When suburbs compete for acts, music fans win
Not so long ago, suburban festivalgoers were content to sit back on their blankets or lawn chairs and watch a local cover band, a has-been one-hit wonder doing the summer circuit, or even some high schoolers in the town's battle of the bands as their main stage entertainment.
No more. As the suburbs -- and its number of festivals over the Fourth of July holiday -- have grown, so have the expectations for big names, relevant artists and star-quality performances.
"There's always that pressure," said Don Emery, the head of marketing and a former chairman of the Naperville Ribfest. "The funniest part is, some people get upset now if you don't bring in who they want."
The bigger festivals that carry the biggest expectations, like Ribfest and Arlington Heights' Frontier Days, work with professional agencies such as Jam Productions for months in advance to line up bands for their main stages, and shell out tens of thousands of dollars to land top talent.
Bill Peery, entertainment director of Frontier Days, said things have "changed dramatically" since the festival began 35 years ago.
"At one time, we were the only good-sized festival going on in the area," he said. "Now we compete with many suburbs, not just for the big names, but also the audiences."
While that means more work, and often more expense, for festival organizers, it's great news for suburban music fans, who annually are treated to high-caliber performers and familiar acts at rock-bottom prices -- or often no cost at all.
This year's Fourth of July festival lineup is no different, with top 10 hitmakers, pioneering rockers, blues rock royalty and an A-list Hollywood star playing the 'burbs over the next six days.
Here's a rundown on when and where you can catch some of them:
• BoDeans, Thursday, July 3, Naperville Ribfest: The Waukesha, Wis., rockers were chosen as 1987's Best New American Rock Band in a "Rolling Stone" magazine readers poll, but they really hit the big time when their song "Closer to Free" was chosen as the theme song for the TV show "Party of Five" and climbed the singles charts in 1996. The band will bring that and other hits like "She's a Runaway," "Dreams," "Only Love" and "Still the Night" to the Ribfest stage at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday night. Free, with $15 admission to the festival. For more information, see the Ribfest music website.
• Dennis DeYoung, Creedence Clearwater Revisited, Friday, July 4, Festival Park, Elgin: Onetime Styx frontman, and Chicago native, Dennis DeYoung's repertoire includes hits with his former band, like "Lady," "Come Sail Away" and "Babe," as well as from a successful solo career. He'll perform in Elgin as part of the Rock and Roll Jackpot Fourth of July Weekend. DeYoung will highlight a lineup that also features the Chicago Six -- which includes 1985 Chicago Bears Dan Hampton, Steve McMichael, and Otis Wilson -- and Creedence Clearwater Revisited, made up of former members of late '60s/early '70s chart-toppers Creedence Clearwater Revival, sans John Fogarty. The concert begins at 5 p.m. General admission tickets are $5 and the show, naturally, includes fireworks. For more information, see www.grandvictoriacasino.showare.com.
• Smash Mouth, Saturday, July 5, Northwest FourthFest, Hoffman Estates: Hey now, you may remember California party rockers Smash Mouth for late '90s hits like "All Star," "Walkin' on the Sun" and "Then the Morning Comes." Hoffman Estates invested about 70 percent of its FourthFest entertainment budget to land Smash Mouth, so suffice to say the town has big hopes for a big crowd outside the Sears Centre Arena on Saturday night. Smash Mouth is scheduled to hit the main stage at 8:30 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, see www.northwestfourthfest.com.
• The Bacon Brothers, Saturday, July 5, Frontier Days, Arlington Heights: You know Kevin Bacon best as an actor -- and that guy who's six degrees away from everyone else in Hollywood -- but he's also an accomplished musician who's performed alongside his older brother, Michael, since 1995. They'll bring their folky rock to the Frontier Days' Main Stage at 8 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, see www.frontierdays.org.
• Filter, Saturday, July 5, Taste of Lombard: A year after showcasing local indie rock idols Local H, organizers of Taste of Lombard get edgy with industrial rock pioneer Richard Patrick's Filter. Patrick, a former guitarist for Nine Inch Nails, launched the band in 1994 and had immediate success with the debut single "Hey Man Nice Shot." In 1999, "Take a Picture" climbed all the way to No. 12 on the singles charts, and three more recent albums have cracked the Top 10 Hard Rock chart, including last year's "The Sun Comes Out Tonight." Filter is scheduled to perform at 9 p.m. Free, with $3 festival admission. For more, visit www.tasteoflombard.com.
• George Thorogood and The Destroyers, Blue Öyster Cult and Foghat, Sunday, July 6, Naperville Ribfest: A classic rock lover's dream closes out Ribfest, headlined by Thorogood, the blues rock star known for hits like "Bad to the Bone" and "I Drink Alone," along with his renditions of blues classics. '70s rock stars Foghat ("Slow Ride," "Drivin' Wheel") kicks of the show at 4:30 p.m., followed by Blue Öyster Cult ("Don't Fear the Reaper," "Burnin' For You") at 6:30 p.m., leading up to Thorogood at 8:30 p.m. Free, with $15 admission to the festival. For more information, see the Ribfest music website.
• Sugar Ray, Blues Traveler and Uncle Kracker, Sunday, July 6, RiverEdge Park, Aurora: Didn't get enough of the '90s at the Smash Mouth show? Fortunately, there will be plenty more in Aurora when the "Under the Sun" tour stops at RiverEdge Park. Sugar Ray and charismatic frontman/occasional TV host Mark McGrath headline the show, with Top 10 hits like "Fly," "Every Morning" and "Someday" likely on the setlist. Opening are fellow chart-toppers Blues Traveler ("Run Around," "Hook") and former Kid Rock DJ Uncle Kracker, who's solo career has produced top 10 hits like "Follow Me" and "Drift Away." $30 admission. Show starts at 7 p.m. For more details, visit riveredgeaurora.com.
• Survivor, Tuesday, July 8, Elk Grove Village Mid-Summer Classics Concert Series: The holiday weekend may officially be over by this point, but the rockin' continues when Survivor -- they of "Eye of the Tiger" fame -- appears as part of Elk Grove's beefed up midsummer concert lineup. The band, whose other hits include "Burning Heart" and "I Can't Hold Back," will go onstage at 7:30 p.m. on the Elk Grove Village Green, 901 Wellington Ave. Admission is free.