click to enlarge Labor Day Weekend music
Photo by Margaret Stahl
Chris O'Leary and his band play at Third Base this Saturday night.

Well, we made it to Labor Day 2022 and the holiday weekend attached fairly unscathed from the bustling summer music schedule. Now let's move forward with eyes and ears wide open to catch all the bountiful music bursting onto our local scene with verve and gusto, plus some good, old-fashioned fun in the sun.

This week's adventures begin with a trip to Jacksonville, our neighboring city to the south and west, to visit the Prairieland Chautauqua event (au-au-ua is how I remember to spell the striking word correctly). For 2022, new organizer Chad Boehlke is focusing on the history of the original Jacksonville Chautauqua that ran from 1912 to 1930 through adding contemporary ideas that fit into the basic concept of the popular gatherings found all across the nation in the early part of the 20th century. Now held at historic Nichols Park where the earlier chautauquas were presented, this one, like the originals, features a good deal of live music and is free and open to the public, hence our mention in this column.

Friday kicks off with a fine lineup, including the Community Summer Band (5 p.m.), Orpheus Mandolin Orchestra (6 p.m. and yes, mandolin orchestras were very popular in the early 1900s) and finishes with extraordinary Illinois musician, folk singer and labor scholar, Bucky Halker (8 p.m.). Saturday gives us Jacksonville's own Mike "the Dulcimer Guy" Anderson (11:30 a.m.), folk musician and multi-instrumentalist Chris Vallillo presenting his Civil Rights musical program Oh, Freedom! (4 p.m.), old-time and country fiddle music by The Dennis Stroughmatt Trio (6 p.m.) and contemporary folk musician and singer-songwriter Ben Bedford (8 p.m.) closing out the event. These are only the music listings, so be aware of other things going on in and around these exceptional acts, plus food trucks, displays and various other concoctions meant to occupy your time with pleasurable experiences. All hail the return of the Chautauqua.

We surely do like to support original music here, and on Saturday, check out The Lovelorn, Go Tsunami! and Josh Catalano of Wayward Motel (solo show) at the Blue Grouch for a triple threat of songwriting acts. They all have CDs and cool merch for sale, along with digital online streaming too, so please support our mighty melodious creators, plus here's a huge hurrah to the venue itself for hosting homegrown music.

Now for one of the best blues guys you might not have heard of, the fabulous Chris O'Leary slides into Third Base (right next to the Blue Grouch) on Saturday as well. Chris, an acclaimed songwriter, singer, bandleader and harmonica virtuoso, for several years worked directly and toured with Levon Helm, drummer, singer and spirit of The Band, plus spent time on stage with the likes of James Cotton, Dave Edmunds, Albert Lee and Dan Akroyd, to name drop a few other big names he's hung out and played with.

But hey, we appreciate all music-makers, especially area legends like the Groove Daddies grooving at Motorheads Friday night and Rockhouse rocking at KooKoo's 2 on Saturday night. On Sunday, founding Suns of Circumstance guys Mike Burnett and Bob "Cowboy" Berning, along with longtime members Mike McCormick, Rick Mari and Dion Doss, shine on at Danenberger's Family Vineyard, as the Suns rise again, joined by the Rick Mari Band. Also, this weekend is your final chance to experience the locally produced Million Dollar Quartet show at the Hoogland, directed by Stephan Kaplan.

Be sure to look in our music listings for all the other weekend happenings going on around town, especially the added entertainment when Sunday becomes an extra big Funday with Monday being a day off for the Labor Day celebration.

About The Author

Tom Irwin

Tom Irwin, a sixth-generation Sangamon County resident, has played his songs and music for nearly 40 years in the central Illinois area with occasional forays across the country. He's contributed to Illinois Times since 2000 by writing Now Playing, a weekly music column, as well as features stories and other articles...

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  • John Drake

    @ 1st and 3rd Boutique and Wine Bar

    Sat., Oct. 1, 3-6 p.m.