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updated: 7/8/2011 1:15 PM

August to rock out at Batavia festival

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  • Lead singer Ron Porter of Aurora performs with the band August at the Montrose Room in Arlington Heights. The band will take the stage Sunday at Batavia's Windmill City Festival.

      Lead singer Ron Porter of Aurora performs with the band August at the Montrose Room in Arlington Heights. The band will take the stage Sunday at Batavia's Windmill City Festival.
    Courtesy of August

 
 

I grew up listening to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and local bands like the Cryan Shames, the Shadows of Knight and the Ides of March.

While I was traveling the suburbs listening to Chicago bands, a Fox Valley group called August was playing to large crowds in our area. It rocked the suburbs for four years before playing its last concert at the Paramount Theater in 1976.

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Garage bands come and go faster than rapid guitar riffs. Like so many other bands, August had its moment in the spotlight and then bowed out.

Unlike other bands, it decided to return to the musical stage 30 years later.

"I felt it was a bit like the 'Blues Brothers' movie, when they said they were on a mission from God," said bass guitarist Gary Mackey. "That passion for music always stays with you."

A resident of Willowbrook, Mackey grew up in Batavia and was part of the original band, along with Aurora resident Mark Werthman. The two musicians had played with other groups, but really wanted to see if they could bring back the original horn-driven band.

"When Gary called me about getting the band together again," said Werthman, "I realized it was something I missed. I really wanted to do it."

Many of the original group came back and the band began to develop its own sound, taking cues from earlier bands.

The result is a band that has an identity all its own. Just when you think it's rock and roll, they throw in rhythm and blues. You listen to a song that is a all about soul and you could swear you hear a bit of jazz legend John Coltrane.

The reason this band is so good is twofold -- passion and commitment. Its members are a diverse group, coming from all walks of life. Some are retired, some still work as professional musicians and some are music teachers. Then there are the graphic artists, the corporate trainer, the environmental engineer and park district employee.

What do they have in common? They all have a passion for music. They have members who create their charts and they don't back away from a tough chart. They are committed to making good music.

All their hard work has brought them recognition on the Chicago music scene. They are currently working as the house band of WLS-FM 94.7 Chicago.

"August is one of the best bands I've ever heard," said disc jockey Dick Biondi. "If they went to Vegas, they'd own that town in a week."

Since the reorganization, the group has evolved, adding new members in all sections. Batavian Dennis Morgan took on the job of lead guitarist.

"I had played in bands that I would have to describe as smooth rock," Morgan said. "August was unlike any band I had ever played with. I love their sound."

The group has plans to go into the studio to record its second CD. This time the music will be all original.

"Ultimately, I'd like to see August become a national act that remains local," Werthman said.

In addition to the WLS-FM connection, the band has appeared on WGN TV. August is also getting recognition from other groups across the country. In October, August will join San Francisco-based Cold Blood in a show at the Arcada Theater in St. Charles.

"August is comprised of many people," Mackey said. "It keeps changing. It isn't about one person driving the band. It's all about the sound that comes from all the parts coming together."

August will be playing Windmill City Festival Sunday, July 10, on the Main Stage from noon until 1:30 p.m.

When the band takes the stage, It won't just be about the sound. It will be "men of a certain age" living their dream, playing their music and loving every minute of it.

For details on the band, visit www.AugustTheBand.com.

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