Americana singer-songwriter Melanie Devaney for a night of song. She lives near Dubuque, Iowa, after six years in Los Angeles, and released her third album Single Subject Notebook (produced by Jamie Candiloro of Ryan Adams and Micah Walk production fame) in 2014.
Here’s a heads up for a cool Kickstarter project by Springfield resident Timothy Donavan Russell to make a “rockumentary” of the local rock band from years back, Starry Eye. His project ends on August 29th, so go to the Kickstarter website and look up Starry Eye (not Starry Eyes) and pledge soon.
Now it’s time to say, “fair thee well,” for it’s the best pun I can do.
Contact Tom Irwin at email@example.com.