Yup, it's official - summer's ending with this issue. Festivals are wrapping up just as the clubs begin bringing the first wave of fall tours. There's a healthy dose of retro country influence in this month's selections - here's some of the more interesting shows.
Big Bull Falls Blues Festival: Fern Island Park, Wausau, August 14-15: The folks in Wausau continue their tradition of top festival acts - mixing hard rockin' blues (Tommy Castro and the Fabulous T-Birds) with classic Chicago shuffles (Westside Andy/ Mel Ford Band) and swing (The Senders & the Swingin' Kools). With one stage, there's plenty of time in between sets to relax with a glass of Leinie's.
Jason & the Scorchers, Club Tavern, Madison, August 19: Hailing from Downstate Illinois, these countrified roadhouse rockers have a long history of great shows (and, unfortunately, mediocre success). One of these days, they'll either break through or break up - don't wait to find out which.
Rod Piazza & the Mighty Flyers with Willie Kent & the Gents, Buddy Guy's Legends, Chicago, August 28: Granted, you could pick almost any day of the month and find a reason to write up the Legend's schedule. But here's a great treat: two of the blues world's best veteran ensembles, each at the top of their genre (Piazza's West Coast jump harmonica; Kent's rock-solid traditional Chicago School.) If you want to give someone a blues debut, you can't do better than this package.
Swingin' Kools; Dinero's, Milwaukee, August 29: As the Kools' new CD breaks them into other markets, their home market finally gets a venue capable of bringing in the audience and giving them enough dance space!
Kim Lenz & Her Jaguars, Shank Hall, Milwaukee, August 29; Automatic Slim's, Neenah, August 30: Dallas' fiesty rockabilly filly gave deference to pioneer Gene Vincent on her new Hightone album cover, striking the same pose as Gene and his Blue Caps did on their debut platter. It only seems fitting - Vincent layed down some of his best tracks in the Big ``D" four decades ago.
Orton Park Festival, Madison, August 29-30: Every month in summer, the American media's darling city has one great free outdoor festival. This month, it's in Orton Park, just a mile northeast of the Capitol. Hometown mainstays in all genres make either day worthwhile, but Sunday's blast of Harmonious Wail, the Groove Dogs with Ben & Leo Sidran, and Clyde Stubblefield (all three back from Europe) make it a good day to bring a blanket, a cooler, and a friend (or ten).
Wang Dang Doodle (The Koko Taylor Story), The Black Ensemble Theater, Chicago: Chicago's BET has a history of strong musical performances celebrating black music, so the story of Koko Taylor is only fitting. Do the musical (with Audrey Qween Roy as Taylor), then head to the venerable clubs for the next story-in-the-making.