You had to be there: A column of sour grapes

 NIL8 at Downhome Festival Saturday night

“Perhaps contrary to accepted wisdom, a lot actually happens in Springfield during any given week. In “You had to be there,” a new recurring feature on the Faingold at Large blog, I will take on the role of reader’s surrogate as I report on musical, theatrical, artistic, or even just spontaneous events that happened in town the previous week. If it sometimes seems like I’m rubbing it in – well, get off the couch next time.”

What better way to prepare as another weekend begins its inevitable descent upon the Springfield area than to look back at the previous weekend? Especially when said previous weekend included some of the most exciting regional musical events in recent memory while the upcoming one is opening weekend for the Illinois State Fair.

There was so much music going on at the Downhome Festival of Music, Beer and Arts last Friday and Saturday, it was literally impossible for any one fan to see every act (in addition to the two tandem outdoor stages, acts were performing simultaneously at both Brewhaus and Celtic Mist). This of course means that any two music fans attending Downhome might have entirely different experiences, based on random factors like timing or personal factors like taste. Your Downhome is not necessarily your neighbor’s Downhome.

An out-of-town family event kept me from attending Friday at all, so my Downhome didn’t get underway until Los Injectors took the stage at 4:30 in the afternoon on Saturday. It had only been a week since their set of early Van Halen songs at Donnie’s for Under The Covers (see last week’s You Had to be There) and it was good to see them back in their psychobilly wheelhouse. Vishnu-like Multi-instrumentalist Damon “Demon” Soper yowled and shredded, bass player Jeff “Jackhammer Washington” Cunningham thumped maniacally and Chris “C-Dub” Warren slammed the skins. The energy was high and the sun was beating down pretty hard. A crazed version of “Ace of Spades” ended an all-too-short set with just the right tone of playful aggression.

Reliable surf-rock wack-jobs Go! Tsunami took the stage next, replete with their customary Mexican wrestling masks. It was the band’s first show with new drummer “Mr. Tentacles” but the band played together like old hands  - if there were waves to be found on 7th Street, many in the crowd would undoubtedly have been hanging ten. To be fair, things did get about as tubular as realistically possible.

I’m sure I missed some great music when I left downtown for a while to eat dinner and let the dog out (he said tactfully). On returning, The Seething Coast’s set at Brewhaus was short and super-sweet, with singer-guitarists Jay and Jason trading off one solid catchy song after another, climaxing with a guest vocal appearance by Jessica from Looming (about whom more below) on a fantastic version of the Moldy Peaches song “Lucky Number Nine.” Not long after, The Strand / Condition 90 reunion took the Downhome main stage, with consummately kinetic drummer Tony and all three frontline Toms (Irwin, Kinney, Woolsey) in rare form. The set was heavy on angry, topical songs like “Apathy Dies At Sunrise” and “White City,” which – for better or worse – seem just as lyrically relevant 30 years later. Long live protest power pop! With the 1980s vibe still hanging in the air, Looming brought things right up to date, with cutting riffs, churning rhythms and alternately soaring and squeaking vocals from the dynamic Jessica Knight. All of this was as a mere aperitif before the main course of NIL8, who warranted and received as close as Springfield can offer to true rock star treatment to close out the night.

Even with all that, I apparently hadn’t had enough music because Sunday found me making a beeline up Route 36 to the Decatur Celebration, without so much as a glance at the weather radar, which might have tipped me off to a torrential downpour that seemed to have surgically targeted the festival grounds. Luckily I was under the craft beer tent when the worst of it hit and things cleared up in time for Salt n Pepa, although the crush of fans made it hard to get a decent sightline on a set that seemed as heavy on audience-baiting as hits. “Push It”? More like “Milk It.”

 Joan Jett

Since joining The Runaways at age 17, Joan Jett has been a rock and roll icon. Now a hugely energetic 56, she makes an exceedingly youthful-seeming elder-statesperson, continuing to combine a slouchy insouciance with a childlike, joyful love of rock and roll (most directly expressed in that one song, what was it called?). Clad in a skintight red leather jumpsuit, Jett’s set at Decatur Celebration delivered all of the hits (even The Runaways’ “Cherry Bomb”!), a few songs from her 2013 CD Unvarnished and ended with her version of Sly & the Family Stone’s “Everyday People.”

Anyway that’s what y’all missed last weekend. I guess you had to be there.

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