click to enlarge Amy Benton performs at Fire and Ale in Sherman on Friday.
Amy Benton performs at Fire and Ale in Sherman on Friday.
Amy Benton performs at Fire and Ale in Sherman on Friday.
A week ago, I was in sunny central Florida (it actually was 55 and raining most of the time) playing a few shows with friends. I’m glad to be back and I’d like to thank Ken Carlyle, Patrick Hagerman, Josh Reilly and Brian Reilly for all the help in setting up shows and all that good stuff. We had a blast playing here and there, but the most interesting part of the trip was the continuing Springfield, Ill. (yes, you know the one) references that popped up.

Granted I was meeting up with folks formerly of our fair city, but besides that, I met people at the shows who were from here, knew people from here and obviously knew about some guy named Abraham Lincoln. It’s always amazing to me how the long arm of Springfield reaches way out there and taps you on the shoulder no matter where you go.

Some colorful characters, not related to Springfield, that I met and chatted with included a wonderful assortment of human beings. A woman from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, just out having the time of her life line dancing, let it be known she was here on earth for only a few more months but she was making the best of it all before the cancer overtook her. Another lively fella was Johnny Bondz, a 71-year-old musician from upstate New York who owned a music store near The Villages. Johnny pulled out photos from the 50s when he played pedal steel in a cowboy band, landed a five-day-a-week music slot on local TV and toured for the next 25 years making a living playing music. There were the two courageous, pre-teenage girls making their very first flight ever, the concrete worker from Decatur who couldn’t stand “no more snow” so off he and the wife went to Florida, the dreadlocked drum circle leader on Siesta Beach, plus the many fast and fleeting friends we made while delayed for 15 hours on our return flight.

Back here, this week has some lovely Valentine’s Day events, including Friday (actual holiday) and Saturday, when many couples will celebrate the love fest promotion. Bar None steps into the ring with an Anti-Valentine’s Day Dance featuring DJ Flipside. Those always romantic, solo/duo acoustic shows crop up aplenty on Friday with Dan Hubbard at Norb Andy’s, Amy Benton at Fire and Ale (Sherman), yours truly with Theresa O’Hare at Craft Beer, Kyle Valtille at Walnut Street Winery, Luke Turasky and Mike Burnett at Curve Inn and The Kitchens at Pier 55. Jazzy-sided music has the Sam Crain Trio at Robbie’s and Lady Carole and Her Knights at Scandals. Rock out with KFD at the Blue Grouch, Groove Daddies at Longbridge, Fabulous Hoedads at the 49er, Off the Wall at Quaker Steak and Lube, Powerhouse at the Trading Post and the Fundamentals at Lime Street. After Valentine’s Day is over, here’s a gentle reminder of Thornhill at the Walnut Street Winery on Saturday, as just a plain old, personal favorite group of mine that I can never hear enough of or from.

A heads-up for all you fans of Sally Barris out there in central Illinois. It’s been quite some time since the lovely and talented Sally came to sing us some songs. She’ll be at the Paris-Belle House concerts on Feb. 22. Ben Bedford is scheduled for March 22 and Danny Schmidt on April 21 and 22. Contact the Williamsville-based concert series at for more information.

Oh, by the way, it’s 82 and sunny in Tampa. Too bad, they’ll never know what they’re missing down there with all that sunshine and warm weather all the time. Lucky us.

Contact Tom Irwin at

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