Free jazz and rock festivals are coming to Normal this weekend | Go!
NORMAL – Jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and puppies.
That’s what’s happening this weekend at the Connie Link Amphitheater in Normal: two separately produced free festivals, ranging in musical styles from the heaviest rock to the most jaw-dropping jazz riffs.
And, most of the performing musicians are local to central Illinois.
Brandon Cattle with the Branding Irons will rush in with cowpunk jams at 5 p.m. Friday, opening the festival “Look, we’re just trying to do something good, okay?”. They will be followed by a hardcore punk band False negative, Brett Conlin and the Midnight Milesand group of “free jazz” Disorganizer.
Later in this column, you’ll find out what inspires Conlin to write roots rock ‘n’ roll, from growing up in a small town to loud FaceTime conversations over a train ride.
This festival is produced by Waiting Room Records of downtown Normal. Store owner Jared Alcorn said he was approached by the town of Normal about using the space, and Alcorn said, “Let’s do something good.”
And so, they will host four talented groups, all local to the Blo-No area, as well as an animal adoption event with the Humane Society of Central Illinois. Those who do not wish to adopt can provide the shelter with donations and supplies from their wish list.
Alcorn said they have personally obtained many animals from the Humane Society, including their store cat, Murph.
He noted that they had already held an indoor cat adoption event, but an outdoor event would work better for the dogs.
Alcorn expressed its gratitude to the groups, the town of Normal and all of its customers.
Jazz festival further
Catchy tunes will be on Saturday afternoon and evening at the Further jazz festival, organized by a non-profit organization Encore Jazz Inc..
Saxophonist and former Illinois Wesleyan University jazz director Glenn Wilson leads his extra jazz octet that closes the festival at 8 p.m. Saturday. He told me the lineup for the event is an eclectic mix of talented and improvisational jazz musicians, part of the nonprofit’s effort to preserve and promote jazz as an art. creative.
“Everyone on this scene pretty much has a doctorate or master’s degree in jazz, or they’re working on it,” Wilson said. It had six with doctorates and a dozen with master’s degrees.
Their level of musicality is so high that he said they don’t even rehearse.
“We’re all going to show up and play,” Wilson said.
The festival rocks at 4 p.m. Saturday with the Illinois State University Jazz Ensemble. After the big band performed, Wilson said the Crystal Rebone & Thaddee Tukes Threesome take the stageand it becomes much quieter.
He noted that they had a diverse lineup of women-led and black-led jazz bands. Rebone is a bassist who earned her doctorate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and will be joined by Chicago vibraphonist Tukes.
Wilson said Rebone also teaches part-time at Bradley University in Peoria.
The Reginald Lewis Quintet is next at 6 p.m. and will be tuned in 1960s “blue note jazz” style, Wilson said, led by the new IWU jazz director. Lewis will be joined by others on piano, bass and drums, as well as Wilson for a few tracks.
The Carlos Vegas Latin Jazz Ensemble continues at 7 p.m., featuring a Miami-based saxophonist. Wilson said his octet would also play Latin jazz, returning to his days in New York where he played with Tito Puente and Machito.
Wilson said he was also thrilled to have the octet performing songs from Dave Shovelconductor and saxophonist of the 1950s.
“The tracks were all pretty short, the solos were short, and it was very accessible music for people,” he said.
Pell’s arrangements were only released last year, Wilson continued.
“I think people are going to really appreciate that,” he said.
“Do not let go”
Brett Conlin said that when writing music, he was content with whatever ended up on the page. Now he tells me he’s constantly obsessed with syllables and stories.
This obsession was well worth every penny of his time. In Midnight Miles’ latest EP, his songwriting captures the listener like a sunset with the opening track “Sidewalk Saints.”
Then in “Thanks for the Gas Money” he scores his experiences as a punk rock band, something that was a dream for many young guitarists and drummers, myself included. Conlin details the harsh reality of playing a $50 bass guitar at shows where the room is empty in seconds — or where the audience doesn’t take their eyes off their phones.
Moving on, the Midnight Miles launch into “Don’t Let Go” on an uplifting note. He’s not kidding when he sings, “These nights, they’re all unique / Like a song that makes you feel good to be alive.”
Midnight Miles’ current lineup includes Conlin, Ian Sheridan, Chris Whitacre and Gary Nass. BloNo Beats invited Conlin to answer the following questions about his experiences in live music:
What are the most important lessons you’ve learned from writing and releasing new music?
I feel like I’m still learning what I’m capable of as a writer. The biggest part of it was that it will never get better without repetition, intention and inspiration. I used to write things down and settle for what ended up on the page. Now I am constantly obsessed with words, syllables and stories. I learned a lot from the other guys in the band about the importance of production and sound quality to drive a good song. I also learned that you have to shed some of your blood on the page and have the best guys in the band on your side if you want to reach the people who listen…
Releasing your own music has changed so much over the years. I just remember putting our band stuff on tapes and CDs and it sounded so easy. And I wasn’t even good at playing music back then! I think the overall lesson I learned from releasing music is that it’s a ton of work in today’s world; it can be overwhelming. For me, what’s worked is looking at what the biggest artists are doing and modeling that, even if it sounds silly, because they’re doing these huge things and you’re not. Giving people a glimpse of how you feel behind the words and the music is huge to me with any release. You have to put yourself there if you expect people to hang on. You just have to be honest about who you are as a person, and hope people think you’re cool enough to buy your record. I also realized that I am very grateful to release my own music, in my own way.
With your latest EP released, which songs are you most proud of and why?
I feel like the song “Sidewalk Saints” was the first song I wrote for it, and it’s still one of the ones I’m most proud of. I tend to always try to write longer songs with a lot of words, so I was so happy that we got this short song together that sounds like a radio anthem. I never managed to do that! I love “Don’t Let Go”, the last song on the record. We kind of managed to put pop punk, country and those harmonies like the Beach Boys in one song and make it work. The song that I think is my favorite is “Alley Boy Eternal”. I feel like you can feel us all coming together as a group on that one, and it’s about real things and where I grew up with my best friend, so it’s always a very good fun release to sing along to.
Are there specific life experiences that you draw inspiration from? Or is it anything and everything that causes lasting emotion?
It’s kind of a mix. Sometimes I tend to write a lot about how I felt growing up in a small town, screwing things up in life, and struggling to find who I really am now at 35 with a wife and kids. Other times I really like to dig into how I think people are feeling or experiencing something in their lives. I like to write from someone else’s point of view and tell a story, even if it’s mostly fiction triggered from a certain point in time. I wrote a song recently after hearing someone behind me on a train talk about how their life is falling apart. It was actually super annoying because they were on their FaceTime with the volume ringing in my ear, but their story stuck with me and I wrote this heartbreaking piano ballad about it. Even in that, it was impossible not to let parts of my own life spill out.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone who has recently developed their passion for playing and writing music, what would it be?
Don’t get too excited and feel pressured to release something that isn’t ready. I did that a lot when I started. An embarrassing number of times. Stay honest. With yourself. With your audience. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Write something every day, even if it sucks. Write something funny once a week or you’ll take yourself too seriously. Find other people doing the same thing and get their feedback on what you’re working on. Find those friends who make you smile when you’re together on stage and stick with them.
Tell me about the energy your group will bring to Connie Link next week.
So, we have to do something a little different for this one. Our drummer, Ian, has just had back surgery and won’t be able to play. So the rest of us are just going to do a stripped down set. But we’re still super excited to be a part of that. Morgan killed it with the events of Uptown Normal, and Jared in Waiting Room is a great friend. Plus we play with a bunch of local bands which we also love to see while we pet some cute Humane Society dogs. Definitely the most unique show we’ve had to do all summer!
Contact Brendan Denison at (309) 820-3238. Follow Brendan Denison on Twitter: @BrendanDenison