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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Joliet native Alex Hoffer to perform at Hopstring Fest Aug. 23

By Ted Slowik

Joliet-area musican Alex Hoffer and his band will perform on the Hopstring Fest mainstage from 1:05 to 1:40 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 23, in Joliet’s Silver Cross Field.

Tickets for the 12 and a half  hour celebration of live music, food and craft beer are $20/presale, $30 at the door and are available through hopstringfest.com and at Chicago Street Pub, 75 N. Chicago St., Joliet.

For his Hopstring Fest set Hoffer will be joined by band members Tom Maslowski on bass, Doneco Nudi on drums, Giles Corey on guitar and multi-instrumentalist Pat Otto on mandolin and mandola.

Hoffer, 29, was born and raised mostly in Joliet. He started playing guitar when he was “16 or 17,” and has been a full-time musician since 2008. He estimates he’ll perform about 200 shows this year, both solo and with his band.

“I’ve gained more experience performing this year than ever before and doing a lot of things I haven’t done before,” Hoffer says.

He’s also on the verge of releasing his first studio recording, a four-song EP of originals called “Free From Apathy.” The tracks were recorded with band members at Chicago Recording Company this year.

“My writing is changing as I become a better player,” Hoffer says. “The songs have spaces and are structured to allow for different timings and things.”

Hoffer plays acoustic guitar mostly and performs folk/rock music with progressive or “prog rock” overtures. He performs often in the Chicago area but has played throughout the Midwest and across the country.  He recently sang the national anthem at a Cubs game.

At Hopstring Fest, Hoffer says fans can expect a great day of live, local, original music presented by organizer and Chicago Street Pub owners Mike “Triz” and Kathy Trizna.

“Hopstring is a gathering of all kinds of people—people who are passionate about craft beer and great music,” he says. “Triz has been the area’s biggest supporter of people doing their own music. People from all over the Midwest know about Chicago Street Pub.”

Hoffer encourages people to visit his website, alexhoffer.com, to listen to and download his original music.
If You Go
What: Hopstring Fest
When: Saturday, Aug. 23, 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Where: Silver Cross Field, 1 Mayor Art Schultz Drive, Joliet
Who: Local talent and headline bands like Cracker
How much: Tickets are $20 presale/$30 at the door

Thursday, August 14, 2014

John Condron & the Old Gang Orchestra perform Aug. 23 at Hopstring Fest

By Ted Slowik


Veteran Joliet-area performers John Condron & the Old Gang Orchestra will play a set on Hopstring Fest’s mainstage from 5:10 to 5:55 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 23, in Joliet’s Silver Cross Field.

Tickets for the 12 and a half-hour celebration of live music, food and craft beer are $20/presale, $30 at the door and are available through hopstringfest.com and at Chicago Street Pub, 75 N. Chicago St., Joliet.

Condron, 41, will be joined by Old Gang Orchestra members Tom Maslowski on bass, Doneco Nudi on drums and multi-instrumentalist Pat Otto on mandolin and mandola.

Condron has released five albums since moving to Joliet from Philadelphia in 1997: “If Any Or At All,” (2012),  “Eleventh Hour Grace” (2010), “Loud As Silence” (2006), “Down To Dorsey” (2004) and “My Own Device” (2001). The most recent was a solo album, with others released by the band he formerly fronted, John Condron & the benefit.

“If Any Or At All” marked Condron’s debut on the Flipside Works label. Flipside Works is managing Hopstring Fest’s mainstage lineup this year, which is headlined by Cracker. Condron also manages the label’s Midwestern artists, which include Hopstring Fest performer Allison Flood.

Connections abound among Condron and Joliet’s independent, original music community. He’s a former co-owner of Chicago Street Pub with Mike Trizna, who organizes and presents Hopstring Fest.

“Mike and Kathy Trizna are huge fans of music and have done incredible things for the local music scene,” Condron says. “Hopstring Fest is like hearing in one place on one day the 20 best sets of all the bands that come through Chicago Street Pub in a year.”

When he moved to Joliet 17 years ago, Condron was playing rhythm guitar in the New York-based band Poets and Slaves. The band was looking to relocate to the Midwest and took up residency on the floor above the restaurant, then known as Chicago Street Bar & Grill.

“I’m in awe of what Triz and Kathy have accomplished,” Condron says. “We planted seeds together years ago to create a music community but they’re responsible for what it has become.”

Condron started working at the restaurant as a bartender then as manager, and brought Trizna on board. The pair took over operation of the business and eventually ownership on Jan. 1, 2005. Condron sold his share to Kathy Trizna when his son Liam was born in 2009.

Condron also credits disc jockey Mike Tomano for helping establish his name by playing songs from “My Own Device” on WYKT-FM.

These days, Condron continues to perform regularly and is writing new material. He also produces works for other artists, including a debut by Flood being recording at Third City Sound, a studio located above Chicago Street Pub.

Condron also has produced, arranged and performed on a full-length studio recording for multi -latinum Irish singer songwriter Mickey Harte and collaborated with legendary songwriter Paul Brady, for whom he opened a show at Old Town School of Folk Music last year.

He’s toured across the United States, in Ireland and throughout Europe in support of his original material. Visit  www.johncondron.com to learn more.

If You Go
What: Hopstring Fest
When: Saturday, Aug. 23, 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Where: Silver Cross Field, 1 Mayor Art Schultz Drive, Joliet
Who: Local talent and headline bands like Cracker
How much: Tickets are $20 presale/$30 at the door

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Hopstring Fest Aug. 23 features return of Chicago Farmer


By Ted Slowik
Chicago Farmer is among the 10 mainstage acts at this year’s Hopstring Fest and will perform from 3:05 to 3:45 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 23, in Joliet’s Silver Cross Field.

Tickets for the 12-hour celebration of live music, food and craft beer are $20/presale, $30 at the door and are available through hopstringfest.com and at Chicago Street Pub, 75 N. Chicago St., Joliet.

Chicago Farmer is the stage name for Cody Diekhoff, a songwriter and musician who moved to Chicago from a small central Illinois farming community in 2003. He writes, sings and plays mostly acoustic roots Americana music inspired by the likes of Woody Guthrie and John Prine. 

Chicago Farmer has released six albums: “Backenforth, IL” (2013), “Somethin’ Else” (2011), “Gunshots on Tuesday” (2009),  “Talk Of Town” (2007), “From a  Small Town in Illinois” (2006) and “About Time” (2005). 

Growing up in Delavan, IL with a population less than 2,000, Diekhoff’s grandparents were farmers, and their values have always provided the baseline of his songs.

“I love the energy, music, and creativity of Chicago, but at the same time, the roots and hard work of my small town,” he says on his website. 

He writes music for the “kind of people that come to my shows. Whether in Chicago or Delavan, everyone has a story, and everyone puts in a long day and works hard the same way,” he says. “My generation may have been labeled as slackers, but I don’t know anyone who doesn’t work hard – many people I know put in 50-60 hours a week and 12 hour days. That’s what keeps me playing. I don’t like anyone to be left out; my music is for everyone in big and very small towns.”

He listened to punk rock and grunge as a kid before discovering a friend’s dad playing Hank Williams, and it was a revelation. Prine and Guthrie quickly followed. The name Chicago Farmer was originally for a band, but the utilitarian life of driving alone from bar to bar, city to city – to make a direct connection to his audience and listener, took a deeper hold.

Chicago Farmer has previously performed at Hopstring Fest and at Joliet’s Chicago Street Pub.

Visit chicagofarmer.com to learn more.

If You Go
What: Hopstring Fest
When: Saturday, Aug. 23, 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Where: Silver Cross Field, 1 Mayor Art Schultz Drive, Joliet
Who: Local talent and headline bands like Cracker
How much: Tickets are $20 presale/$30 at the door


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Edward David Anderson performs Aug. 23 at Joliet’s Hopstring Fest

Ed with Johnny Hickman 7-31-14, Castle Theatre
By Ted Slowik


Fresh off the release of his debut full-length solo album, American songwriter Edward David Anderson performs on Hopstring Fest’s mainstage from 4 to 4:45 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 23, in Joliet’s Silver Cross Field.

Tickets for the 12 and a half hour celebration of live music, food and craft beer are $20/presale, $30 at the door and are available through hopstringfest.com and at Chicago Street Pub, 75 N. Chicago St., Joliet. Festival hours are 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Anderson has shared stages with Hopstring Fest headliners Cracker previously, most recently on July 31 at The Castle Theatre in Bloomington, where friend and Cracker guitarist Johnny Hickman joined Ed onstage for his set.

He performed two mainstage sets at the 2013 Hopstring Fest, one as a solo artist and another with the band Magic Box.

Best known for his work with Backyard Tire Fire, who released a string of acclaimed albums in the previous decade, Anderson in April released his solo debut, “Lies & Wishes.” The 10-track collection was produced by Steve Berlin of Los Lobos.
Anderson was born and raised just west of Chicago and lives a simple life, spending winters in an RV alongside the Gulf of Mexico in lower Alabama. He says he’s on an existential quest to find meaning through song.  
"I feel like every experience, every mile, every interaction, every tune, sort of got me to where I am at this moment," Anderson says on his website. "The songs on the record are confessional by nature. They are songs about loss and love and living and hope. Halfway through my life, it's an honest look in the mirror."
Anderson's journey over the last five years and his response to the challenges he faced is what sets the lifers apart from those that concede the artistic pursuit. The dissolution of Backyard Tire in 2011 was the first obstacle to overcome. The band had built a devout cult following around the U.S., counting Cracker, Reverend Horton Heat and Clutch among their fans, all of whom took BTF on the road exposing them to a wider audience. It was around this time that Steve Berlin of Los Lobos was first drawn to Anderson's songwriting.
“Backyard Tire Fire opened a show for us and I remember being backstage and listening to their music and I was like, ‘Wow, that song sounds really familiar. Whose cover is that? It’s a classic tune,’” says Berlin. “It turns out that they were all Ed’s originals. They just had that instantly memorable quality to them. So, I introduced myself at the show and we became buddies and then collaborators. Ed’s music is so evocative, so well written. I honestly think he is as talented as anyone in the songwriting world and it is important that he be heard.”
Anderson adds: "I was just starting to get back on the road again after Tire Fire split, touring with my friend Johnny Hickman and I got inspired to get back in the studio. I had these songs and had something pretty interesting to say based on the experiences I just went through. I knew if I could get Steve Berlin involved, who is an old friend that I’ve worked with in the past, it could be something special.”
It was just prior to this that Anderson's mother passed away, while the previous winter his wife lost her mother, both to extended illnesses. It was a defining moment for the 40-year old artist and culminated in a torrent of songwriting. Indeed, songs like "Lies & Wishes" "Lost & Found" and "Chain Reaction" delve deep into the human condition, asking difficult questions of both himself and his loved ones. 
“A lot of the subject matter on this record came from reflecting on these painful experiences” says Anderson. "After losing my mom, I decided I’ve got to make a record and dedicate it to her and make a statement here on my own. I feel like it's undoubtedly my finest work to date, the beginning of the next chapter for me."
Visit  edwarddavidanderson.com to learn more.
If You Go
What: Hopstring Fest
When: Saturday, Aug. 23, 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Where: Silver Cross Field, 1 Mayor Art Schultz Drive, Joliet
Who: Local talent and headline bands like Cracker
How much: Tickets are $20 presale/$30 at the door

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Joliet’s Hopstring Fest welcomes back Miles Nielsen & the Rusted Hearts


By Ted Slowik

Hopstring Fest  welcomes back Miles Nielsen & the Rusted Hearts to the mainstage this year to perform a set from 6:20 to 7:05 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 23, in Joliet’s Silver Cross Field.

Tickets for the 12 and a half -hour celebration of live music, food and craft beer are $20 and are available through hopstringfest.com and at Chicago Street Pub, 75 N. Chicago St., Joliet. Festival hours are 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Miles Nielsen & the Rusted Hearts are a quintet fronted by Miles Nielsen, son of Cheap Trick guitarist and songwriter Rick Nielsen. The Rusted Hearts are Daniel James McMahon on guitar and vocal; Adam Plamann on clarinet, saxophone, percussion, keyboards and vocals; bass player Dave McClellan; and drummer Jeff Werckle. Nielsen also co-owns The Midwest Sound recording studio on the outskirts of Rockford, Ill., with McMahon. The duo composed the soundtrack for “Undefeated,” which earned the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature in 2011.




The band has shared stages on multiple occasions with such other Hopstring Fest mainstage artists as Cracker, Ed Anderson and The Steepwater Band. Nielsen attended Illinois State University for a time and struck up a longtime friendship with Anderson, a Bloomington, Ill., native, in the late 1990s.

“He was doing Backyard Tire Fire around that time that we first bonded, and then became even tighter,” Nielsen told the Bloomington Pantagraph in 2013.  “We both started at ISU playing in cover things that were not necessarily artistic. We both came out of a situation and began creating our own music as a way of life, and now I would say that we’re musical brothers.”

Nielsen has been performing in bands since he attended high school in Rockford. He released his debut album, "Miles," in 2009. The group released the album "The Rusted Hearts" in 2011 and posted a video on their website in February about writing and recording a new album at the Acorn Theatre in Three Oaks, Mich.

Visit www.milesnielen.com to learn more.

If You Go
What: Hopstring Fest
When: Saturday, Aug. 23, 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Where: Silver Cross Field, 1 Mayor Art Schultz Drive, Joliet
Who: Local talent and headline bands like Cracker
How much: Tickets are $20 presale/$30 at the door

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Steepwater Band returns to rock Joliet’s Hopstring Fest Aug. 23

By Ted Slowik


Veteran rockers The Steepwater Band return to the Hopstring Fest mainstage lineup this year to perform a set from 7:30 to 8:15 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 23, in Joliet’s Silver Cross Field.

Tickets for the 12-hour celebration of live music, food and craft beer are $20 presale and are available through hopstringfest.com and at Chicago Street Pub, 75 N. Chicago St., Joliet.

Jeff Massey
The Steepwater Band is a Chicago-based quartet founded in 1998 by guitarist/vocalist Jeff Massey, bassist Tod Bowers and drummer Joseph Winters. In early 2012 the longtime trio was joined by guitarist/vocalist Eric Saylors of Indianapolis.

The band’s signature sound is a nod to early British blues combined with a modern, raw and gutsy musical approach. Though they got their start as devotees of delta blues, they have since been expanding on their influences, absorbing everything from psychedelia to Americana, from jazz to ‘50s rock n’ roll music.
Joe Winters

The summer of 2014 has seen Steepwater return to Europe, where they first played in 2005. During July the group toured Switzerland, Italy and Austria. In early August the band is back in the United States playing West Coast shows in California and Washington. After returning to the Chicago area to play Hopstring Fest, the group heads back to Europe for late August/early September shows in the Netherlands, Belgium and Ireland.

The Steepwater Band has released five albums, including the three studio recordings “Revelation Sunday” (2006), “Grace and Melody” (2008) and “Clava” (2011) and a live album, “Live at the Doubl,e Door” (2010).  Their most recent release, “Live & Humble,” was recorded in Chicago on April 20, 2013 at the now defunct Ace Bar on West Fullerton Avenue.  The band recruited Chicago music legend Timothy Powell of Metro Mobile Recording to record the show.
Tod Bowers

Powell has recorded all the 93XRT Concert Broadcasts, including such greats as Gov’t Mule, Los Lobos, Ben Harper, Wilco, The Civil Wars, Robert Plant and The Black Crowes. The Steepwater Band then handed Powell’s recordings to producer/engineer Colin Sipos, who has worked with the band since 2010.

The band’s infectious energy is equally evident in their live performances, as critics and fans hail their shows as forceful and intoxicating. It is their humble devotion to music, and a commitment to achieving their musical goals without compromising the integrity of their musical vision that make The Steepwater Band such a refreshing find.
Eric Saylors
The Steepwater Band has maintained a grueling schedule throughout the last 10 years, averaging about 125 shows per year. They have toured and shared the stage with acts such as Gov't Mule, Buddy Guy, Wilco, Taj Mahal, Marc Ford, ZZ Top, T-Model Ford, North Mississippi All Stars, Leon Russell, Drive-By Truckers, Robert Randolph & the Family  Band, Cheap Trick, Bad Company and Heart. In 2005, the band made its European debut, performing at the Azkena Rock Festival in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain. In the following years, the band has returned to the United Kingdom and Europe for multiple club and festival tours, increasing their loyal overseas fan base.
Visit steepwater.com to learn more.

If You Go
What: Hopstring Fest
When: Saturday, Aug. 23, 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Where: Silver Cross Field, 1 Mayor Art Schultz Drive, Joliet
Who: Local talent and headline bands like Cracker
How much: Tickets are $20 presale/$30 at the door


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Hopstring Fest offers plenty for kids on Aug. 23 in Joliet

By Ted Slowik

Hopstring Fest is Joliet's premier festival for live music and craft beer, though it's also an all-ages festival that offers plenty of activities for families with young children.

For starters, kids ages 12 and under are free! For adults, tickets for the 12-hour festival on Saturday, Aug. 23 at Silver Cross Field in downtown Joliet are $20/presale, $30 at the door and available through hopstringfest.com. Festival hours are 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

"Because there is re-entry with your ticket stub, parents can come in the morning with their kids, bring the kids home in the afternoon and then come back in the evening after dropping them off with a babysitter," says Mike Trizna, Hopstring Fest presenter and owner of Chicago Street Pub in Joliet.

This year's third annual festival is headlined by the rock band Cracker, known for such hits as "Get Off This," "Low," "Teen Angst," "Happy Birthday To Me" and "Euro-Trash Girl." Mainstage performers include The Righteous Hillbillies, The Steepwater Band, Miles Nielsen and the Rusted Hearts, John Condron & the Old Gang Orchestra, Ed Anderson, Chicago Farmer, The Regressors, Alex Hoffer, Leadfoot and The Prairie Ghosts. All told more than 30 artists will perform on three stages.

For kids, there's a full playground within Joliet's spacious, 6,000-seat Silver Cross Field, home of the Slammers. As a ballpark for a minor league team, it's built to be family-friendly with plenty of clean restrooms, ample free parking in the area, and a lot of concession stands that keep the lines short for food and beverages. One or more of the Slammers' mascots will be on hand to entertain the kids.

Kids are allowed in the dancing area, and both kids and adults can get Henna tattoos from artists on site. Local businesses, including Giji's Sweet Shop located across from the Rialto Square Theatre, will sell treats for kids at Hopstring Fest including lemon shakeups and popcorn. Other food for sale will include hotdogs, hamburgers,  nachos and other stuff kids love!

The mainstage lineup this year is presented by Flipside Works. Red Betty IPA Side Stage performers include Dan Dougherty and the Tone Bone, Rebecca Rego and the Trainmen, Allison Flood, Chris Flood, the Matt Biskie Trio, Tom & Becky, Ernie Hendrickson, J Ross Green and Scott McNeil. Chris Flood is managing the lineup.


Performers on the Deschutes Brewery Side Stage include Charlie Champene and Eric Totherow, Brian Barry, John Narcissi, Chase Walsh, Ryan Olsson, Molly McKenna Batozech, Tim Streit, CottonHeaded Ninny Muggins, John Till and Pete Jive. The lineup is managed by Kristin Barry.