The Fourth of July holiday is starting to feel a bit like Christmas to suburban music fans.
Live music has become a key component of local summer festivals, many of which are happening this week. Yes, the usual cover bands and tribute acts will perform, but so will big-time national recording stars and acclaimed bands from the indie-rock scene.
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Need some examples? Iconic hard-rock guitarist Slash will take the stage in Naperville. Grammy-nominated country duo Thompson Square will perform in Hoffman Estates. And veteran indie rockers Local H are on the bill in Lombard.
"This will be a great week for people who like music," said Jackie West, president of the Lombard Jaycees, the group behind the annual Taste of Lombard festival. "I know we're doing more with live music this year than we have in the past. It seems to be a great draw."
Booking stellar acts for a festival can be a challenge, said Ray Kinney, entertainment chairman for Naperville's Ribfest, which has become known for its high-profile artists. This year's lineup includes Slash, Styx, Rick Springfield and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
The Naperville Exchange Club, which organizes Ribfest, works on its lineups with noted Chicago music producer/promoter Jam Productions. "We both put a lot of effort into the music because people love these concerts," Kinney said. "Presenting great live music is one of the core tenets of what we do."
Bill Peery -- entertainment coordinator for another well-known festival, Frontier Days in Arlington Heights -- said name recognition helps when it comes to booking bands.
"This is the festival's 38th year, and we've shown that we know what we're doing," he said. "Plus, we don't charge anything for our concerts, which helps us stand out."
Here, then, is a rundown of some of the bigger acts performing at suburban festivals this week. For a complete list, consult the appropriate festival websites.
Slash, featuring Myles Kennedy & the Conspirators: Slash gained fame as the lead guitarist in the wildly successful hard-rock band Guns N' Roses, which took the world by storm in the late 1980s. His distinctive riffs on songs like "Sweet Child O' Mine" have become iconic. After leaving Guns N' Roses, Slash joined alt-rock group Velvet Revolver, and he is now touring behind a recent solo album he recorded with Myles Kennedy, "Apocalyptic Love." (8 p.m. Friday, July 5, at Ribfest, located in Knoch Park in Naperville. Free with $15 admission to fest. See ribfest.net.)
Thompson Square: Married couple Keifer and Shawna Thompson have won awards and legions of fans with their sparkling harmonies and intimate country songs. Here's a chance to see one of country's rising stars. (7:30 p.m. Friday, July 5, at Northwest Fourth Fest, located outside the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates. $10. See northwestfourthfest.com.)
Chicago 6: OK, so maybe the members of this band aren't known for their music, but suburbanites are sure to recognize them. Chicago 6 includes Dan Hampton, Steve McMichael and Otis Wilson, all of whom played on the vaunted defense of the 1985 Chicago Bears. Will they play "The Super Bowl Shuffle"? (5:30 p.m. Saturday, July 6, at the Eyes to the Skies Festival, located in Community Park in Lisle. Free with $5 admission to fest. See eyestotheskies.org.)
Rick Springfield: If you were under 30 in the 1980s, chances are you loved a Rick Springfield song. The soap-opera-heartthrob-turned-pop-star churned out a slew of hits in that decade, including "Jessie's Girl" and "Don't Talk to Strangers." Prepare for lots of screaming. (8:30 p.m. Saturday, July 6, at Naperville's Ribfest. Free with $15 admission to fest. See ribfest.net.)
Local H: Indie rock doesn't always have much representation at suburban festivals, but this acclaimed duo from Zion will headline this year's Taste of Lombard. Local H specializes in raw, stripped-down guitar rock with uniquely thoughtful and witty lyrics. The band's most recent album, "Hallelujah! I'm a Bum," came out last year to positive reviews. (9 p.m. Saturday, July 6, at Taste of Lombard, located near the intersection of Madison Street and Lewis Avenue. Free with $3 admission to fest. See tasteoflombard.com.)
Bret Michaels: Michaels, the bandana-wearing frontman of popular 1980s hair-metal band Poison, launched his career's successful second act a few years back as both a solo performer and a reality-television star. (8 p.m. Saturday, July 6, at Frontier Days, located at Recreation Park in Arlington Heights. Free. See frontierdays.org.)